Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Pilot Vanishing Point H1005 Mechanical Pencil Review

Pilot Vanishing Point H1005 Mechanical Pencil Review

I really have been a bit remiss. Pilot is a large manufacturer of writing instruments and I really should have reviewed something of theirs earlier on. They are a Japanese company, and their premier brand is Namiki which operates in the premium fountain pen market.
Well the main feature of the Vanishing Point is it’s “vanishing point”! That is the whole sleeve tip section retracts back into the pencil body. It's all much like a ballpoint pen, you simply push the top button down and the whole tip retracts back inside the body - you don’t have to hold the button down and push the tip back in like a ‘normal’ mechanical pencil. This really is the ultimate in easy convenience, tip protection and pocket safety. There really is no excuse for damaging the lead sleeve on this pencil.

Now you see it. Now you don't.

You activate the push-top ratchet lead mechanism by the same top button, and you do have to be a little careful as you can inadvertently push too hard and retract the tip rather than just advance the lead. There is an eraser under the top cap. It’s small, but a good compound that erases better then most.

Much like my favoured Pentel Sharp P205, the Pilot Vanishing Point mechanical pencil has that classic engineers pencil look about it. The body is smooth matt black plastic with lots of nice shiny chrome trims. It really is quite an impressive look. The 4mm long lead sleeve is for draughting work. The centre band of the pencil is an adjustable lead hardness indicator. You can turn the window around to show grades from 2B up to 4H. Like Pentel draughting pencils, the lead advance mechanism only advances a short length of lead each time it is activated.

The pocket clip is a good strong functional piece of metal. “PILOT” is stamped into it in rather small insignificant lettering; the only other markings on the pencil are the large “0.5 JAPAN” on the central band next to the lead grade window.

The semi-gloss body has no specific grip section or grip enhancements so the grip is acceptable, but not great. Overall the weight and balance are fairly neutral.

  • Best Points – The vanishing point.
  • Not So Good Points – Not much really. If I was being picky I could say maybe they could have done a bit better with the grip, and something about accidentally retracting the tip.
  • Price Range – Low.

Dimensions – Length 140mm, diameter 9mm. Balance point about 70mm up from the tip.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Beauty 2

Back in 1905, Mr Garner and Mr Jarvis started their pen company, Conway Stewart. I guess they didn’t like the name Garner Jarvis. By the 1920’s they were a major force in British pen manufacturing, but the arrival of the ballpoint pen in the late 1950’s signalled the start of their decline, and in 1975 the company was wound up.

So my beautiful thing is the Conway Stewart Nippy Number 3 Pencil, green marble with black veins pattern, gold trims. The colour and “depth” of colour are just outstanding. You see deep into the plastic and get these changing vibrant opalescent effects. It really is great, you have to see it in real life to get the full effect. I think this particular one was made during the 1950’s.

Now this is where I say I’m definitely not an expert on old pens, pencils, manufacturers, etc, but here’s a little something I’ve dreamed up, fiction, supposition…., never let the facts get in the way of a good story! Back in the ‘old’ days, two of the main plastic materials used in the manufacture of writing instruments were casein and celluloid (& other celluloses). Both were premium plastics back then because unlike other materials they allowed for a large vibrant colour range. Neither are significant plastics in present times. Now, celluloid is produced from cellulose, i.e. plant material. Cotton lint is the main feedstock, but sawdust, or indeed any cellulose plant matter can be used. One of celluloid’s drawbacks is its extreme flammability. It was used to manufacture billiard balls, leading to some particularly forceful shots producing truly explosive results! Billiards, snooker and pool were dangerous games back then!

Conway Stewart and most writing instrument manufacturers made a lot of pens and pencils from celluloid. One thing unusual about Conway Stewart was that they also made a lot of pens from casein, continuing to use it long after most others had ceased. Casein is a difficult material to work with, but produces a wide range of colours with great depth and superior visual and tactile appeal. Now, casein is made from milk, and there’s definitely no shortage of milk here in New Zealand. New Zealand was Great Britain’s dairy farm, and back in the years between the world wars, large amounts of casein were exported to Britain. By the 1960’s NZ was the largest exporter of casein in the world, and that continues through to today. Most casein was apparently used in glues and adhesives, but I like to imagine a little bit of Kiwi casein made its way to the premises of Conway Stewart, who were a major exporter of writing instruments to New Zealand. So it goes full circle. New Zealand milk exported to the other side of the world, only to return to its homeland as a pen, or perhaps a button, a knife handle, or even a casein knitting needle.

