Introducing a new series called "A Week With..." which focuses on the use of one writing instrument for the whole week, no ifs, ands, or buts, except for instances in which such use is prohibited or otherwise unavailable. These are basically reviews but on items that aren't new and may even be extremely old.
It is a yellow pencil, the same color as the General's Semi-Hex, with the same green foil imprint and standard General black striped gold ferrule. This brings back memories of grade school, for sure. This pencil is very similar to the Semi-Hex, down to the foil. I may even say that the only difference is the name, but I don't have that on any authority other than my own experience with both pencils.
I used the Supreme #1 on a variety of paper types, and all took the graphite fairly well, save for the Field Notes Expedition, which doesn't hold onto anything halfway dark at all.
The lacquer on this pencil is the typical General's yellow, which is similar to the Ticonderoga yellow, maybe a touch lighter. All the General's yellow pencils in production right now currently use this color and it seems to be a lighter color than some of the other "yellow #2" pencils out there, which are more Goldenrod.
The imprint also matches the Tic and the Semi-Hex. A bright green foil that looks black when there is no light hitting it, at the right angle, you could mistake it for a black imprint almost certainly. This is where it differs from the Tic. At no point could I not see green on that pencil, but the color depth of the General allows for it. The imprint on my review pencil was perfect, both thick and thin lines in the imprint being equal depth and showing perfectly.
The ferrule is where it steps away from Ticonderoga looks. A light gold aluminum ferrule with a black stripe, the General's standard ferrule for all the office and school pencils. The eraser is a deep reddish pink, and looks to be of higher quality and not as dry as some other yellow #2s out there.
The wood on this pencil is a nice cedar, but it doesn't have a very pungent smell to it. It sharpens cleanly during a hand-sharpen, and the comes along cleanly with the wood shavings. There is no breakage of of the wood where it meets the graphite core, even on a long point.
For a #1 or B pencil, the core is still the average size when compared to the Ticonderoga #1 B. This is not to say this is a thin core, just thinner than a popular competitor. It is the same size as the #2. When writing with a #1, a thick core doesn't really do much anyway, because I'll end up sharpening it before taking advantage of the thicker graphite. The core was perfectly centered in both pencils I used this week.
Line darkness is what you'd expect for most American #1. It is just a bit darker than the #2 in my writing tests and is slightly darker than the Ticonderoga #1, while being a bit cooler in gray tone, making for a darker look yet. I would say it's not as dark as I expect a B to be, and I think it's a little too close to the #2 version of this pencil. Maybe it should be called #1.5. Compare to the Musgrave Ceres, where the difference between #1 and #2 is night and day.
Point retention is average for a #1. You're not going to go on a marathon math assignment without sharpening the Supreme, but it writes smoothly with a little scratchy sound. The Tic #1 edges it out in scratchy sounds, though in the hand it feels the same.
As I said before, the eraser is of higher quality than any of the erasers you can find on pencils in this price range. It is a deeper pink and doesn't feel dry at all. There is not a dusty white sheen covering the outside of the eraser and it keeps its deep color throughout. It erases quite well, and even manages to work fairly well on the Field Notes Workshop Companion, also known as the "Graphite Vice Grip" paper. The eraser lasts a fairly decent amount of time and doesn't take too much to get rid of a mark. I'm finding that while I like that a lot of pencils are now turning to dust-free erasers, they tend to use up before I can use up the pencil. This is not a dust-free eraser and does not have that problem. It is very solid.
This pencil is of normal size, but seems to be a bit heavier in the hand than the Semi Hex. That's not to say it's heavy, it just feels dense and well made. It is balanced and hangs in the ear perfectly...and that's important! It is a semi-hex grip, which though General owns the name Semi-Hex, everyone has gotten that memo (except Musgrave). It it a joy to write with and very nice to the fingers even after a long-ish writing session.
Price & Availability
This pencil seems to be a ghost. It's not even listed on the General Pencil Co. website. Pencils.com doesn't carry it. When I Googled "General Supreme 550", the first page that comes up is CW Pencils' listing for it and the Brand Name Pencils entry for it. Then a Reddit thread about how this guy loves the pencil but can't find it anywhere.
Then I stumbled upon an old Pencil Talk post about the pencil and there's a mention that General sells this pencil to a distributor that sell to college campus bookstores. Not sure if this is still the case, but obviously it's not available anywhere but CW. That's why we need to buy from them any time we can, so they keep the good stuff in stock. These are $1.10/pencil on CW, which I can only assume is because it's hard to find, because these are definitely not more premium than the Semi-Hex at 50¢/pencil.
This is a better quality pencil that should be in big box retail, or big box office supply chains at the very least. Any time I need to, I'm glad to be able to snag a USA Gold or a Casemates at Walmart, or even an Up & Up at Target. My local Staples now has nothing but Ticonderoga and some Staedtler Mars drawing pencils in the drafting section. It is a shame and I would love to see these and other American-made, heritage pencils in these stores. If money is an issue, go with the General's Semi-Hex, which are about 50¢ per pencil at CW. The difference is marginal at best and the Semi-Hex is available in 5 hardness levels.
Available at CW Pencils, $1.10 per pencil.