Craft Design Technology Pencils: Old and New

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Soon after I published my post on CDT pencils, they changed. Specifically, the original Pentel pencils were discontinued, and the manufacturer was switched to Camel. The pencils were redesigned and packaged in sets of three instead of the original dozen. I finally bought a pack out of curiosity, to see how the new pencils were different.

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(The back of the former No. 18 box)

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(The back of the new No. 32 three-pack)

I have to confess I approached the new CDT pencils with a certain amount of prejudice. As is widely known, the best thing about the old Pentel CDT pencils was that they used polymer lead, just like the Black Polymer 999 . Any renewal meant the loss of that particular feature and the possible end of woodcased pencils from Pentel. So I wasn’t inclined to look kindly upon this company I’d never heard of, but any sincere effort to make good pencils should be welcome, right? Camel does go back more than 60 years and is an established pencilmaker based in Tokyo.

The first thing I noticed was that the lead wasn’t perfectly centered for all three pencils. The Pentel pencils were much better in this regard. (Pentel is said to have outsourced production of these pencils so they are not really “made” by Pentel except for the lead, but I use the word for the sake of convenience.)

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(Camel-made CDT pencils)

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(Pentel-made CDT pencils)

The printing has changed from black to silver, and is a bit uneven. The paint on the new pencils seems thicker and more glossy; the tactile experience is different. Could it be that they needed to apply more coats in order to mask the darker wood?

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The eraser is a pleasant surprise. It’s well molded and securely attached, and erases well (the texture reminds me of the standard Staedtler Mars white eraser). It’s not quite the cheap gimmick I expected it to be. This ferruleless cylindrical eraser seems to be something of a Camel speciality; it’s functional and blends in okay with the original CDT design (but it would have been better to match the shape of the eraser to that of the pencil, since right now the edges of the hexagonal body stick out a little from under the cylindrical eraser). I’d love to take it apart to see exactly how it’s attached to the pencil and how much eraser there is, but I’ll wait until I use it up some more before I take a knife to it.

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So how does it write? It’s not necessarily darker but it’s a bit softer. It reminds me of a Tombow 2558 with some grit thrown in. The unit price (calculating from pre-tax retail) has jumped from 133 yen to 166 yen per pencil. All in all, it has its merits, but the new CDT is a different beast altogether.

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7 thoughts on “Craft Design Technology Pencils: Old and New

  1. I remember seeing the old version at a local boutique shop but I never bought them! Now I regret it. I got the CDT eraser though (still unused) :D I was intrigued by the new version, so thank you for this post! Next time I come across the CDT pencils, I’m definitely getting them.

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    1. Jinnie, I really hope you’ll come across them again somewhere! They were not that hard to get, until they disappeared off the face of the earth at a stroke ;) The new ones are not bad though – if you like dark, soft pencils, they may be a fairly good choice (make sure the lead’s well centered though).

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  2. I just got the new CDT pencils, and they’re just like yours, with the cores slightly off-centered. But I like how they write. Not bad at all for novelty pencils. My guess on the tip eraser is that only the top half is usable.. I tried pulling on it (why not?!?) but no dice. :)

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    1. Yes, I think they are typically Japanese in that they tend to be soft and dark. At least they weren’t scratchy! I’ve seen some pictures of the dissected eraser tip on Korean websites, and as you say, the length seems to be comparable to other erasers attached to standard ferrules.

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