These days food traceability is taken to extremes such as a piece of NZ lamb in a British supermarket being traceable back to the farm, or an apple in a Tokyo fruit shop sitting beside a picture of the NZ orchardist who grew it. I like to imagine that these days we could take a casein pen, have it DNA tested and match it to the cow it came from! My brother-in-law is a dairy farmer, imagine giving him a fancy pen & pencil set saying, “This was made from the milk of Dolly the cow” (Actually its name would be more like “147-E/1996” rather than Dolly). I know this is a complete flight of fancy; that the manufacturing process would probably destroy the DNA, but still, I just love the idea!
So, how do you prefer your milk?

Footnote 1: New investors restarted Conway Stewart in the 1990’s, commencing production in 1998, and currently doing well in the premium market.
Footnote 2: If one of you knows more about Nippy No 3’s, production years, what materials they were really made from (celluloid, acrylic?) etc then I’d love to hear from you. But email me direct – let my innocent little online dream world continue!
Footnote 3: Fear not, gentle reader, there is more, Part 3 is still to come.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Pentel EZ#2 AX17 Mechanical Pencil Review

Pentel EZ2 AX17 Mechanical Pencil Review

So what if things are going badly, you’ve only got a few small coins left and are in desperate need of a Pentel mechanical pencil? Well you’ve basically got three choices - Carnival, Planetz or EZ#2. The Pentel USA website sells these three direct for US 50 or 51 cents each, but if you search around other websites you can easily get 10 to 25% discount for box lots. Probably more again if search really hard, or buy more.

So, just what do you get for pretty much the least amount of money you can spend on a Pentel? Well this time round I chose the EZ#2 rather than the Carnival or Planetz. I understand that “Number 2 Pencil” is drummed into many an American head at an impressionable young age, so the EZ#2 is obviously Pentels attempt to attract sales by association with the Number 2 Pencil. The “#2” is printed prominently on the body, and the back of the one dozen box notes they are “equivalent to #2 wooden pencils and never needs sharpening”.

As you would expect from Pentel this is a good piece of plastic moulding, irrespective of the price. The body is a hard strong shiny plastic, not flexible at all. You can give it a really good bend between your hands and there’s no flex at all, and it doesn’t feel like it’s about to snap either. It is very lightweight as you would expect, but a normal length and diameter. Printed on the barrel is “Pentel EZ#2 0.7mm AX17 JAPAN”. Being silver on black, this printing really stands out.

The whole pocket clip top section pulls off to allow you to refill the leads. The narrow lead magazine tube will only hold a couple of leads at a time. The clip section is a friction fit onto the lead tube – I guess it will hold together for an acceptable length of time. If the friction fit between the clip section and the lead tube failed then the whole top clip section would come apart from the barrel, and that would send the pencil to the rubbish bin. You cannot put the clip section back onto the tube without activating the lead advance mechanism. Being a separate moulding does allow the pocket clip to get reasonable pressure against the body of the pencil, so it’s actually quite functional.

There is an uncovered eraser on the top. Covers cost money, and I suppose the uncovered eraser is a little reminiscent of a woodcase number 2 pencil. The eraser is the standard Pentel PDE-1, but is surprisingly good, better than others I’ve tried so maybe there has been a formulation change or something?

The plastic lead sleeve is short and tapered so this pencil is not for draughting work at all. However it is fully retractable so it’s nice and pocket friendly. It is a 0.7 mm pencil, “for general writing” according to the sales blurb on the box. The lead mechanism has a good firm action - reliability is really a given seeing this is a Pentel. One thing of interest is that the front tip section is a push fit onto the body, with some moulded clips holding it in place. Probably makes for faster automated assembly than the more common screw on front sections.

There is no special grip section or moulded in grip enhancements, so the pencil can get a little slippery with use over time.

  • Best Points – The price, and I really do like that silver on black printing.
  • Not So Good Points – Seems a bit tough to list anything here bearing in mind the price you pay for this pencil.
  • Price Range – Economy!

Dimensions – Length 145mm, diameter 9mm.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Winnie The Pooh

Although my personal reading has generally moved on from Winnie The Pooh, there are enough small visitors to my house that he maintains a presence. He is of course a true fan of the pencil and one of the most famous literary characters ever. I recall that as a youngster I was quite fond of him, and I still seem to have a nostalgic soft-spot for old Pooh. Last Christmas one of our family games was a “Pooh” quiz, so Rachel is the reigning Pooh-Champion of our family. She was unstoppable!

