Musgrave Tennessee Red Pencil Review

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.

Specs:

  • $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.

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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.

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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.

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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. 

 

Surrealism is Awesome: Palomino Blackwing 54 Review

I first tried the esteemed Blackwing 602 pencil ($22 for a box of twelve, yes they’re pricy) at the CW Pencil Shop last year. It’s much talked about in the pencil fandom (you thought I only liked fountain pens???) so I was excited. It met my expectations, and so much more. The “firm” lead is smooth and creamy on paper. I was turned off from pencils after years of using ones that were scratchy and had broken lead.  I stopped using pencils during middle school, and never went back. Until now.

For the spring semester, I found a use for my new pencils. I used my Baron Archer #2’s for math problems and my Blackwing 602 for creative writing class, where I had to erase often. I’ve even used my pencil for sketching! So I was excited to see the new Blackwing Volumes release. Okay, at first I was disappointed by the color. But the pictures online don’t show how it actually looks. It’s gorgeous!

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This picture shows the color off best.

The theme is inspired by Surrealism, one of my favorite art movements. Surrealism is when artists take inspiration from their unconscious and dreams to create a bizarre, off-putting work. It followed the work of Freud, often showing what lurked in the hidden parts of your mind. Though most think of Salvador Dali or Rene Magritte, there were many women and people of color working in that style. Surrealism was a diverse movement that gained popularity in the Caribbean and Latin America. I’m happy that Blackwing mentioned artists on the box that weren’t just white men. (Nothing wrong with that demographic but it’s nice to see underrepresented artists.) Some other female surrealists include Leonora Carrington, Frida Kahlo, and Remedios Varos. Wilfredo Lam, mentioned on the box, was a famous Chinese-Cuban artist, who drew inspiration from his Afro-Cuban heritage for his paintings.

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They’re beautiful!

The shiny lacquer is a strange color, shifting like the color palette of Surrealists. It looked bubblegum pink in some pictures, magenta in others. Seeing it in person, the color is orchid, with just a hint of purple. The teal imprint and blue eraser add to the oddity of this pencil. It’s unusual, which I like.

I had a weird scratch on one of the ferrules, which annoyed me. I’m paying $25 for a box of 12 pencils, it better be perfect!

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Weird scratch on ferrule

The “extra firm” lead wasn’t as mind-blowing as the 602’s was. But it has better point retention and is slightly harder, making it better for precise writing. Some bloggers theorized that the “extra firm” was the same as the Palomino HB. I tested that out, along with my other Blackwing pencils I have.

“Extra firm” is definitely a different lead. Palomino is even darker than the EF. Its line isn’t as dark as the 54’s. It has even better point retention and just had an overall different feel on the paper. I’d suggest both as good pencils, but they aren’t replicas. I also compared my “soft” and “firm” leads. The “soft” was the darkest, but smudged the most and lost its point quickly.

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Pencil test done on Baron Fig paper

I really enjoyed the 54 and its cool theme! They’re out of stock in many places, but there’s still some floating around if you look. Below are some of the works of the Surrealists mentioned on the box!

Also I found a list of awesome female Surrealists!

europe-after-rain
Max Ernst, Europe After the Rain (1940-42)
Meret-Oppenheim.-Object-469x311
Meret Oppenheimer, Object (1936)
self-portrait-along-the-boarder-line-between-mexico-and-the-united-states
Frida Kahlo, Self-Portrait Between the Borderline of Mexico and the United States (1932)
lam the jungle
Wilfredo Lam, The Jungle (1943)

Sources: