Best Pencils and/or Sharpener???

March 20, 2015 at 12:03 AM · I can't believe how much energy I've spent trying to find the best pencils to buy (that won't come apart after sharpening & eraser doesn't dry out too quickly). Does the type of sharpener matter a great deal?

So far on the list: Pacific Music Paper pencils (but these are expensive) and Ticonderoga pencils. Suggestions welcomed!

Replies (55)

March 20, 2015 at 12:35 AM · Mechanical pencils. Always sharp. Keep two in your case, since you will inevitably loan and/or lose one.

I used to be picky about my pencils, but honestly, the Bic 0.7 mm mechanical pencils in bright colors, which you can get for 10 of for $3 on Amazon, do the trick. Write well, erase well, cheap, colors make them easy to see in your case.

March 20, 2015 at 12:35 AM · Ticonderoga pencils. Great. I get the black ones at Target.

Otherwise Bic mechanicals. Kroger had the 10 packs on sale for a dollar, I bought them all.

Get one of those white polymer erasers, and an eraser shield is very very handy.

March 20, 2015 at 12:37 AM · There is nothing like a well sharpened pencil for filling in crossword puzzles. I purchased a tiny sharpener for 99 cents an age ago at an artist supply store. It is merely an inch long rectangular steel block with a tapered hole and a replaceable blade that has never been replaced. Is is simplicity in itself. If you but one of these, just do not forget where you put it last.

My erasers are all dried out on my old pencils and make a big blot if I try to use them so use a seperate eraser for mistakes. This.ítem is easy to lose track

March 20, 2015 at 01:22 AM · You don't simply adjust your own soundpost, do you?

No, you send your violin to an expert.

Why shouldn't your pencils be afforded the same care and attention?

March 20, 2015 at 01:35 AM · Mechanical pencils are a pale shadow of the real thing. They break all the time, and the satisfaction of a perfect point is completely lost. All you get is the same unchanging dull column of lead. And let's not even talk about the inferior erasers. Yellow #2 forever.

March 20, 2015 at 01:52 AM · Dixon Ticonderoga pencils rule.

All other pencils drool.

(1388-2/HB "Soft")

March 20, 2015 at 04:07 AM · After all the talk about perfection intonation and etudes, finally here's a sensible and practical topic!

I have nothing useful to contribute, except that I'm all the way for the biggest box of cheap mechnical pencils I can get at a dollar store. That way I'll be spared of intense self-loathing when the pencil is gone in a week.

March 20, 2015 at 04:33 AM · I used to use Dixon Ticonderoga #2 pencils, but I went mechanical in childhood and have never regretted it. I used to switch back and forth between the 0.5 and 0.7 leads, but have settled on 0.7 as useful for practically everything. If you don't lose your pencils, you can get a higher-end Pentel. Or if you want to go fancy, a Kuru Toga.

March 20, 2015 at 02:03 PM · I use a Faber-Castell 2.5B pencil, with a Faber-Castell eraser that plugs on the end. The lead is soft enough to lubricate a nut or bridge groef if necessary. A set of these pencils comes with its own sharpener.

March 20, 2015 at 04:05 PM · Thank you all so much!

I've steered away from mechanical pencils because I seem to have a "strong" touch and tend to break the lead quite frequently, but am willing to try some of the brands suggested (in addition to continue lessening the pressure). :)

Love the idea about a high volume of pencils but wonder if quality is sacrificed?

March 20, 2015 at 04:50 PM · I lean on my pencils pretty well too. Non-mechanicals just give you more of that feeling of painterly expression. On the other hand, one advantage of 0.7 mm leads for mechanicals is that they do not snap as easily as 0.5. You get accustomed to extending just the right length of lead to avoid constant snapping.

I know how to ruin this thread -- by suggesting that one's pencil could be stored somehow in one's shoulder rest...

