Thursday, July 17, 2014

Pencil Review: Grumbacher Sketching 4B and Charcoal Pencils

Grumbacher was a brand I had never heard of before I recently came across these two pencils, a Grumbacher sketching pencil in 4B and a charcoal pencil.  Curiously, the sketching pencil is made in Germany while the charcoal pencil is made in the USA.  I feel that both of these pencils are a bit out of my league (for reasons I'll go into below), so I'll be keeping this review relatively short.
Someone started sharpening the sketching pencil at the wrong end.  It wasn't me.

First off, the Grumbacher sketching pencil is probably the most beautiful pencil I have yet had a chance to hold, as it was finished to show off the natural wood grain.  I love this look, as I think it is a subtle reminder of the origin of the pencil in trees and the forest.  However, the most obvious thing about this pencil is its shape, which to me looks like a cross between a normal round pencil and a carpenter's pencil (see below).  It has rounded corners which makes it comfortable to hold, yet it's flat enough that it won't roll off your table.

Grumbacher sketching pencil (centre), compared to round charcoal pencil and rectangular carpenter's pencil.

The problem with this pencil is that I do not own a pencil sharpener capable of handling a pencil of this shape, and as for sharpening by hand with a knife, that's something I've never done, and I actually doubt that I even own any knives that would be suitable for the purpose (it is, however, a skill I should learn one of these days...).  I did try sketching with it a bit, but the lead didn't seem as dark as I would have expected for a 4B pencil.  I suppose the flattened shape might have its advantages: the flat side could be used for shading while the edge could be used for drawing finer lines, but I think that with my limited skills I'd be just as happy with using a more traditional sketching pencil.

As for the charcoal pencil, it is relatively boring in appearance (round, with a plain brown finish), and the last charcoal pencil I tried taught me that, while they're fun to use, charcoal pencils are not something I could see myself using regularly.  I'll be keeping this one unsharpened for now.

These pencils are definitely more for the dedicated artist than they are for the general pencil user like myself.  As a pencil collector, however, I love the Grumbacher sketching pencil for its unique shape and appearance, and both make great additions to my collection.

Do you have any pencils or pens that you like more for their looks than for how you use them?


  1. I have a few leadholders, 2mm and, I think, 5.6mm. Well-made, good-looking. I'm sort of half-sure I bought the 5.6mm holders because I used to like writing with chalk. Well, I use them, but only rarely. Artists use them, but I'm not an artist.

    Still, no regrets about buying them. The only writing gear I toss are disposables and found mechanical pencils. Jack/Ohio

    1. I haven't tried any leadholders yet. I have seen some nice-looking ones online, but I'm not sure if I would ever use them either :)


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