These days of course Pooh is controlled by the Disney mega-corp, and perpetually embroiled in billion dollar law suits over who really “owns him”. Recently I started to come across Winnie The Pooh mechanical pencil stuff so I have picked up a few items to add to my collection – of pencils that is, I’m not a Pooh collector per se. However, this has led me to do a little Pooh research, and I discovered a couple of interesting things, assuming the websites I visited are accurate! Firstly, he’s still around. Yes, you can go the New York Public Library and see him and his friends “in the flesh”, so to speak. Secondly, as near as we can tell, his birthday is 21 August (1921), hence this posting.

First up there are those simple mechanical pencils pictured by "The House at Pooh Corner" - nothing particularly notable about them except for the Pooh decoration.

Quite a selection of Pooh lead refills are available. Normal style containers.

Tube style containers, one with the top being a Pooh figure.

Of course if you use pencils, you probably need an eraser too.

I had forgotten about dart(?) pencils, until I saw these in a $2 Shop. I recall they were popular for a while at my primary school but then seemed to disappear. I'm sure we used to make blowguns with them. The leads are in small plastic dart-like things and when the lead is worn down you pull the dart out and stick it back in the top of the pencil, thus pushing a new dart out the front. Are they a type of mechanical pencil? I suppose so. These Pooh ones come with a cap that has a pocket clip and eraser. A superior pencil!

Friday, August 18, 2006


Here in New Zealand there aren’t any pen shows or specialist pen shops, so the opportunity to see vintage and antique pens and pencils is rather limited. There are of course internet auctions, but that’s only a picture, not the real thing. Then there are antique shops, curio shops, second-hand markets etc but that’s all “needle in a haystack” stuff if you were looking for pens and pencils, and basically I don’t. As I have said before, I’m not really one for the older mechanical pencils, my interest is more contemporary. However I have slowly been gathering a few pencils from the major manufacturers of the early and mid 20th century. A few months ago one of my minimum bids won an auction, and shortly afterwards this arrived in my letterbox.

A thing of beauty. Maybe I have been wrong to ignore the vintage pencils?
Part 2 to follow.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Lamy CP1 Twin Pen Review

Lamy CP1 Twin Pen Review

Lamy have gone for the plain austere look with their CP1 Twin Pen (model 656). The body is metal, round in cross-section, and mine is the matt black lacquer finish. The metal body gives it a bit of weight and a cool to the touch feel, while the lacquer gives it a little more grip than a plain metal finish would.

My CP1 Twin Pen is fitted with a black ballpoint pen refill and a 0.5mm pencil system. You twist the lower half of the body one way to push out the pen tip, and the other way for the pencil. You reverse the action to retract the tip and stopping in the central position leaves both tips retracted for transport mode. You can do all this one-handed if you are reasonably dextrous. There are no markings on the pen body to indicate which way you twist to get which tip, so you have to learn to remember which way is which. Replacing the refills is by unscrewing the bottom half of the body so you can get at them.

The pencil system is a 0.5mm push top ratchet. Like most multi pens the push top action is rather drawn out and tough compared to normal pencil mechanisms. There is a small pretty useless eraser under the top cap. The pen refill writes OK, but it is a very small refill so you won’t get a lot of kilometres of ink out of it. There is black around the tip to indicate its ink colour but I don’t think that looks very good. It reminds me of a ballpoint that’s leaked ink and smeared over the tip.

Now, in my earlier review of the Rotring Newton Trio, Michael from Pigpog commented that he had trouble with lead breakage in a multi-pen. I hadn’t ever really thought about that before, but now that he’s planted the seed, I think there might be a tendency for multi-pen pencil leads to break a bit easier than those of normal pencils. Something to keep in mind for future investigation.

The pocket clip on the CP1 is the standard Lamy spring loaded clip, as functional as ever. I have always been surprised that the small “LAMY” stamped into the side of the pocket clip is the only branding on so many Lamy pens and pencils. They never seem to really push their branding on their products.

Lamy market their multi-functional instruments as helping you survive in the corporate jungle, saving time and space by only having to carry the one writing tool. I thought this photo went with that theme.

