Some More Red-and-Blue Pencils (3)

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My first red-and-blue pencil was the Mitsubishi 2637/2667. Now, after trying many other brands, I realize that the Mitsubishis were actually on the softer side of the spectrum; on the other end are the vintage American colored pencils (such as the Eberhard Faber Colorbrite and Eagle Verithin), which are specifically formulated for writing and therefore have harder and stronger cores.

Tombow bicolor pencils (second and third from top in the picture above) seem to offer a good compromise between these two extremes. I assume that the regular Tombow 8900 V/P and the Ki-Monogatari natural-finish bicolor pencils share the same cores, since I could not detect any meaningful differences; both are very good. The Ki-Monogatari has painted bands at the ends, which make you hesitate with the sharpener – another instance of the ephemeral luxury so often associated with pencils.

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The Kitaboshi vermilion-and-Prussian-blue pencil (the top pencil in the first picture) was one of those lesser-known and seldom seen (at least outside of Japan) pencils that I would have loved to have “discovered” for myself, but it was disappointing. It is harder and fainter than the Tombows.

The 9608 bicolor pencil from A. W. Faber, and its modern successor from Faber-Castell, are both wonderful. I especially love the older, chubbier 9608; its “red” core has a bright fuchia tone to it that doesn’t show up well in pictures but sets it apart from the other red-and-blues (the blue is less inspiring).

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I was able to try the handsome modern 9608 thanks to Gunther :) May its production be assured for decades to come!

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8 thoughts on “Some More Red-and-Blue Pencils (3)

  1. I bought the Kitaboshi one recently but since it’s the first red-and-blue pencil I’m trying, I didn’t know how to judge its quality. I think I’ll try the Tombow ones next because I like the look of the warmer reds. Thanks for the comparison, Sola! Which do you reach out for more often?

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    1. I actually tend to use green or orange Colorbrites, because my son gets really stressed when his workbook is corrected in red! Some everyday color therapy going on right there!

      Are Kitaboshi pencils available in stationery stores in your area? That’s amazing. Do try some Tombows and tell me what you think – I may have been unnecessarily harsh on the Kitaboshis, but with pencils, first impressions tend to last…

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      1. Oh, the psychological effects of color!

        I wish my local stores carried harder to find pencils.. I got the Kitaboshi pencils from CW Pencils online (http://cwpencils.com It’s also a physical shop in NYC with lots of vintage pencils!) I had to try at least a couple because the Kitaboshi name was new to me but I was underwhelmed. Maybe I had higher expectations because they’re harder to find. ^^

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      2. I too have the impression that Kitaboshi pencils are harder to find, maybe because they’re a smaller company? I guess you can’t compete with the likes of Tombow or Mitsubishi when it comes to shelf space. But I love their “North Star” logo and am always hoping for a great discovery among their products. BTW Tajima pencils are less well known too but they seem to have a very good reputation :)

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  2. I’ve never seen the “bands in the middle” paint – after my short acquaintance with these useful pencils, I assumed they were all a red/blue colour scheme like the Mitsu-Bishis and Caran d’Ache versions.

    Did you know that Lyra make a bicolour Super Ferby (the Lyra Super Ferby Duo) ? Very expensive in the UK, but quite appealing nonetheless :)

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    1. I think I’ve seen these red/blue bands on at least one other pencil, but I can’t remember where! Maybe my memory is playing tricks on me. Anyway the vintage 9608 has interesting variations, e.g. with the red/blue reversed (the blue coming in front and the red at the back), or having just one end sharpened instead of both sides, etc.

      In the case of Faber-Castell they don’t paint the body to signal the colors of the core, they want to keep their signature olive/pine green, so I guess they need something like the colored bands. I for one would certainly be confused if I came across a modern Document 9608 in a store.

      Re the Lyra Ferby Duos – yes I had the chance to sample them thanks to Gunther. I didn’t know the price, but seeing how they work, I daresay it’s justified :)

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  3. Thank you for showing these beautiful pencils! I especially like the ones with the bands in the middle and at the ends. – I like red and blue pencils very much but so far I haven’t found out where this colour combination comes from, when it has appeared for the first time and for what these pencils have been used mostly. Here are some details I came across:
    1. In his book “Pencils” (a catalogue to an exhibition) Marco Ferreri writes that Italian teachers use(d) red to mark “normal” errors and blue to mark severe errors.
    2. On maps in WWII blue was used for own forces and red for enemy forces.
    3. German nurses used red to note the blood pressure and blue for the body temperature.
    However, maybe someone thought “It’s a good looking combination” back then and voilà, the red and blue pencil was born ;-)

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    1. Thank you for the details, Gunther! I am also curious as to the origins of these kind of bicolor pencils. Their history seems to go way far back and I suspect that, apart from red and blue being obviously useful primary colors, they may have served some arcane function, like indelible pencils being used to mark plaster (as discussed in Pencil Talk) etc.

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