Tombow Mono Penmanship Pencils (and a comparison with Mitsubishi)

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I recently got some Tombow Mono Penmanship pencils (aka Tombow KM-KKS) along with some other Japanese pencils. The Tombows are hard to find, but they are exactly the same kind of pencils as the Mitsubishi Penmanship pencils (note the same imprint – Tombow only has “pencil (鉛筆)” added on at the end) so most of what I’ve said about the latter holds for the Tombow too. So this time I was curious as to how the two pencils compared.

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The back of the box was taped shut, making it impossible to open it from that end. The pencils were tightly packed together and it was difficult to get them out at first.

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The printing is surprisingly messy for a Tombow Mono. You’re supposed to write your name (なまえ)… on the blue barrel?

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This seems like a more logical place:

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The first glimpse I had was pretty impressive. Thick lead!

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But then, I remembered that the Mitsubishi had very thick lead too, despite their being the same degree (4B):

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No comparison. The paint job and printing of the Mitsubishi are also superior (the Mitsubishi 9850 wins over the Tombow 2558 in that regard too. Tombow just doesn’t seem to care that much about such things). The Tombow writes smoothly enough, but to me it seems to be around 90% to Mitsubishi’s 100%.

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The thick lead of the Mitsubishi gave me an idea…

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Why? Because none of the carpenter pencils or chisel-point pencils I tried so far really gave me what I wanted, which was the graphite version of a Pilot Parallel pen. They were on the whole not dark enough, even the grades that were supposed to be darker (2B, 4B). But maybe this thick, dark, smooth and break-resistant lead could do the job? Tapered to a chisel point:

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And… action!

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Now this would qualify as a Penmanship Pencil in the Western sense. Either this, or a German 2H pencil that keeps its point forever, for cursive practice :)

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4 thoughts on “Tombow Mono Penmanship Pencils (and a comparison with Mitsubishi)

  1. Thank you for the review and the comparison – I second your opinion about the pencils and their differences. Sharpening the Mitsubishi to a chisel point is an ingenious idea! And you handwriting – beautiful!

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    1. When you mentioned that the Tombow Penmanship was inferior to the Mitsubishi, I was surprised at first because it looked quite respectable in pictures. But close up, the details do fall short. The Tombow seems almost sloppy compared to the rich sheen and gold lettering of the Uni!

      BTW I sharpened an ordinary Hi-Uni 10B for comparison (although you can’t directly compare a 4B to a 10B, I know – but it was the only other dark and soft Uni I had). Rubbing the lead on paper to form a chisel point produced minute graphite particles that adhere to the lead (interesting!). Also, it’s not capable of producing sufficiently thin strokes – the lines blur. So for this purpose, softer and darker doesn’t seem necessarily better…

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