  • Best Points – I like the good positive click as you twist and select the tips.
  • Not So Good Points – I have a small worry about the twist action to select tips being the same type of action as unscrewing the body to get at the refills. Over time will twisting inadvertently start the unscrewing process?
  • Price Range – Mid/High

Dimensions – Length 144mm, diameter 10mm. Balance point about 80mm up from the tip.

Now, Lamy is of course a German company, so you know what that means. This time we have Hochstetter – no, not the enemy of Colonels Hogan and Klink – rather the geologist, Christian Gottlieb Ferdinand von Hochstetter (1829-1884). Recruited into the Austrian geological survey in 1853, Hochstetter was appointed to the Austrian scientific expedition of the Novara, and visited New Zealand in 1858 where he was persuaded to leave the expedition and remain to carry out geological and mineral surveys. He stayed in NZ for a short while, surveying energetically, before returning to Austria in 1860, and later publishing his works to great success. In 1872 he was a tutor to Crown Prince Rudolf, an unusual appointment by the Catholic emperor given Hochstetter's Lutheran background. His time in New Zealand is commemorated by many place and organism names.

Hochstetters Dome (2827m, 9275 feet) versus Hochstetters Frog (0.05m, 2 inches)

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Ten Thousand

It appears there is some sort of a tradition of saying something when your blog gets to 10,000 hits, so here are a few words seeing I’ve reached that mark.

I’m not entirely sure why I started this blog, it just seemed like a good idea at the time. I sort of thought that people shopping for mechanical pencils (or pens) might search around looking for reviews, and find some interest in my thoughts on the various pencils I own. In my mind I had an expectation of about 50 hits a week, so I am rather surprised to often get ten times that many. Although I’m writing this blog for my own personal purposes, it is nice to know that someone actually reads it and gets something out of it. So thanks to all of you out there who read this, I really appreciate your comments and emails. And thanks also to all of you who have linked me on your own sites; again it’s much appreciated.

So what does the free site meter tell me about you! Not much, but here’s a few snippets.

About 70% of you are in the USA, 7% in Canada, 7% in the UK, 1 or 2% each in Australia, Denmark, Germany, Italy and Poland. The rest are everywhere else. Most of you surf the net during working hours. Not much action after-hours or on the weekend! About 30% of you click through from Pencil Revolution, 30% come in direct, 20% from Google searches and the rest click through from other sites and other search engines. I guesstimate there are about 150 of you who are regular (i.e. weekly) readers.
  • Most unusual search to find this blog? From a Finnish Military IP address, in English, “mechanical pencil for military person not Russian”. I repeated this search on Google and my review of Caran d’Ache Varius Ivanhoe was result “1 of about 1,430,000”. (Hmmm…you know how I like my lateral links, so I’ve never been to Finland, but I’ve had a few Finns as house guests, and as a young boat-building apprentice my father was lucky enough to tour that magnificent vessel, New Zealand’s war prize, the Finnish tall ship Pamir.)
  • Largest single visit? From IP address “Houston Area League of PC Users” for 78 page views over a 2 hour, 34 minute and 44 second visit. All from a Google search of “lead refills and 1.2mm”. I hope you enjoyed your visit! (Well I’ve never been to Texas, but I have been on board the guided-missile cruiser USS Texas, so maybe that sort of counts?)
  • Most common entry pages for pencil reviews – Pentel Sharp P205, Pentel Sharp Kerry P1035 and Retro 51 Tornado.
OK, onwards and upwards. So many pencils to buy and use, so little money!

Monday, August 07, 2006

Refilling Mechanical Pencils

A few people find this blog with searches like “how to refill mechanical pencil” or “refill instructions for mechanical pencil” so here’s a few hints, in the name of public service.

Older Pencils
Most of the pencils from the 1930 – 1970 era are screw mechanisms where the lead is advanced by winding part of the pencil around to advance and retract the lead. Spare leads are often stored inside the body of the pencil, but its just storage, you refill the lead through the tip or other part of the pencil.

Here are a few instructions that I know of. I think you’ll see the common themes and be able to work out how to refill most common older pencils from these examples. These are full transcriptions from manufacturers’ leaflets, and they are all screw mechanisms.

1940 – 1960 era instructions.
“When lead has been ejected, wind mechanism back and insert new lead through point, making sure lead is fitted into socket on end of propelling rod. Lead will then be gripped so that it will propel and repel.”