March 20, 2015 at 08:30 PM · OK, I'll help the ruination along ... I don't use a shoulder rest :)

March 20, 2015 at 08:37 PM · I tuck my pencil behind my right ear. The weight of the pencil is affecting the pressure I exert on my chin rest. It alters the entire tonal quality and projection of my instrument. Now I have to go shopping for a new violin. I am unwilling to part with my pencil.

March 20, 2015 at 08:53 PM · I imagine it depends on what you're using the pencil for. I use a pencil for marking sheet music. I am not, say, composing in pencil (I figure pretty much everyone does that with a computer these days, though).

March 20, 2015 at 11:48 PM · I dont put pressure on my pencil. Only "weight."

March 21, 2015 at 01:51 AM · Dixon Ticonderoga Black.

I can't stand mechanical pencils -- that little pillar of lead just waiting to snap :-) Prefer a strong cone of well sharpened lead.

March 21, 2015 at 03:27 AM · I like the good old Ticonderoga pencils.

What I don't like are the decorated pencils that grade school teachers like to give students as little rewards. The decorative colors and images are due to a tough plastic film coating the wood, and the coating ruins the blades of my sharpeners. Some of the cheaper pencils also contain cheaper quality wood that comes off in chunks instead of smooth shavings during sharpening. I've not had that happen with the Ticonderoga ones.

March 21, 2015 at 03:48 AM · If you are an orchestral player, use a pencil that your librarian would like. Something soft that doesn't scar the paper, and if need be, erases easily (for those rentals). I like the Ticonderoga No. 1, or for a bit of flair (and they are pricey), Palomino Blackwings. They have a lovely eraser, soft and smooth graphite, and don't seem to smudge like the No. 1 Ticonderoga pencils. While I prefer .5 mechanical pencils for work (I love my Pentel Graphgear 500), I like the wooden pencils better for music because you can use the side of the pencil point to make a dark, yet easily erasable mark for a cut. For parts going back into the library, I think the Blackwings would be better simply because of their low smudge factor.

March 21, 2015 at 09:25 AM · Palominos-

March 21, 2015 at 11:55 AM · Representatives of the Institute of Biomedical Science, London are given pencils amongst other things to hand out during school visits, etc. The high quality of these pencils has been remarked on on a number of occasions.

March 21, 2015 at 01:06 PM ·

Staedtler Mars Technico Lead Holder

Alvin Small Rotary Lead Pointer

Different color holders for different hardness leads

March 21, 2015 at 01:51 PM · On a slightly unrelated note (the comment about marking cuts reminded me), a pit-orchestra musician once showed me a great tip for using Post-Its in music. In a lot of pit gigs, you're working with original parts that have to be fully erased before being returned. Many such gigs have no librarian responsible for doing so, so you get stuck with the job of doing it yourself. (If you're playing high school / college / community musicals for free, that's certainly true.)

This makes Post-It notes really useful. In particular, Post-It Flags. They are brightly colored, narrow, and the specific ones you want have a colored end but otherwise are basically a transparent tape backed with Post-It glue, making them sticky enough to stay on your music but trivial to instantly remove on purpose. They come in nice packs that fit easily in a small accessory pocket in your case (and in a shirt or pants pocket).

For pairs of cuts, repeats, etc., I mark each side with the same-color flag, which makes it easy for the eye to go to exactly the right place.

March 21, 2015 at 02:12 PM · Pencils? Minutia for we the violin addicted ... Whats next? White-out sources? Nail-files??

March 21, 2015 at 03:54 PM · Revlon makes a fabulous metal nail file, the "Emeryl", Model # 34510.

March 21, 2015 at 05:02 PM · LOL!

[where can I get it?]

March 21, 2015 at 05:03 PM · Actually, I keep a glass one in my purse - it is invisible to xray... ;) [and its not dangerous anyway, I hasten to add before they come knocking on my door...]

March 21, 2015 at 06:59 PM · Hey I wouldn't mind a recommendation for a good pair of nail-clippers with a file. I normally keep them in my case. :-)

March 21, 2015 at 08:07 PM · Elise, how can it possibly surprise you that v-commies would agonize over the smallest details? LOL!!

I want small stuff like pencils and nail files (yes, guys use them too) to be high quality but cheap enough to be essentially disposable. That's why I stick with emery boards.

Hate to say it, but my favorite nail clippers is actually one of those larger steel toenail clippers. They're just as sharp but easier to hold and control.

@John Rokos, there's hardly anything worse than going to a convention or something and getting a giveaway writing instrument that does not write!

@Lydia, yep, I live by post-it flags. Super product. That particular brand is not cheap but you get a very high-quality adhesive, it sticks AND repositions very well.

March 21, 2015 at 08:27 PM · By far the best pencils for marking music were the Mirado Black Warrior #1, but alas I have been unable to find them. They only make the #2.

March 21, 2015 at 08:52 PM · Lydia -- here are the best nail clippers:


March 21, 2015 at 09:47 PM · Wow. That klhip looks like exactly what I need, except for the price. Guess I'll just keep struggling with the common type.

March 22, 2015 at 02:01 AM · @Lydia: You made my day by mentioning the post it flags. My stand partner has been raising her eyes at my yellow highlighter marks (repeats, etc.) when we use copies... I've used the paper flags but they always got mashed up. I also use the larger size post its as page/section dividers when I put together "gig" notebooks but for some reason never knew they came in small arrow post its.

Fabulous idea! Thanks for the link!

March 22, 2015 at 03:53 AM · If you get these, they're mostly transparent: Bright Flags. They look like they're only transparent in the middle in the picture, because of the way that the flags are layered on top of each other, but it's actually a colored end attached to a transparent removable tape.

Also: OMG on the nail clippers.

March 22, 2015 at 02:24 PM · I prefer scissors...

Regarding the price on those clippers...I have probably spent more trying to purchase good quality scissors over the years (and even expensive items aren't always good...and cheap scissors are just that...useless). If it's worth it. I can't speak for anyone else...but I cut my nails regularly.

I've seen people spend a lot more on items they actually don't need - or rarely which case a cheaper option would do just as well.

Just sayin'...

March 22, 2015 at 04:37 PM · $75 for nail clippers is a little too one-percenty for me. I'm drawing the line at nail clippers being more than a bow rehair. Clippers do not have to do a perfect job, that's why you have a file too.

Lydia, maybe if 3M knew how their product was being used, they might make repositionable flags that are completely colorless.

March 22, 2015 at 05:15 PM · I've used Ticonderoga for years but all of a sudden they seem to be using reconstituted wood instead of the real thing and they are almost impossible to sharpen. Has anybody else experienced this? And what do you former Ticonderoga lovers use in it's place?

March 22, 2015 at 05:31 PM · I have not seen that yet, Roy, but that would probably drive me to mechanical pencils for good.

March 22, 2015 at 08:15 PM · Paul, the coloured strips on the flags are helpful to draw the eye to a place, also for quick removal. I imagine otherwise it could be like trying to find the end of the sticky tape, when it comes to removal.

March 22, 2015 at 11:09 PM · I don't think they'll be that hard to spot. The flags have a tab that does not have adhesive, I bet your eyes would locate that pretty quickly. It's kind of interesting that we're talking about musical applications of post-it tape flags since the post-it brand had its origins in marking someone's hymnal, according to popular legend.

March 23, 2015 at 04:31 AM ·

I haven't noticed that splintery problem either Roy, however, I am working through a big pile of "old stock" Ticonderogas, thanks to a massive deal at the office supply store a few years ago.

Maybe your sharpener is a bit dull?

The thought of the beloved T pencils being ruined is too depressing for words.

Here is something interesting:

They make mechanical pencils too! Hey! Who knew?

Now we can all be in agreement about types of pencils. We can all get along! This thread doesn't have to degenerate into a pathetic pencil fight, harking back to the old days of the endless, useless, and most tiresome Shoulder Rest Wars.

