Review: the Helix Oxford Premium Grade HB

Editor’s Note: I  originally wrote this review for the now-defunct blog in May, 2007. See the bottom for an update written yesterday.

Helix Oxford Premium Grade HB

Being an anglophile, I appreciate all things British. I love loose-leaf tea, Doctor Who, Crispix crackers, not pronouncing the letter “H,” among others. So when I read that Pencil Things introduced a UK pencil not found in the US, I jumped.

And for the most part, I like it. Let’s talk about the aesthetics first, since that is what initially attracts buyers. I don’t dig the pink wood. The navy veneer and the white eraser look good, but the red-hued wood just doesn’t go. It doesn’t even smell good, like the incensed cedar so many fine pencils use.

I've heard rave reviews about the pink-hued wood on this pencil, but it just doesn't do it for me.

One positive thing about the wood, though, is that it sharpened really smoothly. Although my sharpener was bought from Target, it was like cutting butter with a knife.

Kudos to the graphite, though — it stayed sharp and although it initially left a fine dust on the paper after pressing the newly sharpened point to the paper, it held its sharpness like a champ.

As the product description says, the eraser lacks the pumice-like quality of the pink variety, and I think  that may be a step in the right direction. It erases clean and smoothly, and doesn’t leave grit in its wake. (Plus, I think it looks nicer.)

Speaking of erasers, I think it is brilliant that the eraser is removable and replaceable. Just give it a firm tug and it pops right out. Although I don’t make too many mistakes when writing (being a pen user before I was converted to graphite), my handwriting is atrocious, and I often have to erase and write more legibly. I always run out of eraser before running out of pencil.

I also wonder if any British people out there can explain this to me — There is a large barcode imprinted on the side of the barrel. Why is that? I own a pen bought at an office supply store in England with the same thing on it. Can’t you put it on a sticker, so as to peel the unsightly barcode off after purchase?

UPDATE Sept. 15, 2010: I tried one of my Helixs on a Rhodia notepad (known for its really nice, smooth paper) in a side-by-side comparison to a Dixon Ticonderoga, often considered to be the iconic standard pencil. I thought it fared well:

As you can see from the picture above (click to embiggen), the Oxford was a hair darker and more consistant than the Dixon. The square that I filled in with a dark line was darker, and the graphite erased better through the squiggle.

At the time of this posting, it seems the only place you can buy this pencil around the US is at PencilThings, and they are out of stock. You might want to contact the good people at the US distributor for Helix, HelixUSA.

7 thoughts on “Review: the Helix Oxford Premium Grade HB

  1. The only Oxford pencil I have seen in shops recently, the Oxford Executive, does not have a barcode. I don’t mind a barcode on a pencil, to be honest, I find barcodes kind of ‘cool’ long as the pencil has a modern, clean look.

    • @Memm — True. But something called an “Oxford,” to me, sounds more traditional, and seems like it shouldn’t carry a barcode. You’re right though: some pencils don’t look bad with a barcode painted right on it.

      Are these the Oxford Executive pencils you have? How do they perform?

  2. I used them for a while, and I did like the scent and the rose-toned wood, but on several of them, the lead broke in the barrel—sections of lead would just fall out.

  3. Pingback: Simple Pleasures: The General’s Cedar Pointe 333 | wellthereyougo

  4. Barcodes. A reality of manufacture. In a modern world (such as now) virtually all shops use electronic tills which use PLU lists to price up items when they are scanned through. To put labels on items is extra – so it’s easier, cheaper and more reliable to put them on when you put on the rest of the “livery”.

    I hated the stick on ones where all too often the glue was cheap and nasty and the damn thing made a mess when sharpening. I prefer the printed ones.

    I work in IT in retail (sadly not stationery). so I know stuff. 🙂

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