Founded in 1913 by Harunosuke Ogawa, the Tombow Pencil Co. has been making quality pencils for over 100 years. They were originally called H.O.P. (Harunosuke Ogawa Pencil) and some of the older 2558's in my possession still have "Made by HOP Tombow Pencil" on the imprint. By 1939, H.O.P split into two companies, one for the manufacture of pencils, Tombow Pencil Manufacturing Co. and one for selling pencils, Tombow Pencil Trade Co. In 1945, they released the 8900, which is still Japan's best seller, according to their website. In 1979, they opened operations in Germany, and shortly after opened Tombow USA, in 1983. In 2003, they opened a factory in Vietnam, where the 2558 that I'm reviewing today was made.
LOOKS / HANDFEEL
The 2558 is the yellow pencil, elevated. That may sound like saying "the grilled cheese, elevated" but in fact, have you ever tried a fancy grilled cheese? They're amazing. This fancy yellow pencil is amazing too. The yellow lacquer is thick and "school bus" yellow, more on the orange side of yellow than a Ticonderoga or a Semi-Hex. The imprint is a dark maroon color, same as on the box, except for the UPC by the bottom, which is in black. The ferrule is a dark metal that has a maroon or purple sheen to it. It is solidly applied and holds a pink, dust-free eraser. It feels solid, if not heavy. I would describe it as thick, although it's no thicker than a normal pencil to the naked eye.
The wood of this pencil is White Fir. I know this because Deirdre of The Weekly Pencil was told by Tombow USA when she asked. She asked because in the Erasable Facebook group, we were all trying to figure out why it kept breaking in the Pollux. That sharpener hates this pencil. The White Fir is a little bit harder to sharpen in a concave hand-held sharpener because the wood seems hard and doesn't want to shave as thinly as the Pollux requires. The shavings flowers made by the KUM Masterpiece, however, are quite lovely because they're very thick. It probably does quite a number on the blade, however, and I would recommend a hand crank or electric sharpener for this pencil. The White Fir does have gorgeous wood grain, very high-contrast between the light and the dark wood colors. Unfortunately, all the visual beauty doesn't translate to the olfactory senses...this wood has very little smell.
I chose to review the B core of this pencil, but HB and H are both available too. I have an older HB, back when they still put the JIS logo on the pencils, as well as the HOP wording. "Office, School, and Family Use" was printed on the old one, now they just say "For General Writing". The B is true to grade, but with that trademark Japanese smoothness. I would be interested to try a modern HB version of this pencil; the old one is a little scratchy (but Tradeoff! It's made of cedar and sharpens beautifully in the Pollux). The core is very similar to the Tombow 8900 B, if not exactly the same. The cores on each pencil in the box were centered perfectly, which is one of my favorite things about Japanese pencils.
This is the single best attached eraser on the planet. I'll keep looking, of course, but for the moment, I'm calling the eraser on the 2558 as the best. And I think I'm a good judge, because I make a lot of mistakes! I often want to use a specific pencil, but rarely do I get compelled to use a specific eraser just to use it. Sometimes with the 2558, however, I'll just see it in my pencil cup, write "2558" in whatever notebook is next to me, then erase it. Craving satisfied, I'll put the pencil back in the pot and go back to what I was doing. Weird, right? Pink, dust-free, and always gathers around itself like a good plastic eraser should.
This pencil sits in my Top Five for good reason: the core is great for writing, the eraser is best-in-class, it has a classic look, and is a solid performer all around. Japanese pencil making is some of the best in the world, and the 2558 is no exception. Not being able to use it with the Pollux isn't great, and I'm not a fan of UPCs being imprinted on pencils, but those are minor details that don't really matter in the grand scheme of how awesome this pencil is. I highly recommend this pencil, and if you feel like the B may be too dark for your taste, try the HB or H.
Available on Amazon, $6.80 for 12.