I have one of the black-wood silver colored Ticonderoga "Noirs" listed on the website. It is most spiffy, and greatly envied. I used to have two, but one was pinched at a gig. :-(

March 23, 2015 at 04:48 AM · The Dixon Ticonderoga mechanical pencils are a bit different -- they self-feed lead in response to pressure. I didn't like them when I tried them.

March 23, 2015 at 07:37 AM · "..harking back to the old days of the endless, useless, and most tiresome Shoulder Rest Wars."

BTW did Heiftz use pencils, and if so, what kind?

I cringe when teachers scrawl huge battle plans in indellible red crayon on students', or borrowed, scores. Or bright yellow highlighters.

March 23, 2015 at 12:06 PM · About Ticonderoga using reconstituted wood, I have not seen that but I bet Roy knows it when he sees it. If that turns out to be true, then it'll be worse than changing the formula of Coke. For me anyway.

March 23, 2015 at 05:47 PM · I avoided mechanical pencils for a long time after I accidently lodged a very small piece of graphite into the tip of my index finger while trying to push the lead back into the dispenser. The lead went pretty deep into my finger but thankfully I cannot feel it - I can only see it. It's not worth removing according to a plastic surgeon and dermatologist I consulted as it could cause pain. I occacionally use the mechnical pencils now but not without extreme caution!

March 23, 2015 at 11:04 PM · Paul, we've had this problem with some of the ball-points we've been given to give out (some batches are better than others), but the pencils the Institute admin give us are invariably brilliant.

March 29, 2015 at 10:40 PM · Just got some new ticonderogas, and they're not reconsitituted wood as far as I can tell.

March 30, 2015 at 12:59 AM · I'll give 'em another try!

March 30, 2015 at 07:58 AM · I wonder if Roy somehow got fake triconderogas? I'm gonna have to order some, been reading about them for years on this board.

March 30, 2015 at 12:05 PM · Well, there are a number of issues to consider for the proper pencil: round or octagan? French, German or English? How much camber should the pencil have? And if we're marking Baroque music, shouldn't we be historically informed and use a quill and ink well? ;-D

March 30, 2015 at 12:43 PM · Does the label matter?

March 30, 2015 at 01:32 PM · I've been using the Pentel Quicker Clicker Automatic Pencil, 0.9mm for decades (even through the design change). I use Pentel 2B lead. It is dark and it doesn't break. (Since my local independent stationer went out of business I find I can can both of these items from Amazon - the local Staples and Office Depot do not carry the good lead.) I find 0.9mm lead less inclined to poke holes in the paper - or to break - than the 0.7 or 0.5mm diameters.

The only disadvantage of this pencil is that you only get to use about 40% of the eraser before you have to change it - but you can use super glue and a sharp knife to match up to old eraser pieces and keep going for at least 10 years with one tube of replacement erasers.

Back in the 1980s when I was still the local concertmaster I carried 2 pencils - one for the conductor - who always forgot to have one. In those days I still had my government automaticpencils (standard 1.1 mm) in my pocket from work - but really! they were too broad and not dark enough to do a decent job of marking music.


March 30, 2015 at 02:52 PM · It appears that Ticonderoga has experimented in the past (and present) with pencils made from recycled material including wood scraps and even automobile tires. The packaging is labeled "Green" or "Renew". I have seen these at retailers but I don't see them on Dixon's website at the moment. They also have something called "Enviro-Stix" which are made from wood that comes from reforested trees. They also have breast-cancer awareness pencils, which are pink.

I only use hexagonal pencils. Round ones roll away. For some reason the way the hexagonal shape presses into my finger is a positive thing for me.

April 28, 2015 at 01:48 AM · Dixon Ticonderogas and Dixon Noirs are bae. They are simply the best pencils I've ever tried. They sharpen amazing and are smooth to write with.

April 28, 2015 at 04:08 AM · It makes a big difference, at least to me, to have a nice pencil and eraser for marking parts!

April 28, 2015 at 06:23 PM · I buy the Dixon Ticonderoga pencils in the packs of 96 from Costco, and supply all my school ensembles with them. They sharpen easily, write very well, and are still fairly economical.

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