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Review: Musgrave Tennessee Red Pencils

Musgrave recently went through an upgrade to their web presence and added a few new pencils to their line up. One of these is the Tennessee Red. This upgrade included an upgraded website, and web presence in general. They hired a great marketing team to do this work for them, and really it has brought the formerly dated site and presence into a modern era, and even made their website usable! I’m happy to see a venerable American pencil brand embrace the future and make their products available for more people.

Let’s talk about the Tennessee Red pencil. First, the presentation. WOW. Old Musgrave packaging consisted of a thin plastic bag that is heat sealed shut, one clear side and one white side. It looked and felt, well cheap. The packaging for the Tennessee Red is lovely. It’s a sliding cardboard box that protects the pencils from banging about in shipping and looks stunning. The bright cherry red with white lettering is an immediate classic and eye catching. I love the sliding box and how it feels both retro and modern at the same time. Retro in that pencil packaging once looked like this and modern in that we haven’t seen anything like this on the market in a long time. Sure Blackwing used cleave for the Volumes but this is so simple and effective I can’t help but to enjoy everything about this packaging.

Nestled in the box are a dozen lightly but glossy lacquered natural pencils. I wish they were raw wood, but I can’t win every time. Even with the light lacquer you can smell the cedar as soon as you open the package. Once sharpened my whole office smelled of cedar. Amazing. The red imprint is perfect and sharp and has historic calls out with the little 3 star Tennessee logo and the new Musgrave logo. A golden ferrule holding a crisp white eraser completes the look. An added bonus is that the eraser? It works. Which has been a point of steady complaint over the years. They work well too.

Musgrave has stepped up their pencil game.

The cedar is red cedar and delightfully fragrant. It reminds me of the slats of cedar you can buy for your closet to deter moths. It is a tad dense and my duller sharpeners seemed to struggle with it but my classroom friendly and Apsara hacked did really well. I immediately sharpened 4 of them. The hex is a traditional Musgrave sharp, and I really do wish they’d gone with a soft hex, because I don’t love a sharp hex but there is so much to love about this pencil.

I suppose a review of these can’t be made without mentioning the centered-ness of the cores. There are a few off center cores, only one or two of mine were badly off center. The rest were fine and in what I would think of as well within usability limits. More on this point in a minute. Let’s talk about that delicious core. It’s dark. It’s smooth. With my long point sharpeners it’s perfect. It’s also great for sketching. I’d say this is a good multi use pencil, you can get some decent gradation out of it and as such wouldn’t need to carry a full pencil case for writing or sketching.

I love everything about these pencils, their imperfections in wood and centered-ness mean that I don’t feel precious with them. I want to sharpen them up. At $9 a dozen they aren’t cheap but they aren’t $30 a box either. I don’t feel guilt in chewing through these. These are pencil lover’s pencils not pencils for collectors. I mean sure go ahead and buy some for your collection too, but buy a pack to use as well. The silky smooth graphite cased in fragrant cedar brings back pleasant childhood memories of back to school shopping and school. That Musgrave went with a usable eraser (though I rarely use the erasers on my pencils) is an added bonus. The red imprint paired with the gold ferule and white eraser with that luscious pink tan wood is pencil perfection. Sure they need to work on core centered-ness, but I for one will support Musgrave with another purchase (or two) of these pencils.

I’m late to reviewing these. Check out Johnny’s review here and Anna’s here and Deon’s here.

Again this review is brought to you by supporters and readers of this blog who have headed to my Ko-Fi page and supported me one or two coffees at a time. The money gifted through coffee is used for some coffee but mostly buying more pens and pencils and stationery supplies to review. I appreciate each and every coffee purchased and gifted to me. I have the best readers!

Review: Best Pencil for Notes #1

I decided to do a competition  among my regular classroom pencils to see which I deem the most perfect note taking pencil.These are the pencils I reached for over and over again as I took notes in class. I have a pencil box with between 8 and 10 pencils, each sharpened in the Carl A5 aka “The Classroom Friendly Sharpener.” I try to use each until it is dull and then grab another from the box as I need it. I work my way through the pencils as I wear each down. Now my note taking style is of the capture then reflect method. I capture the basic ideas, and then reflect upon them later. Getting everything down is less important than capturing the interesting bits. Most of my professors load their powerpoints and sometimes notes to a class blackboard site. Anyway, after class, as I ride the train home, I will reflect upon the class and jot some information down on the opposite page or flesh out my notes. Mostly I do this so that I have a good basis for which to write my papers.

The 9 pencils currently in my pencil box are:

  • General’s Kimberly B
  • General’s Test Scoring 580
  • MitsuBishi Hi Uni HB
  • Dixon Ticonderoga Target Neon Blue HB Soft
  • USA GOLD “vintage” Megabrands label, metallics HB
  • Musgrave Test Scoring 100
  • Staedtler Noris HB
  • Staedtler Triplus HB (Regular Size)
  • Blick Studio 2Bclass pencils

Since I’m looking at this as a competition as to the best pencil for my note taking needs, it is important to note that I’m taking notes in a Staple’s College Ruled Composition book. This is the made in Brazil version with slightly smoother paper that is fountain pen friendly.

I do not consider erasers as I have a Sakura Foam in my pocket at all times.

