Rite in the Rain Mechanical Pencil Review

I’ve always liked Rite in the Rain notebooks. While I’m not particularly outdoorsy (I prefer to be called an indoorsman,, like most good bloggers), I love the durability of their paper and the retro aesthetic of their yellow or tan products, and of course, the gorgeous script typeface in their logo.

That’s why I was excited that they introduced a series of mechanical pencils! I’ve always found it a little bit ironic that they have a wooden pencil in their logo, but had no graphite options in the writing equipment they sell.

Rite in the Rain Mechanical Pencil

I know, I know — I’m a wooden pencil guy, and this is a wooden pencil blog. And this product video doesn’t help make the peace:

But still, this pencil is gorgeous, and fits with their market really well. It’s the same yellow, but in a smooth sturdy plastic, and a slate grey eraser. Like their notebooks, they’re inexpensive, but well made. And, I imagine, very durable.

Rite in the Rain mechanical pencil test

This pencil comes in three varieties — a yellow barrel with black lead, a black barrel with black lead, and a red barrel with red lead.

This pencil was developed along with, and manufactured by Autopoint, which makes sense — it really fits within their wheelhouse. This was a good fit.

I’m not a huge fan of how wide this core is — it’s 1.1 mm instead of the thin 0.5 or 0.7 mm that is often found in mechanical pencils. I can appreciate why it’s wider, though — it’s less prone to breakage, and shows up darker if writing bigger. Sure enough, it didn’t snap once when I was testing it.

Rite in the Rain graphite tip closeup

The graphite was nice and smooth, and dark. Especially on the paper in this Rite in the Rain notebook, it glided across the page.

The red core, on the other hand, was a fairly unpleasant experience — the pigment is way too light (as you can see in the image), and waxy to the point of feeling gummy. It dulled much faster than the graphite core did.

The only other complaint I have about this pencil is the sturdiness of the twisty point. As I’m writing, it sometimes creaks in an alarming way, like I’m stressing the little contraption inside that advances the core when I twist it. Nothing seems to be affected or broken, though, so it may just be a natural result of having two pieces that fit together like that.

I really like how it feels. It reminds me of a Bic Clic, and I hope they don’t take that as an insult. For the price, a Bic Clic is one of the most attractive, best engineered pens I can find. It’s shaped beautifully, performs consistently and admirably, and even though it’s plastic, it’s really high quality. I’ve never seen a flaw in one.

This pencil feel much the same. It’s a little bit thicker than a Bic Clic’s widest segment, and it’s just a little bit longer than the Bic. It feels really nice in my hand, and I imagine if I was someone who had to scribble notes in the rain, it’d be great to hold onto.

I think my favorite part of this pencil is the eraser. I don’t think I’ve seen one like it before — it’s grey, and I was expecting it to be very pumice-like and gritty. It’s not, though. It’s super-smooth, but really effective. It rubs off cleanly, almost like a vinyl eraser.

Rite in the Rain mechanical pencil eraser

Sure, I’d like to see Rite in the Rain introduce a wooden pencil. But honestly, it’s no big deal if they didn’t. They produce a great notebook, one that any pencil would work well with. They lent their philosophy to this mechanical pencil — a quality, durable tool for not a lot of money. I think it holds its own really well in their product lineup.

You can buy these mechanical pencils for $10.95 each, and refills for the core and the eraser, on their website. And for that 6×9″ top-spiral-bound notepad I used to review it? It’s $9.95 available from their website.

(Disclaimer: These products were given to me, free of charge, for review purposes. Thank you, Rite in the Rain, for these samples!)

UPDATE: A few readers have written to me that that the Autopoint All-American Jumbos are identical and cheaper. I don’t know if they are identical, and the RiR pencils are merely privately labeled, or if there are manufacturing differences/improvements. I intend to get an Autopoint-branded pencil and check it out. So in the meantime, I’d recommend that you hold off on your purchases of either.

The Koh-I-Noor Triograph: The Sharpie of pencils

The Koh-I-Noor Triograph

I finally got my hands on a pencil that I’ve liked for a long time — the Koh-I-Noor Triograph. I fully realize that it’s not a writing pencil, but a sketch pencil. From the Koh-I-Noor website’s product page:

These 5.6mm lead pencils are excellent for working in large areas and for quick, loose strokes; they blend extraordinarily well too.

They can be used alone or in combination with a plethora of artistic media to achieve effects as unique as the individual artist.

That’s a little fancier that I get, folks. But man, they’re gorgeous. I love the stain on the wood barrel:

Closeup of the Koh-I-Noor Triograph tipCloseup of the Koh-I-Noor Triograph barrel.

I also really like triangular barrels. That was definitely a big decision factor for me.

