Review: Caran D’Ache Swiss Wood HB

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It was kind of difficult to find a store that had the Swiss Wood, when you try to find it in a physical shop that is. I found it in a really nice little shop in Cologne called Papier Pop-Up. Maybe I didn’t look hard enough in the past, but they had the Black Wood on display so I asked if they were also carrying the Swiss Wood. The pencil is really a beautiful one. A bit larger than average, with natural wood finish with some sort of transparent lacquer. The white lettering, the FSC logo and the red tip with the white swiss cross; it’s a surprisingly light pencil compared to its size and the dark wood color really convey a sense of uniqueness.

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Then that smell! Some might find it unpleasant, I’m not yet sure what to think of it. Some describe it like the smell of smoked ham or grime. I think it smells a bit like soy sauce. Glovelier Beech seems to be a special breed of beech found in the Swiss, hence the “Swiss Wood” moniker.

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I heard a lot of good things about the pencil, before I had one in my own hands, so my expectations were pretty high. That said, I must say that these expectations were way too high. The graphite that is based on clay (!) is not really pleasant. It writes  easily, but with a very light gray tone. It’s lightly sticky, moderately smooth, but too firm for a HB. I was expecting something darker, heftier as the size suggests, but the lead is disappointing from my viewpoint, though still above average. Caran D’Ache has a special place in my heart as they are promoting the pencil in an exclusive and almost luxurious way with their limited editions, especially the Maison series. I’m feeling a bit bad of giving the “Swiss Wood” a less enthusiastic review than I expected, but that is what it is, despite its unique looks and the peculiar fragrance the utility of the pencil is above average.

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I’ve been busy, but not here.

A late Happy New Year to y’all!! I see that I still get a lot of traffic, like at least 500 visits a month. I thought I’d let this blog a bit to its own to see if people are still interested in pencils. And it shows that eventhough I was silent on here for quite some time, there’s still a lot of folks out there reading into pencils and what comes with it. My main focus was on my family last year. I also tried to boost my Facebook page (about 8700 likes now), but feel that Facebook has become a place for those who are willing to pay to get views and likes, so I recently switched to Instagram to post my drawings. I started a “One painting a day” challenge. So for 366 days I’ll try to do one drawing a day into my Baron Fig (I’ll have to write a review about that one too). So yes, I’ll do some reviews this year, at least one per month if not more, we’ll see. There are also plans for my real own website, but that’s still in the distant future. Hope to “see” you around here. I have some comments to catch up to. Cheers, Gilles

Pencil Buyers Beginner’s “guide” (Part 3: Update)

Following my recent posts about where to buy pencils some readers have suggested other places on the net for the pencil buying customer. So to make this series complete I’ll post these suggestions here. These are not “tested” by me, but I trust my geeky readership!

Pedro suggested Pencils.com in the States. Now this is a brilliant suggestion, because that site is not only very dedicated in all things “pencils”, but also sports very interesting infos about pencils and they have an interesting blog too. As opposed to what I wrote it seems Pedro hadn’t as much chance with import taxes as I had. It seems that maybe some countries are fiercer in getting their taxes…

johnthemonkey and Sapphire suggested pencils4artists.co.uk. If you are looking for european brands, this seems to be an excellent shop. They also have MONO100’s.

johnthemonkey suggested additional british shops:

fredaldous.co.uk/art-shop/ has a nice selection of pencils. The Derwent Watersoluble Sketching Pencils caught my eye.. (*Shopping*)

A limited, but fine selection can be found at http://www.whsmith.co.uk/.

And another selection can be found at http://www.hobbycraft.co.uk/.

But as was also suggested: support your local dealers!

Pencil Buyers Beginners “guide” (Part 2: Europe)

Continuing the series I’ll give you here some links to European online pencil shops.

http://www.cultpens.com/

Well if you haven’t heard of Cultpens, you never shopped for pencils or pens on the internet. Cultpens has a enormous selection of everything that writes, sketches and draws. The selection is so huge that they offer thematic guides by color, themes or target group. The packages are always very well packaged. Their new sections called “Geek Picks” and “Rarities” are especially recommended! Highly recommended.

http://www.thejournalshop.com/

This one’s another favorite of mine. As they have a good selection of Midori and Iconic stationery articles. Their pencil section is a bit limited, but all the rest is so much fun to explore and buy, I had to add this one to the list. Recommended!

http://www.pedlars.co.uk

Pedlars is rather limited pencil wise, but they have all sorts of Palomino pencils, like the Blackwings, the gift-sets and some nice stationary goodies. Recommended.

That sums it already up on the European side. If you know about other fine pencil shops, feel free to share!

Pencil buyers beginners “guide” (part 1: USA)

I recently got a nice haul from cwpencils.com (view previous post). As it is rather difficult to come by most of the American brands here in Europe. I often buy pencils in the States. The cool thing about pencils and notebooks is that they don’t generate extra import taxes, so you just pay the pencils and the postage. If you buy more pencils in a go you logically pay less postage per pencil, so make sure to make it worthwhile. As a little service from me to you, dear reader, I’ll give you the links to my pencil-shops on the internet that I like most. Most of these will be old news for the seasoned pencil enthusiast.

There are four shops in the States that I’d like to share with you.

http://www.jetpens.com/

Jetpens is a big shop that specializes in bringing mostly Japanese writing and stationary goods to the western hemisphere. Logically that makes it also interesting for me as an European. Shopping on Japanese websites is difficult if you don’t speak Japanese. Jetpens offers a lot, their catalog is huge and as a first time visitor you will surely be overwhelmed. But they offer some handy guides in different categories to get you started. Every package I got was expertly packaged with bubble-wrap and always with a complementary eraser. Highly recommended!

http://www.notegeist.com

A relatively young shop that opened in the wake of the success of the Erasable Podcast Facebook community (me thinks). Gary, the shop owner is an all-around nice guy, who is a pencil enthusiast through and through. The selection is not huge, but complete, with special sales items, like the sampler boxes. Packaging is outstanding, pencils come in very nice cardboard-boxes that have their uses afterwards! Highly recommended!

http://cwpencils.com/

Another very young shop that opened in New York City, so this one also has a physical shop address. The selection is centered on pencils, new and old ones. Yes, you can get some vintage pencils here. And just look at that drool-worthy shop picture above. The pencils were also here nicely (eco-friendly) packaged with a complementary pencil and a handwritten thank-you note from the shop owner Caroline Weaver. I love it when people do this, makes everything so much more personal and loveable. Highly recommended!

http://www.brandnamepencils.com/trade/pencils-for-sale.shtml

And last but not least is Bob Truby’s vintage pencil shop, where he sells duplicates from his huge collection. Recommended!

So this are those I made business with and that I knew of. There can be others. If you know of some other addresses in the States for online pencil shopping be sure to keep me in the loop!

This series will be continued in another post with European shop addresses!