Sunday, 27 March 2011

2B or Not 2B?

Apologies for the terrible pun in the title; it was to be the name of this blog fortunately, someone else had beaten me to it. Anyway...

I suppose that everyone has their favourite grade of pencil lead. For most, it's probably the plain old HB or No. 2 because that's all they can get - and probably all they need. Others may appreciate the silvery line of a harder grade like a 4H, not to mention the durability of the point. Still others may go the other way and opt for a soft, dark lead like a 6B.

For me, it's simple: 2B. It's not so soft that it needs sharpening every two minutes, and not too dark, but just dark enough for my tastes. Since returning to pencils, I've tried a few brands, some of which I've reviewed here. Of all the pencils I've tried so far, there are some which I keep returning to, for various reasons. Staedtler traditions are cheap, easily available and highly reliable with excellent lead. Tombow Mono 100s are beautiful, have super lead but I can only use them for short periods because of their razor-sharp edges. My favourite pencils of all are almost certainly Faber-Castell 9000s (and thanks to Matthias at Bleistift who kindly sent me some 9008 Stenos). But I ration my use of them because I can only get them by mail order, especially the wonderful Steno which I save for occasional use. I've never seen the F-C 9k range on sale in a bricks-and-mortar shop.

I bought another Staedtler tradition 2B the other day for everyday use (I've got several knocking around here). I began writing with it, and it just felt right. I should add that one of my hobbies is music; I play the tenor saxophone in the local community band. I have a Staedtler Noris 2B in my saxophone case, ready for marking band parts. It's darker than a HB, which makes it easier to read my jottings between the dots, especially where the lights may be low.

Other grades have their uses, and I'm not criticising them, but for some reason I keep returning to 2B. Incidentally, at junior school in the late 1970s I had a friend who liked telling the following joke:

Have you heard about the Hamlet pencil? (You can guess what the answer is.)

1 comment:

  1. I am a FC 9000 person also - 'B' in my case, for the same sort of reasons as you - point retention of a 'HB' and enough darkness for most situations. Point retention always ranks first in my estimation. I am surprised at your "razor edge" comments on the Tombow Mono 100 because from what I experience the FC 9000 has even sharper edges than the Mono 100. Again theres that word "subjectivity". Also agree about the Tradition which had settled to the bottom of my storage drawers through non use: I now appreciate them much more. Kevin.