What happened to Dixon Ticonderogas?
January 8, 2012 10:06 AM   Subscribe

I bought a bunch of Dixon #2 pencils from Wal-Mart last time I was in the US. They were cheap and they had the legendary Dixon name...and yet they were terrible - they all break and don't sharpen well. What happened to Dixon? And what do I do now? What do we replace them with? Further, is there an authoritative website on pencils that I should be reading?
posted by carlodio to Writing & Language (18 answers total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Dixon has a bunch of different pencil varieties. Did you just get a cheapie kind instead of Ticonderogas (which I've never had a problem with)? On their site, some of their products are listed as "Dixon #2 pencils - economy writing pencil" or "Dixon Oriole - commercial quality writing pencil". Maybe you got one of those? Are the eraser ferrules on yours green with yellow stripes or just plain aluminum?
posted by LionIndex at 10:16 AM on January 8, 2012 [2 favorites]

If it's not the case that you've bought a non-Ticonderoga pencil, wikipedia does mention that they've ceased US production operations "recently", so it could be that.

As far as recommendation, I mostly use pencils for drawing, but Staedler Mars pencils have served me well in that capacity. The only drawback is that they don't typically have erasers on them.
posted by LionIndex at 10:22 AM on January 8, 2012

There are two brands in play with your decision; Dixon, but also Wal-Mart. Wal-Mart has a history of pressuring manufacturers to provide them with cheaper and cheaper product. Because they're so big and provide so much pressure, manufacturers often produce a separate, cheaper, line of goods just to sell to Wal-Mart. Here's an interesting story about Snapper Lawn Mowers saying no to that pressure.

I have no idea about the pencil world, but that may have been part of your unsatisfactory experience.
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 10:22 AM on January 8, 2012 [9 favorites]

I'm not a pencil expert, but a co-worker turned me on to Mirado Black Warrior pencils and they are really great, at least for writing. I don't use them to draw.
posted by elizeh at 10:32 AM on January 8, 2012 [5 favorites]

2nding buying the Ticonderoga line instead. I'm partial to the #2 soft (they are the ones with the black barrel). Buy them from anywhere other than Walmart -- Walmart often carries cheaper versions of the same products.

Do you use these pencils for writing or drawing?

If for writing, and you want a more luxurious experience, consider ordering some fancy pencils from Jet Pens.
posted by LittleMy at 10:36 AM on January 8, 2012

As LionIndex says, Dixon ceased US production. Some pencil commentators have attributed the decline in quality to this. In addition to penciltalk.org, you can also find pencil news at pencilrevolution.com and Dave's Mechanical Pencils.
posted by audi alteram partem at 10:40 AM on January 8, 2012 [3 favorites]

Black Warrior seconded. Emphatically.
posted by willpie at 11:29 AM on January 8, 2012

Chiming in that the Mirado Black Warrior is an excellent pencil. The last batch I bought came pre sharpened and in a plastic bubble pack, instead of a box. They seemed to not be built as nicely, but they wrote fine.

They used to have a wide variety of hardnesses, but I'm not sure if they still do. I liked using a #2½ or a #3 when doing my cipherin', because the point would not dull nearly as quickly.
posted by gjc at 11:46 AM on January 8, 2012

Staedtler #2
posted by infini at 11:51 AM on January 8, 2012

Or rather, since the systems are different, Staedtler 2B (I like a softer pencil) than a B or even an H. It goes all the way from 6H up to 6B of which I usually have one as well as a 4B.

I have a big box of Staedtler Mars Lumograph since design school in 1989-1990, they have held up well and are excellent quality.
posted by infini at 11:56 AM on January 8, 2012

I was going to comment about what Homeboy Trouble said re: Snapper. I can't find a good link that tells the whole store but the fate of Rubbermaid is pretty much the story of doing business with WalMart.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 11:57 AM on January 8, 2012

Response by poster: OK - that helps. they WEREN'T Ticonderogas.... The Wal-Mart pack is just aluminum ferrule and we have two that are green with yellow stripes that are legitimate Ticonderogas. But the wifey says that the Ticonderogas haven't been much better. I'm not so sure. Either way, we'll get some Black Warriors next.
posted by carlodio at 12:04 PM on January 8, 2012

If it's not Eberhard Faber, it's not a proper pencil, if you ask me.
posted by bink at 1:08 PM on January 8, 2012

I like that tagline, "If it's not Eberhard Faber, you might as well be smearing your shit on a wall."

As for Homeboy Trouble: monopsony
posted by rhizome at 1:20 PM on January 8, 2012

I also like the Black Warriors very much; they are round and the lead is always in the center so you can, you know, actually write with them after they're sharpened. This is an obscure feature that not all pencils have.

However, the erasers are always dried up long before I can get through a box of them. I've given up and just use a big separate eraser now, and so finally have achieved pencil-happiness.
posted by fritley at 1:40 PM on January 8, 2012

My friend who works in an art supply store introduced me to Derwent pencils. I like them a lot.
posted by Multicellular Exothermic at 2:30 PM on January 8, 2012

Warning: obsessive pencil obsessing --Pencils.com are I think the only sellers of the resurrected  Blackwing, a pencil so legendary it has its own Wikipedia page. No hype, seriously there is no pencil even close to a Blackwing. I still have a painfully rationed box or two of the original ones from when they powered the animation boom of the 90s; there was much panic hoarding when it was rumoured they were discontinuing them. In the long dark decade before the resurrection, I must have tried two dozen different brands (Black Warriors are nice, along with Tombows and Palominos), but for any important drawing I'd sacrifice an inch of Blackwing.  Now, halleluja, they are back, in two types.   I've tried both the new ones and they live up to the name.  The distinction between all three is excruciatingly subtle, I'd say the new 602 is almost identical to the original except perhaps a touch blacker, and very slightly softer and grainier than the 'Palomino Blackwing', and which is my favourite pencil ever, even more than the original.  The only caveat I'd give is the length and big eraser makes the balance a little weird if you're not used to it.

Above advice is for drawing pencils, but they are excellent writing pencils to, not too soft at all. Half the Pressure Twice The Speed!
posted by Erasmouse at 4:24 PM on January 8, 2012 [2 favorites]

Are you definitely looking for #2 pencils or is mechanical pencils ok?
If that were the case Apex and Sharp Kerry are my choices. They last long and have a good grip.

if you are looking on the various thickness levels, straedtler is a brand name trusted for mechanical drawings and make good ones
posted by radsqd at 7:31 AM on January 9, 2012

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