So when my pencils arrived from Jetpens (Disclosure: I received these pencils at no charge for review purposes), I opened then excitedly. Continue reading

Start with a pencil

I don’t care what they say; I still love Medium. Despite all the spammy, markety, Seth Godin-ish posts filling it up, and the hushed, opaque ways they recommend artricles to the reader, I still stumble across some gems. Like this post, “Start with a pencil“.

I’ve linked a similar article here before, and this is a great, natural follow up to it. If you work in a creative agency setting, and you’re in charge of concepting a product, start with a pencil. Don’t be afraid if it’s a little messy or unrefined.

Start with a pencil Continue reading

Breathing new life into an old bullet pencil

I added a Palomino Prospector pencil to this bullet pencil.

Inspired by the excellent tutorial over on The Jungle is Neutral on restoring bullet pencils (a follow-up to a great post about the history of bullet pencils), I decided to whip out the Dremel and do a little work on one of my favorites.

I started by sanding the glaze off the eraser. I should have used a finer grain on the sandpaper for a smoother finish (and also a steadier hand), but it’s functional now! I’ve seen better, but I can now erase a pencil mark from a piece of paper with this eraser.  Continue reading

Man Finds 15 Years of Ailments Due to Pencil Stuck in Head

A friend sent me this article from the Latinos Post, about a man who found he had a 4-inch pencil stub stuck in the back of man’s throat.

[S]urgeons at Aachen University Hospital, the largest hospital in Europe, successfully removed the pencil from the head of the young man, who reportedly recovered successfully from the procedure and left the hospital in only a few days, despite lingering blurry vision. The man cannot remember when or how the writing implement ended up in his head, although he recalls taking a serious fall when he was young and then having a significant nosebleed.
[Link]

Typically, I would say that a nice, freshly sharpened wooden pencil will cure what ails you, but I think this is definitely an exception to that rule.

Refreshed product lineup at Pencils.com

 

product_lineup

DISCLAIMER: Okay, so it’s been two years since I’ve worked at Pencils.com, so at some point, I should stop disclaiming myself. But, I worked there in early 2011. I am no longer paid or affiliated with Pencils.com in any official capacity. They sent me the products you see above for free, but they do not compensate me financially in any way.

There have been some seemingly subtle changes going on in the Pencils.com store recently. But they are important to note.

The lineup

First, they’ve eliminated the “California Republic Stationers” brand and rolled the Golden Bear and the Prospector into the “Palomino” brand. So, like the Palomino Blackwing, they now have the Palomino Golden Bear and the Palomino Prospector.

A Palomino Golden Bear next to the old California Republic Golden Bear

A Palomino Golden Bear next to the old California Republic Golden Bear. I appreciate that they don’t come factory sharpened now.

I think this was a wise choice. The California Republic brand for CalCedar’s pencils was pretty weak. No one really identified their pencils with that name. The Palomino, one of my favorite pencils in existence, is a much stronger brand, and made much stronger by the visibility of the new Blackwings being wrapped into their brand.

That, along with the new packaging, really showcases the brand of these pencils.

Secondly, no longer are these pencils made in Taiwan Thailand (Thanks, Charles!) — they’re manufactured right here in the US of A, at the Musgrave Pencil Company in Shelbyville, Tennessee. (Warning: their website is atrocious, in sort of an awesome way.) And even with this radical change in supply line and vendors, the price has not increased (or, admittedly, decreased)!

The biggest change — which is tragic to me — is that the triangular Golden Bears were discontinued. I love triangular pencils, and I really loved these. According to Charles Berolzheimer, the Pencils.com President and CEO, Musgrave just doesn’t have the tooling capability to make the triangular barrels.

I’m glad that I have a whole bunch of them left, though I usually give them out when I explain to someone about fancy pencils. I may have to be a bit more miserly about them now.

Charles also tells me the oft-overlooked child-focused Spangle will be discontinued, too, as they sell through their current stock. While I have a few of them, I haven’t used them enough to really form a coherent opinion on them.

Coming later this year, Pencils.com will have some changes in the orange tipped and untipped Palominos, too. Hopefully I’ll be able to tell you more about them when I get to try them!

Differences in appearance and experience

First, the new USA-produced Golden Bears and Prospectors are noticeably heavier than the old ones. I need to get my hands on a digital scale to tell you how much heavier they are, but it’s not a burdensome heaviness — it feels more substantial, like it’s a fancy hardwood in the barrel.

The ridges of the hex shape are ever so slightly sharper, too, so you can feel the hexagonal shape. They’re not so sharp that they’d hurt your finger while you grip it, but you can definitely pick out every plane of the barrel. They’re not rounded edges like the old-style pencil.

There are some subtle changes in labeling besides the brand change. Instead of a “HB” label indicating the more classic European graphite hardness scale, there’s a “2”. From a marketing perspective, I understand why they did this. If someone was buying pencils for a standardized test, which explicitly say to use “#2” pencils, a typical American may be wary of a pencil that says “HB”.

The blue Golden Bear (with orange eraser) changed in fairly subtle ways. Instead of a blue stripe on the ferrule, there’s a red stripe.

The Palomino Prospector Pencil, top, compared to the California Republic Stationer's Prospector, below. Both from Pencils.com. Apologies for the light wash in this image.

The Palomino Prospector Pencil, top, compared to the California Republic Stationer’s Prospector, below. Both from Pencils.com. Apologies for the light wash in this image.

Differences in performance

Both Golden Bears and the Prospectors pencils by Pencils.com were put through a performance test.

Both Golden Bears and the Prospectors pencils by Pencils.com were put through a performance test. Click to embiggen. (Also, please pretend that said THAILAND, not TAIWAN. That was a factual error on my part.

I alternated use of each pencil on-and-off for about a week. I can tell you that I noticed no difference in performance in the Golden Bears, good or bad. To me, that’s a good thing — I really like the way they write. (I’d compare them to a Dixon Ticonderoga, but with the tactile feel closer to a Palomino.)

I’ve never been a huge fan of the way the Prospectors write, but at $2.25 for a dozen, they’re definitely worth the price. Both Prospectors are a bit scratchier than a Golden Bear, though the new one was the TINIEST bit smoother.

The erasers, which look and feel identical on both Golden Bears, performs identically. (I didn’t have my red Golden Bears with blue erasers when doing this eraser test, so just the erasers on the blue Golden Bear and the Prospectors were used.)

The Prospector was a different story. The new erasers feel a bit more vinyl than the grainy Taiwan Thailand-made Prospector. It erased better, too, if you notice in the photo above.

And in conclusion…

Before, I used my Palomino Blackwing (602) and my Palomino Proper almost exclusively, though I had a few triangular Golden Bears at work for quick notes. I think I may need to add these new blue Golden Bears to my rotation, though — it’s just a gorgeous pencil, full of color and personality, and now it feels better in my hand. I’m excited that the Palomino line is going to be made in the US, and for the same price as before.

The linkage

New Kickstarter Project: “Sprout: a pencil with a seed”

This is a fun project: it’s a premium cedar pencil, that has a seed embedded in a water-activated capsule in the top. When it gets too short to use, stick it in some dirt, water it, and watch the seed grow! Here’s their Kickstarter project (check it out for a really awesome video):

Sprout: a pencil with a seed. | Kickstarter.com

It comes in several different varieties: from flowers to vegetables, jalapeño, marigold, parsley, basil, cherry tomato, and lots more.

Can you imagine how fun this would be in a classroom? Each kid gets a different variety, and after they wear their pencils down, the teacher plants them in a big window garden, and by the end of school — vegetables!

Sprout: seed pencils. Stick the end in dirt, and watch your plant grow!

Stick your Sprout pencil in the dirt, water it, and make the plant grow!

It seems like these guys aren’t just putting seed in any old pencil, either. The description of their project makes it sound like they put a lot of thought into the quality of their pencil:

We really like writing with wooden pencils.  They have a tactile feel that even the best mechanical pencils can’t match.  Getting up to sharpen them forces us to take a break and look around, a great way to reconnect during a long problem set.  We designed Sprout around a high quality Ticonderoga cedar pencil body.  It’s a great writing experience.  And it smells really nice too.

I couldn’t agree more. The creators are a group of MIT engineers who formed a company, Democratech, who conceived and produced this whole thing!

The only possible flaw I could see in this pencil is the very thing that makes it unique: the water-activated capsule at the top. As the FAQ says:

What happens if I accidentally wet my Sprout?

If you spill something on your Sprout the tip will begin to dissolve, getting the seed ready for germination.  Unfortunately Sprout doesn’t know the difference between accidental and intentional watering, so if you accidentally wet your Sprout it’s time for planting.  We’ve worked hard to make a resilient seed capsule but it’s a tradeoff between resistance to accidental spills and plantability.

Not being an engineer, from MIT or anywhere else, I can’t think of a way around this, unless it comes with a plastic cap or something to keep the water out (and would defeat the purpose of being eco-friendly).

I maxed out my Kickstarter budget for the year, so I can’t get in on this. But you should! This is my favorite donor level, for $100:

Bacon Bliss Pack. We wish we could grow Bacon at home, in our office, or in our classroom. Unfortunately we can’t, but it doesn’t mean we can’t pretend! We’ll send you 10 Heirloom Basil Sprouts printed as though they contained Bacon. And we’ll laser etch your logo or up to 50 characters of your choosing onto all the Sprouts in this pack. Free domestic shipping.

Sprout: a pencil with a seed. | Kickstarter.com
Democratech.us | Democratech’s website