Maroon is a favorite color of mine. It's the color of my alma mater. I hate purple and generally don't care for red, though not to the extent that I dislike purple. However, the perfect blend between these two is a color I love for some reason. That, and Kitaboshi's reputation for amazing quality led me to this pencil.
A bit about Kitaboshi, lifted from the Pencils.com page:
Kitaboshi actually started life in 1913 as Sugatani Lumber Company, on the island of Hokkaido, when Yasuzaemon Sugatani moved from Tokyo to start producing wooden slats for the developing pencil industry in Japan.
Until 1944 the Sugitani family concentrated on wooden slat supply serving a number of pencil companies, but then also began producing a wooden barrel for the Ohto pen company that was used to encase their ball point pens (similar to our new wood cased mechanical pencil offering). At that time the company was renamed to Kitaboshi Stationery Sales Company and increasingly began to focus on finished pencil production. The translation of the Kitaboshi name is “North Star”, related to both their location in Hokkaido in the northern region of Japan and the North Star’s title as the guiding star used to find one’s direction.
Read the entire article here.
So it's obvious that they get slats from Cal Cedar, and I wouldn't need the article to tell me that. The aroma of this pencil is right up there with sharpening a fresh Blackwing. The quality of production is equally as good.
The 9606 HB may have lifted some design cues from the Mitsubishi 9850, or vice-versa, but they are similar in look. The 9850 sits a little bit more towards the red end on the lacquer color and has a silver imprint, where the 9606 is more straight maroon and has a gold imprint. On the opposite side, there is a silver imprint saying for "Academic Writing". So the "Office Use" Mitsubishi 9850 can stay at work and the 9606 goes with you to class, alright? It also says "General Use" on the top side, so I'm confused even more!
Like I said above, these are cedar. That's one advantage over the 9850. The wood in my couple of pencils was all beautiful, straight & true. There was no warping or dents in the lacquer. All the cores were well-centered and I had no problems sharpening this pencil in a Pollux or any other finicky sharpener. The core is wonderful, a smooth HB writer that is true to grade. Like the style of the other pencil makers in Japan, the writing is smooth and dark, and I ran into no scratchy bits or rough spots along the way. This one feels more like a traditional HB as I think about it in US terms than a Mitsubishi or Tombow HB does, but just slightly. Japanese cores are just damn good, all up and down the price scale.
It has the standard Asian-style ferrule you'll find on anything from the high-end manufacturers like Tombow and Mitsubishi to some of the lower-end OEM pencils made in Vietnam or Thailand, such as some of Staedtler's budget pencils or some of the Target Made for Retails. The eraser is a wonderful white eraser that works well. It doesn't gum up like a Tombow 2558 and still won't knock that off the top spot for best attached eraser, but it works clean and it definitely in the top percentile.
The thick, glossy lacquer feels good in the hand and so does this pencil. As a westerner used to erasers on pencils, this feels very balanced and not top-heavy to me, though some of you that aren't rubber-tipped pencil users may have a different opinion.
Overall this is a great pencil. It's not really available on Amazon that I can find, but you can get singles for $1 at CW Pencils. That's about the same price as the Mitsubishi 9850, and you get cedar instead of whatever not-awesome smelling wood they're using.
Available from CW Pencils, $1.