I will fully admit to having FOMO. When I'm into something, I want to know about all of it. I want to dig into every little corner of its world. I don't necessarily have to be first with something, but when an item slips past me in a corner I've already delved into, I'm surprised. That's what's happened to me with the Palomino Imagine pencils. I totally did not know these existed. When I went on Pencils.com to snag some Palomino HBs on the day they became available again, I saw them. I thought to myself, "Oh, everyone is so excited about the Palomino HBs being back in stock that no one is talking about these other new pencils." But then I came across a random comment made about them on the Erasable Facebook group and it sounded like they'd been around for awhile...like the end of 2012. What?!
Anyway, these have avoided my grubby little paws no longer. I ordered a set of the Primary pack (two of each color: orange, red, blue, green, and yellow) but while they came in the Primary box, I actually received the Executive set (two each: gold, silver, white, black, grey). I was totally fine with that, although I have enough subdued pencils in my life and I was looking forward to a bright orange plain pencil. (Full disclosure: Pencils.com did handle the situation when I emailed them in the best way: they're going to send me the pack of Primary that I did order and don't want me to send back the others. I didn't tell them I had a pencil blog or request anything free at all: this is just an example of their great customer service over there...but I am essentially getting a free pack of pencils, however, not for review purposes.)
LOOKS / HANDFEEL
Speaking of plain pencils, the Imagine is a plain as you can get. You have a choice of the following colors: black, white, grey, gold, silver, red, blue, green, orange, or yellow. You can get the aforementioned mixed packs, or you can buy sets of single colors (I see a green set in my future). The lacquer is thick and very high in quality. It reminds me of Mitsubishi 9850 pencil lacquer, which would make sense because these are made in Japan by an undisclosed manufacturer. There is no branding whatsoever. At all. None. Even the ferrules are plain. No imprint. No UPC. Not even a hidden lot number.
I kind of love it. The Palomino HB is simple enough with its horse, name, and stripe, but these Imagines take minimal to a whole different level. This is a pencil that sells itself by it's quality. It doesn't need to advertise or slap on a silly tag-line.
These have a silver ferrule in the Japanese-style (think Tombow 2558, but not that color) with a white eraser. Compared to the many non-erasered pencils I've been testing lately, these feel almost heavy, most likely due to the multiple coats of lacquer and the very solid ferrule / eraser combo.
WOOD / CORE
Being a Palomino product, you can expect this to be made with cedar. I think everything from them but the Prospector is made with their cedar, as they are the super-cheap classroom pencil made from basswood. The cores were all well-centered. Testing the Imagine against the Palomino HB, I could barely tell any difference. In fact, they seem so similar, I think the only difference between them is that the HB has branding and the ferrule color is different. Some people can swear they can tell a difference, but I can't. The core is the standard thickness of an HB pencil, but being HB, I find it to be true-to-grade when considering the country of manufacture, but maybe a little soft otherwise. In fact, I and many others speculate that this may be the same core (or very similar) as the Blackwing 24 / 530 "extra firm". Even if it's not, it's close enough and smooth enough to quench the thirst for those "Extra Firm" Blackwings when they sell out. Save the ferrules from the 530 and "hackwing" the gold Imagine, and I think you'd be pretty close.
The attached white eraser is not as good as I hoped it would be. When I saw those Japanese ferrules, I immediately wanted the eraser to perform like the Tombow 2558 eraser, aka the best attached eraser on the planet. Unfortunately, nothing ever comes close to that one. It's not terrible, and I can say it's actually serviceable, but after wanting to compare it to the 2558, it's just not quite there. It reminds me of the Mitsubishi 9850 white eraser...good, but not great. Maybe I've just been spoiled by using the Apsara Non-Dust for the last month or so.
If you're looking for a readily available plain pencil that has a great core and is made of cedar, look no further. I can't say enough how much I like this pencil. It ticks all the boxes for me concerning darkness of line, point durability (considering the darkness), quality of lacquer, color availability, and the use of cedar. At $1.30/pencil, they are more expensive than the Palomino HB ($1.08) and are equally as good, so really you're paying for more color options and the ability to have a plain, unbranded pencil.
Available from Pencils.com, $12.95 for 10.