The Staedtler Mars Lumograph Graphite Pencil Tin Box of 20 is a playground of pencils. I love getting to try new writing tools, and the range of this set includes several grades of pencil I've never experienced before. Disclaimer: I am not an artist, so I can't weigh in on the artitude of these. I've focused instead on their build and function. Overall, they're very decent student-grade tools, but they didn't wow me.
The build of the pencil is very good. The body is eco-friendly cedar wood from Germany. It's coated in a smooth layer of blue-turquoise paint with silver stamped labels and branding. It has the classic hexagonal shape, so it doesn't roll but the edges are smooth and comfortable to hold. The lead grade is labeled on every facet of the hexagon, which is very convenient and helpful. They are 7.4 mm in diameter and 7" long, so they should fit nicely in standard pencil cases.
They come in a hinged tin case that has a cozy nest for each pencil, so they don't rattle around. The tin is attractive and sturdy and slim enough to fit nicely in a bag alongside a sketchbook. It doesn't have a very strong snap close, though, so if any warping does occur, you might need a rubber band to hold it closed.
The leads are perfectly centered in the wood, easy to sharpen, and I had no breakage issues at all.
The softer shades are butter smooth and create dark areas without crumbling. They shade well but are difficult to erase and blend.
There are so many hardnesses here that it's difficult to tell the difference from pencil to pencil, but the overall spectrum is dramatic. The middle range is standard, and all work well. The harder leads create lovely soft shades, but I found them to be very scratchy. And not in a "this is a hard lead so of course it is scratchy" way, but more of a "in order to make this visible I have to damage the paper" way. The hardest two feel like trying to write with an actual nail. The feeling did improve after some use and the point was dulled, but every fresh sharpen starts the cycle over. Even the light tones weren't able to be erased totally cleanly, perhaps because the lines were more engraved than written.
I think the big takeaway here is that I prefer softer lead grades, and this set is so broad in scope that it takes me out of my comfort zone. Which is a very excellent thing!
Price-wise, these are at the more affordable end of the range, so they're a great resource for a student artist looking for some dynamic tools. And I'd recommend them to anyone who wants to experiment with a wide range of lead grades.
(JetPens provided this product at no charge to The Pen Addict for review purposes.)
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