Composition Utensil Roundup

A pencil may be an insignificant morsel to an i-device toting technophile but to my fellow luddites, it’s a very big deal:  A firefighter has their hose, a sniff-tester has their nose, and without a pencil a composer can’t compose.

So what makes a good pencil?

The Eraser

Will it hold up to enthusiasm amidst a eureka moment or will it crumble like a triscuit? Is it’s potency calibrated properly to it’s lead so that it doesn’t leave a nasty smudge?  Or worse, does it erase at all? Does it smell funny? Obnoxious? Serious?

To test the erasers, we erased approximately identical squiggles with 20 moderate swipes of each.  We evaluated the amount of rubber shorn and how much erasing was actually accomplished.  Also important, is the amount of rubber that is actually left on the page after an erasure.  If it’s a significant amount, valuable time is wasted brushing and blowing it off.  As they say, less is more.

The Lead

Does it break three times during sharpening (This also has to do with the quality of the wood)? Is it dark enough or light enough (People have their preferences)? Does it slowly leak poison into the wielder’s system?

Evaluation of the lead was more ambiguous but it was at least 50% dependent on how well it was calibrated to it’s eraser.  Gorgeous lead, for instance, can be held back by an eraser that isn’t tough enough to erase it without tearing the page.

I sourced a gaggle of utensils from my desk, between some feral couch cushions, and a forgotten pocket in my backpack.   Meet the contestants:


Papermate Classic HB2


Mostly a disappointment.  The beautiful lead is neutered by the eraser’s shoddy quality.  It barely survived one application.  The Papermate is best reserved for stabbing yourself in the teeth because the wood is also of dubious quality.  It provides little structural integrity to the lead which causes many breaks during sharpening.


 Venus HB “The Canuck”


 Even though the eraser held up better than the Papermate I was immensely disappointed with this contribution to the contest.  The lead is sub-par when compared to the Papermate which is probably why I had slightly better results the eraser.  If nothing else, you can say that it holds up better under pressure.  The wood seems to be of a better quality as it sharpened readily without breakage.


Staedtler 3B


I appreciate Staedtler’s commitment to fine lead and sourcing their wood from sustainably managed forests but I need an eraser on my pencil.  Staedtler manufactures an eraser separately that arguably deserves evaluation but part of what makes a pencil a powerful tool is the fact that it combines the abilities to create and destroy into one device.  A pencil without an eraser is like an arch-villain without a maniacal laugh. Note: Staedtler’s norica model ships with an attached eraser.


Shitty Dollarstore Pencil


Honorable mention goes to the Dollarstore pencil.  The eraser is well calibrated to the lead and you can’t go wrong with an eye-catching style that makes all the viola-babes say, “Wow! What do THEY have in THEIR pocket?”.  Style with a decent amount of substance.


A Dinner Fork


I’m hungry.

Girl Guides Canada


The winner of our contest is the unlikely contribution from Girl Guides Canada.  The understated design seems to convey an assuredness that’s welcome in the composer’s nook.  The rubber of the eraser is easily the best of the lot.  It has enough give to erase effectively but is sturdy enough to prevent breakage.  Also, the wood seems to be of very high quality.

Ladies, I salute your efforts!  You can order these pencils off their website or by following this link.


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