From 1950 – 70 era leaflets.
"TO INSERT NEW LEAD: Turn cap to the right until metal piece emerges from the tip to be sure all the old lead is out. Turn cap back until its stops. Insert new lead completely into the point. Press the end of the lead gently on a hard surface to secure the lead in the pencil."

From a 1980’s leaflet. Actually it’s all diagrammatic so I have written this interpretation.
"Turn mechanism until remaining lead is expelled, and then turn mechanism back until it finally stops. Hold pencil point upwards and insert a piece of lead into tip and feed it all the way in. Turn pencil over and gently press lead down on flat surface to fully seat it home." (Note the similarity to the Parker instructions)

From an English 1930 - 40’s era leaflet for a propel only pencil, i.e. you can’t wind the lead back in. It’s a bit complicated but the diagram should help. If you’re desperate I can send you a PDF of the full instructions sheet which has more pictures, and is a bit easier to read.
“Lead is exhausted when turning cap to right fails to propel more lead. Inner mechanism has been released and can be pulled straight out without unscrewing. To insert new lead push plunger all the way down, while holding mechanism upright and insert new lead in tapered end (see diagram). Slip barrel down over mechanism and turn cap to right until lead feeds out.”

From a modern YOL booklet, but the older styles are similar. Again it’s a bit complicated but the diagram should help.

“Pull out the cap section (1) and turn in an anti-clockwise direction until the slider (2) is completely unscrewed from the barrel (3). Push the slider grip (4) along to expose the lead holder (5) and any remaining lead. To release any residual lead, hold the slider grip firmly between thumb and forefinger and push down towards the slider grip. The resulting spring action will release the lead. Unscrew the refill nut (6) and remove a spare lead from inside the barrel. Replace refill nut.
Insert the new lead into the lead holder, ensuring it is pushed fully into place. (Failure to push the new lead right into the holder may cause it to move up and down when writing). Move the slider grip back along the slider towards the cap section and insert the whole slider mechanism into the barrel. Screw the cap section back over the refill nut, then turn the cap clockwise until lead appears at the tip of the pencil”

Complicated or what!

Modern Pencils
Well compared to all that, refilling most modern pencils is a breeze - pull the end off and stick some leads in. Thats it.

Or if it’s a complicated one you pull the end off, then the eraser under that, and then stick some leads in. You can usually fill the centre tube up with quite a few leads and they will automatically feed in as the old one runs out.

Unfortunately there are some modern pencils that are “disposable” and not meant to be refilled. The Papermate Advancer and the Dixon Sensematic are probably the leading non-refillable mechanical pencils; although I think the latest Sensematics are now refillable?

Then there are a few modern pencils like the Faber-Castell E-motion and the Retro 51 Tornadoes which are basically “old style” screw mechanisms and refilled like the (Parker / Shaeffer) older style pencils above. The manufacturers’ websites should have instructions, particularly the manufacturers US market website.

If you have got a lead jam, check out the sidebar link on clearing a jammed pencil.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Sensa Carbon Black Mechanical Pencil Review

Sensa Carbon Black Mechanical Pencil Review

A Sensa, the “King of Rubber Grips”, my own personal Everest in the quest to overcome my aversion to rubber grips???

With that great big bulbous contoured grip, the Sensa Carbon Black mechanical pencil certainly looks rather unique. I am not normally a fan of that sort of look but I must admit that the Sensa manages to get away with it. I think because it’s just a simple rather plain austere look in black and chrome, but with the “SENSA” name and styling adding a slightly exotic, almost oriental look.

You would expect this to be a push top ratchet pencil, but actually it’s a twist ratchet mechanism. You twist that small section above the pocket clip. As expected there is a small eraser under the top cap. The pocket clip is a sturdy springy variety, good and workable. The lead sleeve retracts so this pencil is reasonably pocket safe - only the tube part of the sleeve retracts, the upper cone part of the sleeve remains extended. You can get the Carbon Black in 0.5 or 0.7mm versions.

When I bought this Sensa I thought I had read somewhere that it was an auto-advance mechanism, but there is no mention of it in their literature or on their website. Well I was wrong, it is not an auto-advancer, it's a sliding or retracting sleeve, but not a particularly good one. It just doesn’t really retract back easily enough. The tip of the metal sleeve indents the paper as it scrapes along and your writing becomes very light. Because of that scraping it’s not really comfortable to write while it’s retracting. You can see indents or scrapes when the tip moves through an already written part of a letter. Actually it’s better if you like light writing and press softly onto the paper, but I tend to be a bit on the heavy-handed side of town. So as usual its best to keep manually advancing the lead and just let the sleeve retract to get out those last few letters if you are in a hurry.