I took a number of things into consideration. The first two considerations were availability and price. This took some of my favorites out of contention. For classroom note taking, I don’t want to have my Blackwings*. In availability, I rule out anything vintage, like my beloved ECOwriters. If I can’t easily get them in a store they don’t make the list. The USA Gold that I have listed, is no longer available. I kept it on the list for the sole reason that it has the same core as a regular USA Gold, so it basically represents the cheapest of the cheap. If I’m ruling out champions due to price, the General’s Test Scoring 580 at over $1 a pencil is a loser, as is the Hi Uni HB.

The next consideration was point retention. The leaders in this were the Ticonderoga, USA Gold, Noris, and Musgrave TS 100. The Blick Studio was a miserable failure and was kept in the pencil box only for it’s capabilities for drawing.** The Triplus has decent retention but wasn’t in the top  5.class pencils

The next to last consideration was darkness. Did I have to jab the pencil to the page to get a decent line? Or was I able to write lightly and get decent line integrity? The Musgrave TS 100, Triplus, Kimberly, and Noris were all fantastic in this regard.class pencils

The final consideration was aesthetic. The Noris, Triplus, Kimberly, and Ticonderoga all were winners here.class pencils

So based on these considerations entirely unscientific results are as follow

#1 Musgrave TS 100
#2 Staedtler Triplus
#3 Staedtler Noris HB
#4 General’s Kimberly B
#5 USA Goldclass pencils

The Musgrave TS 100 will never win a beauty contest, but there is something I really like about its thin silver paint, cheesy printed logo, and craptastic eraser. I finally got a few with flaking paint to, but the dark core with decent tip retention really means I reach for it over and over again. The Staedtler Triplus, has no eraser, but it’s school bus yellow paint, and dark core had me reaching for it over and over again for both quick and long term notes. It’s rounded triangular body was comfortable and easy to grip. The Noris’s black and yellow striped body with smart red cap just looks awesome. The fact that it’s dark and holds a point make it even better. The Kimberly in B allowed me to do some sketchnoting as well as regular notes. It’s smooth dark core was a winner every time. I even enjoy it’s cheap bras cap against the thin green paint. Nothing says American Made like a shitty paint job. Finally the USA gold brings up the tail end. When I had to write for long periods of time and I would not be able to grab something out of the box fast, I grabbed this. It’s point retention is great, and I’m able to scribble on my articles and notes for the entire train ride into school (lasting about an hour.) With a cap it’s a great pocket pencil.

I took out of consideration the Staedtler Norica Blue (canadian) version because it’s not readily available, though lately I ALWAYS have on in my Twist BP. I also removed the Tombow 8900 in HB and B because it’s not as readily available as the rest of the pencils. I considered adding the Staedtler Rally, but felt that Staedtler was already well represented. Added to this list should have been General’s Cedar Pointe #1, but they decided to cease production right after I bought my first 12-pack. The CP#1 is a great note taking pencil. Dark, good point retention, and the raw wood finish, oh baby…

Of course, I reserve the right to revisit this list with entirely new pencils for my summer classes and then my fall classes, and maybe just because.

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Review: Musgrave Test Scoring 100

Another recent purchase from Pencils.com was a 12-pack of the infamously smooth and dark Musgrave Test Scoring 100 pencil.  This made in the USA pencil has been suggested to me as a “dirt cheap” alternative to Palomino Blackwings.  They do not disappoint.TS100Where some pencils arrive in a nice box or blister pack the Musgrave Test Scoring 100 (TS100) arrives in a plastic bag. One side of the bag is clear the other white. Each end of the package is heat sealed. It is one of the most no frills packages I’ve received. It’s not attractive and it doesn’t protect the pencils. That’s okay because the places where the TS100 are sold typically put them in cardboard boxes with plenty of padding. Mine arrived in perfect shape.

I find these to be a very good looking pencil. The silver paint is evenly and smoothly applied. the ferrule is bright silver aluminum and fixed securely to the pencil. It holds a pretty crappy pink eraser. While the eraser is not the best it does the job of cleaning graphite from a page. This pencil would look significantly better with a white eraser. The imprint is on one side and is black. The imprint is good enough but isn’t perfectly crisp.TS100

The core is well centered and the pencil sharpens easily in any sharpener I tried.TS100The pencil performs wonderfully. The graphite core is thick. It’s dark with little pressure while writing and sketching. It’s possible to get a great deal of dark and light shades. Subsequent layers of graphite create even darker areas. This is a fantastic pencil for sketching. It’s ability to lay down deep darks with so little pressure makes it a great option for a single pencil to carry. It is harder to get light areas. I’d rate this a 3 or 4B when compared to other art pencils. It is similar in darkness to the Palomino Blackwing.TS100As for writing, this pencil is effortless. It glides across all the types of paper I tested and leaves a deep dark line. It is one of the more effortless pencils I’ve written with. Because this is a super smooth soft pencil, point retention is not the best. Again, I’d compare the point retention and writing to the Palomino Blackwing.

In terms of looking for a single pencil to carry for sketching or writing, this pencil is a fantastic value. Coming in at 27 cents per pencil these are a great value for any use. Also, how often are neat silver colored pencils found?

The only negative things I can say about this pencil is that the eraser is terrible and that the corners of thesides are very sharp. But these are not all that noticeable. The eraser issue is solved by using a stick or block eraser. The edge issue seems to be eased by rotating the pencil.