The Technograph 777 was my first proper yellow pencil. As La Plume points out, Caran d’Ache doesn’t seem to put a lot of effort into advertising its graphite pencils, except for the ultra-high-end Grafwood line; this is a pity since fans abound of the Technograph and even the school-grade Edelweiss. They are definitely hard to get. In Korea only one or two stationers stock them, but then only the Technograph and the Grafwood; here in this part of Canada you cannot get anything graphite from CdA at all. Price distortions make things worse: just as my Nikko G nib sells for $1 in its native Japan, $2 in the U.S. and $3 in Canada (because very often U.S. distributors supply the whole of North America), Korean retailers of CdA are said to get their stock from Japanese distributors, and all that border-crossing and double margins take their toll.
In a world where “older” usually means “better”, I was a bit late bandwagoning on the CdA trend. (In fact I was late for everything – the golden age of pencils and fountain pens seemed to be past.) Anyway, I soon found out that the Technographs I could get at that time were decidedly inferior to the ones produced before (as detailed here at Pencil Talk). A Penhood friend gave me a proper pre-barcoded version as a sample; and then, when old stocks of the Technograph had all but disappeared, I found out that the 12-grade “Artist” set of Technograph 777s were produced in the same manner as the old Technographs and were still available. They were probably the last batch before production methods were changed or moved elsewhere or I don’t know what.
The pencils in the tin are an exquisite canary yellow; they are free from blemishes and have a thicker coat. The imprint however is the same as the modern Technograph, whereas the older, plastic-sleeve version lacks the FSC mark at the end. The finish on the modern Technograph is truly terrible. It chips easily (none of my other pencils chip like that), and there are cracks around the gold band, as is the area around the imprint. The color has more ochre in it too, and therefore darker. The surface smudges like crazy and wears off a lot faster than other pencils (people who sweat a lot complain).
From top to bottom: Pre-barcoded, plastic-sleeve Technograph; Artist Tin Technograph; and the modern barcoded version.
When discussing CdA pencils in general, the word that pops up time and again in Korean forums is “slippery”. The pencils share a very interesting characteristic, certainly embodied in the Technograph and passed down to the Swiss Wood no. 348: the lead seems very strong and highly compressed, and what you would simply call “smooth” in any other pencil is rendered here in a much more polished manner, like glass gliding across paper. You don’t feel any of the porousness that supports the “smooth” in American pencils. This, combined with minimal graphite transfer (tested with scientific precision here at Bleistift), makes for a very clean-writing pencil, similar in darkness to a Faber-Castell 9000.
I am happy to report that the lead doesn’t seem to have changed in the modern version of the Technograph. However, the writing experience can be different, since the thinner coat makes the pencil infinitesimally lighter (the Technograph is already a very light pencil) and the hexagonal body sharper-edged. I end up gripping the modern version harder and at a steeper angle, which requires more pressure in the hand to write. This may be why I find the older Technographs a little smoother and softer – but then again, I’m prejudiced…