I know you’ve been waiting - so what about that great big grip? The much vaunted “plasmium” grip is really what the Sensa brand is all about. They claim it flows and moulds to your fingers to provide the ultimate in comfort and grip, and that it virtually eliminates fatigue and cramp. The most comfortable pens and pencils in the world! Well I got a finger cramp within three minutes - the first writers’ cramp I have had in years, I can’t even remember the last time I got a cramp! So first things first. This plasmium grip absolutely does flow under your fingers, and within a few minutes has moulded to their shape, and that’s some surprisingly weird shapes! You can actually feel the grip flowing and moulding under your fingers, and I think that’s the cause of my problem. I would have to describe myself as one of those people who really hold on tight to their pen or pencil. I used to have a huge callous on my middle finger where my pencil was pressed into, but I’ve managed to loosen up a bit over the years and its now a more “normal” sized lump. But because that plasmium grip isn’t solid, I think that I just automatically kept on squeezing, and it flowed, so I squeezed more, and it flowed more, so I squeezed …..I think you get the idea, and can work out how I ended up with cramp in a few minutes. Also I tend to take “micro-breaks” and frequently rotate the pencil in my fingers. Now with a grip specially moulded to your fingers you can’t rotate every minute or so because then your finger depressions are in the wrong place and you start the whole moulding process over again.

There is no doubt that the Sensa plasmium grip really improves your grip on the pencil, but it tends to lock you into one place, and it’s obviously better with lighter finger pressure. I can certainly imagine that people with hand problems like arthritis would think the Sensa was great, but I would strongly advise anyone to “try before you buy”, much more so than with any other mechanical pencil. You may need to train yourself in how to grip it. Just another comment for people with hand problems – the twist mechanism for lead advance might prove a bit of a problem.

Sensa ship the Carbon Black in a colourful cardboard package. Your pencil is then inside a transparent blue plastic clamshell type presentation case which they have certainly put some thought into. As a clamshell it is a protective travel case. Inside is a business card holder recess. You can place your pencil inside on the supports, or on the top of the closed clamshell where there is a depression for it to rest in. Great idea, but personally I unfortunately don’t like the transparent blue crystal plastic look. Also your pencil arrives with a great little bonus, a tube of replacement erasers; they are Pentel PDE-1’s. I really do wish more of the premium writing instrument manufacturers would go that little bit extra and give you a spare eraser or something, so kudos to Sensa and the others who do.
  • Best Points – The looks actually grew on me. The presentation case, or at least the idea of it. The plasmium grip.
  • Not So Good Points – One of the more difficult twist mechanisms to operate. The plasmium grip (yes, its good and bad!)
  • Price Range – Mid.

Dimensions – Length 148mm, main barrel diameter 9mm, but 12mm at widest part of grip. Balance point about 70mm up from the tip.

Rather surprising recent front page of a local newspaper. "Newly discovered documents". Perhaps the plan was never put into use because of a USMC Major noting that the design and frequency of fencing in the residential areas of Auckland could significantly hinder cavalry operations!?!!? No word yet on whether it is all just a "hoax" document. Don't you just love history? The battleships are the visit of the US "Great White Fleet" to NZ.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

No 2 Pencil Equals ?

What Does A Number 2 Pencil Equal?

A few US folk find this blog with searches trying to relate No 2 pencils to their equivalents in the HB system. I didn’t even know this USA “Number” system existed until a few years ago but since its not the only system operating in the US, I guess it could all get a bit confusing.

I thought there was some consensus that the relationship is
1 = B
2 = HB
2 ½ = F
3 = H
4 = 2H

But then…….

Here is Dixon marking their pencils as “Number 2, HB, SOFT”. Personally I’ve never thought of HB as soft. If I saw Soft , I would expect B, or 2B.

According to the Faber-Castell catalogue, Number 2 = B.

But from their countrymen at Staedtler, Number 2 = HB.

But the folk at Stabilo have just completely lost the plot, with 1 = 3B, 2 = HB and 2 ½ also = HB!

It’s a confusing world that we live in. Who knows what a number 2 pencil is the same as?

What do they use in South America, the Middle East and Asia – HB or 2 or something else? If you know, leave a comment.

Link to No.2 Pencils, Scantron Bubble Tests, etc