Apsara Elephant Jumbo Pencil.

I saw these recently on CW Pencil Enterprise’s website and had to have them. They are even prettier in person, and I love to use them even more than I thought I would. The Apsara Elephant Jumbo writing pencils are just delightful.

The pencils come in five colors, and you can purchase the box of five that includes the standard Apsara eraser and even a jumbo sharpener. From what I can tell, the sharpener puts a point that is similar to the factory point for these fat pencils. The point achieved with a similar blade sharpener for jumbo pencils is generally much shorter.

The lacquer is well-applied, and the colors really pop. These have an even thicker and brighter paint job than I usually find from Apsara. It was the colors, in part that drew me to these pencils in the first place.

The other thing that attracted me to these pencils was the promise of dark marks, and the Elephants deliver. Below, please find marks from a few pencils I found lying around that my kids were coloring with this morning — and the Blackwing I had in my hand for reference. The Apsara Elephant Jumbo matches the darkest jumbo pencil I found, the Chinese version of the My First Ticonderoga. However, the Apsara was less smeary and crumbly.

Paper is from Write Notepads & Co.

It’s really wonderful to write with, and the hex makes the marks feel more controlled than the slippery round barrels we usually find on jumbo pencils.

I can’t describe why I like these bright pencils so much, but I plan to stock up a bit. They are both beautiful and useful: well-constructed, colorful, with excellent writing cores to boot. I need to get some more for my kids so that they don’t steal all of mine.

Ticonderoga Checking Pencil: Chinese Version.

I’ve long been a sucker for checking pencils. I always keep at least a small supply of the particular pencil that is easiest version to find in the US, the Dixon Ticonderoga Carmine Red checking pencil.

Mexican on top; Chinese on the bottom.

As recently as last year, these were advertised as being made of cedar. I was chiding myself for not picking up more of these, when I came across the newest version while out shopping for my kids’ back-to-school supplies yesterday.

On the left, the new version that is made in China has a wonderful finish.

The latest version is made in China, and the finish has a matte feeling to it. The lacquer is thick and evenly applied, and the pencils themselves are a little wider. They feel like the newest version of the Ticonderoga neons, which are really wonderful pencils. These are easily the best-finished checking pencils with erasers I’ve ever seen for sale in the United States. I have to admit that I’m bothered by Ticonderoga’s move away from cedar, but their recent pencils are really remarkable.

The marks that the new version leaves on paper are not quite as saturated, but the core feels much smoother and less tacky and waxy. While I wish it was darker, I definitely prefer the writing experience with the newer one.

Definitely pick up a small pack of these if you have a use for red pencils. My son, who is obsessed with red, is a huge fan and recommends them.

Blackwing Volume 42.

If you say that it feels like we just got a Blackwing Volume two months ago, you’re correct. Apparently, Blackwing is moving up their release schedule, starting now. We will see the winter release in November. I can’t say I prefer this schedule or the old schedule more, but I do appreciate that Blackwing is being intentional and consistent.

Volume 42 is here! This fall’s release is, at first glance, another baseball pencil. Only, it’s not. It’s dedicated to Jackie Robinson:

In 1947, Jackie Robinson was called up to the Major Leagues by the Brooklyn Dodgers, breaking the color barrier and providing much needed momentum to the desegregation movement that extended well beyond baseball.
The Blackwing Volume 42 is a tribute to Jackie Robinson and those who pursue their passions, creative or otherwise, regardless of the obstacles in their way. It features our balanced graphite, a blue imprint and eraser, road gray ferrule, and the iconic red 42.

Read even more here.

Aesthetically, I find this pencil to be unexpectedly striking. One might be forgiven for thinking it is merely a differently stamped Pearl from the pictures online, but this is not the same finish as the Pearl. Instead of the iridescent Pearl, this is a glossy white — thickly and perfectly applied. It also looks simple at first glance. But the ferrule is new, and this is the first time that Blackwing has used two colors on the imprint — and the first time since spring 2018’s Volume 54 that we have seen such a brightly-colored imprint. On the white barrel, it’s stunning. Combined with the blue eraser, this pencil is anything but boring.

The new ferrule is named after the away/road uniforms that baseball teams wear while playing away from their home fields (and of course, Home White refers to the home field uniform). I would love to see this ferrule on a permanent Blackwing (can you imagine it on the Natural?).

