I have an odd habit of not reviewing some of my favorite products in a timely fashion. Maybe that’s because I’m busy using them and forgetting to set them aside to take pictures of? Who knows. What I do know is that I am enjoying the Tombow Mono KM-KKS 4B pencil more than I ever thought I would. So much so that it falls into the “favorite” category.
I don’t recall exactly where I first came across this pencil, but I’d wager it was from Johnny at Pencil Revolution. I was struck by how pretty is was. Tombow already makes some of the best looking products, but this one even more so for me. And then I saw it: 4B. And at the time I began to hunt one down, only 4B. That’s a non-starter for someone like me who lives on the H side of the graphite hardness scale.
Despite that fact, I picked one up during our visit to C.W. Pencil Enterprise last fall, almost begrudgingly so. I had a stack of other products, so I figured what was the harm in another $2.50 to see what the hype was about. Worse case is I have a pencil that looks great in photographs.
Then I never used used it. It sat in my pencil box for months before I decided to give it a try. Needless to say, I was mad at myself for waiting so long to sharpen it up, because it is fantastic.
The product description for the KM-KKS is unlike any other pencil that I am familiar with. Words like “penmanship,” “calligraphy,” and “brush” are not normal descriptors, so I should have known this was a different animal. I noticed the moment that I started writing that it was.
How products feel is terribly difficult to describe in typed words, and honestly, I’m not sure I can do the 4B core of this pencil justice. For starters, the core is wide, which is common in softer graphite - assumedly for structural reasons. They are more fragile by nature.
While I comprehend that, what threw me off the most is how smooth the graphite is. Glassy doesn’t quite describe it, but there is no grit or texture to speak of. The best comparison I can think of is something like how a Pilot gold fountain pen nib feels different than a Platinum or Sailor nib. All of them are great, but Pilot’s nibs have a stickiness on the page - for lack of a better term - that sets it apart. This Tombow pencil feels different from its competitors in a similar way.
Oddly, it seems to have more of a graphite sheen to it on the page. It looks different in changing light angles more than other pencils I own.
I know this all sounds weird, but I promise I am of sound body and mind when writing this review!
My writing looks great on the page, which is not something I ever expected to say about a 4B pencil. The tip obviously will wear down faster than my normal 2H, but not in a “sharpen it every two lines” kind of way. I did the short written review below without sharpening so you could see the difference from start to finish. The way the core wears I could have kept going further and been happy with the output.
In the realm of wooden pencils, this one falls in the expensive category at $2.50 a pop. I’ve gotten more value than that just looking at the darn thing, much less writing with it. It’s fun to use, looks cool, and is different than most every other pencil I own. I’m going to keep using this one down to the stub, and then buy a few more. I may even risk buying the only other model readily available in the US: the 6B version.
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