Yesterday I got three dozen pencils from General Pencil Company, one of the few remaining pencil manufacturers that still make their pencils in the United States. My favorite pencils had been Dixon Ticonderoga’s, but they’ve moved all their production to foreign countries, including China. Most people probably don’t think much about pencils, but there’s a big difference between a good pencil and a bad one. The crap they sell at office superstores have uneven graphite, poorly centered lead, small erasers, thin paint, are commonly made in China, and probably don’t use sustainably produced wood for the case. Mechanical pencils stay sharp and are refillable, but they just don’t feel as good as a wooden-cased pencil, and I think the environmental impact of a sustainably produced wooden pencil is lower than all the plastic and packaging of mechanical pencils and their supplies.
I got three dozen “Semi-Hex,” #2/HB pencils (number 492-2/HB). I’d never seen a General’s pencil in the store, and never (as far as I know) used one, so this was an experiment to see if I’ve found an American-made replacement for the Ticonderoga. Since it’s baseball playoff time, I tested them out by scoring yesterday’s playoff game between the Boston Red Sox and the California Angels (or whatever they’re calling themselves this year). In this year’s playoffs I’m rooting for the Cubs and Phillies in the National League and the Rays in the American League. But I’m primarily an A’s fan, so a loss by the Angels is always a win for this A’s fan.
The game was a good one (especially since the Angels lost), with a reasonable amount of scoring, and a very exciting ending. And the pencil was fantastic. The lead is very even, with none of the little hard bits you’ll find in a poorly made pencil, it makes a nice dark line, and isn’t so soft that it smudges easily. With the Ticonderoga, I’m torn between the #2 and #2/HB because the HB is just a touch too soft, and the #2 is too hard and doesn’t write well outside because the paper gets softer when it’s humid. The General #2/HB seems slightly harder than the Ticonderoga HB, so I was able to make it through the whole game on one sharpening. I think I’ve found a winner.
Hopefully when I’ve used all three dozen, General will still be making pencils in the U.S.