I feel like I should mention that the ferrule connection issues experienced by quite a few Comrades over the last few Volumes seem to have been solved now — at least so far as I can tell from the dozen I have.

Those of us who wanted a point guard to match the Mars Pencil are in luck, as Blackwing has produced a Road Gray matching protector — included free with subscribers’ boxes. (Best extra yet?) In place of the usual “B” logo on the end, this protector sports Robinson’s 42. Swoon.

Blackwing has always been very good at packaging, and I love that the last few releases have had matching (recyclable) packing materials. In deep blue, this release is no exception.

Also included in this season’s subscriber box: stickers! Seen below, these are getting stuck on something quick.

My only real issue is the core. Putting the “balanced” core into a white pencil would seem to invite the charge that they just painted a Blackwing Pearl. I notice that they have been careful not to put the MMX core into the black limited editions they have put out. On the other hand, it’s technically the Balanced core’s turn at bat. So maybe I’m just saying this because it’s my least favorite Blackwing core (though your least favorite Blackwing core is still a great core, no?).

This is a great pencil — both aesthetically (it’s understated without being boring) and theme-wise (it’s no surprise that we’re happy to see Blackwing move past their monochromatic first year of releases). I’m leaving my dozen, open, around my home, daring anyone to snatch one — so I can buy another box.

Shills?

Just last week, someone called this site a “shill” blog on a certain platform. I’m not sure why writing about things we like makes us shills. We could write a lot about what we don’t like, but I’d get bored doing that here. I’m negative enough in real life! Is there a sense that this blog’s opinions are paid for or less-than-honest because we don’t generally post negative reviews? (Yes, we’re really asking — use a fake name if you want.)

Edit: Thank you so much for the kind words! If folks have some…critical things to say, we’d like to hear that too!

Harvard Natural History Pencil-esque.

The Harvard Museum of Natural History is one of my favorite places to visit in Massachusetts. Its old school charm is wonderful, set against today’s high-tech museum-going experiences.

Aside from the famous glass flowers and kid friendly paleontological exhibits, they have a great selection of gems and minerals. Of course they have graphite!

It is definitely worth a visit if you find yourself in Cambridge. It’s also not far from Bob Slate. Just saying.

Write 4th of July.

One of my favorite things about Write Notepads & Co is that they can just drop a small batch of limited editions when inspiration strikes, since everything is actually made by them, in house, in Baltimore. This is not to minimize the work that goes into bringing these editions out. The last “just because” edition was the Keats, and it was a thing of beauty. This edition is no less well-planned or well-executed. I love it.

The latest is the 4th of July edition, dedicated to that day in 1776, when we, ahem, told George that we did not wish to play with him anymore. Or, if you will, when we flipped the British the bird. Being from Baltimore, where we fought off the British at Fort McHenry, feelings run a little…strong. (I’ve become an Anglophile as I hit middle age, and not just for the tea and the good TV, but I don’t advertise this around town.)

From Write:

For this pocket notebook edition, we reprint parts of the 1823 facsimile of the engrossed copy of the Declaration of Independence on three notebooks. Each book was then hand sewn with red thread and trimmed and collated by us. Therefore, each book is identical yet slightly different in its unique way 鈥 a kind of perfect imperfection.An interesting fact to note: The second printer commissioned by Congress in 1777, was Mary Katherine Goddard, a publisher and postmaster in Baltimore, MD. Her reprints called the Goddard Broadside was the first to include the names of the signatories. 

What’s really different this time around is the sewn binding. These are put together by hand right here in Charm City, in red thread. The result is gorgeous notebooks, with lovely belly-bands to boot.

Jon and Chris and Co. kept this run to a small 243 packs, and they went fast. Make sure you’re on Write’s mailing list for the next surprise edition. And, remember, their summer release is yet to come. (More images below, with matching Blackwings (Volumes 73 and 16.2 and the TWA collaboration).

[Disclaimer: While I bought these books with my own money (and they were even delayed because they fell out of Chris鈥檚 car on the way to the PO), I have been writing for Write鈥檚 blog and am, in some small capacity, on their payroll. This does not influence my reviews; I鈥檓 not sure that Chris and Jon read this blog. But I thought I鈥檇 put it out there. (See my first two pieces here and here.)]