I bought the Musgrave Tennessee Red pencils after hearing that Musgrave revamped their brand and added new pencils. I’ve mostly stuck to Blackwings and Japanese brands, so I haven’t tried many American pencils. There are only a few American pencil companies left, so it’s important to support them! Also, a dozen Tennessee Reds are only $9, compared to $25-28 for a dozen Blackwings. They are made of Tennessee red cedar instead of California cedar. Apparently, that’s what Musgrave pencils were made out of until the ’60s. Luckily, Musgrave found a new source of the wood!
However, there are quality control issues with the pencils, which I want to mention up front. In their blog post, Musgrave says that because they are new to working with this wood, some pencils will have off-centered lead or will be slightly warped. I’ll explain the issues I found with my pack later.
- $9 for a dozen
- #2 core
- natural finish with clear coat
- sharp hex
My pencils came in a beautiful red slipcover, with the words Tennessee Red in vintage-looking letters. They are stunning! The pencils are natural but have a clear gloss over them. Tennessee Red reminds me of a hardwood floor, with a similar smell. They aren’t as fragrant as Blackwings but still smell delicious! There are interesting whorls and variations that make each pencil unique. One of my pencils looks like a black and white cookie, with one half a lighter color than the other! I love the vintage red imprint but I wish that it showed up more against the dark wood.
They also have a very sharp hex, which means the edges are hard. It digs into my fingers. I wish that the edges were softer like Blackwings. I liked the combination of red with the golden ferrule and white eraser. Sadly, the eraser isn’t very usable, but most aren’t!
The hex is #2 but feels softer. It’s similar to Palamino HB. It’s smooth and dark on paper with some tooth. I tested it on Write Notepads and it was great. I didn’t feel any grit or scratchiness like I do with some pencils. It also has kept its point despite writing pages of notes. It’s a contender for my favorite lead, with the Blackwing 602 still holding first place.
However, I had quality control problems with my pack of pencils. I’d say 3-4 of mine are off-center. Even worse, one of them was completely messed up. It looked like the two slats were misaligned. It looks impossible to write with. They are also hard to sharpen, especially in hand-held sharpeners. The wood is thick and dense. I used my brass Möbius and Ruppert sharpener which worked but it took some effort. Finally, the hex is much too sharp for me.
I also was given two free pencils in a sleeve, a Musgrave 600 News and Musgrave Bugle. I loved the dark, smooth lead of the News, but I broke the tip instantly. It seems perfect for sketching! I didn’t like the Bugle, it was too light and scratchy. Both pencils felt lightweight without a ferrule and eraser.
I love the idea of the Tennessee Red pencils but I think better quality control needs to go into the next batch. At least Musgrave was honest and wrote a blog post explaining the issues. They also aren’t very expensive compared to Blackwings. If you’re okay with potentially getting off-center cores and love the beautiful red cedar, then I would purchase. I bought a pack for my mom and she loves them! Otherwise, I’d recommend waiting for the next generation of these pencils.
I bought this notebook with my own funds. I was not paid for this review.