Like most pencils from India, these Nataraj Marble pencils are a great pencil in a colorful package for not a lot of money. The most unique thing about these pencils is of course the marble paint job. No two pencils are alike, and these are truly marbled in paint, not wrapped to look like it.
How it's done is somewhat of a mystery. Not necessarily how it COULD be done, but how it's done at such a scale. Hindustan Pencils cranks out millions of pencils PER DAY, and while not all of the pencils made are these Marble, they do sell these in bulk buckets of 100 at a price not much more than their other pencils, so they are at least making them on a regular basis and they aren't something special. Which makes how they do the lacquering that much more of a mystery.
Regardless, the looks of this pencil are amazing. My favorite ones have more blue in them, but I got very few of those in my bucket of 100. Red, orange, yellow, and pink seem to be the colors that are most prevalent. Some are more saturated than others, and about half of my bucket had a faded look. Every pencil if end-dipped in white and stamped in black "Nataraj Marble HB Made in India". How can you tell this is really paint? There are bubbles and slight areas where the paint is chipping but there is another layer below it. Now, because these come in a box of 100, they jostle around a little bit in shipping, and the white end-dip and the lacquer itself is covered in a layer of graphite dust. I could've removed it from the pictures, but I want them to be an honest assessment of what you should expect. These are brightly lit and zoomed in on...to the naked eye, it's hardly noticeable.
The wood is the Jelutong that they use in most of their standard pencils, with the Poplar and Linden/Basswood being reserved for their more high-end pencils (like the Apsara Absolute). The Jelutong wood is odorless and cuts easily in a sharpener. It's actually becoming my 2nd favorite pencil wood behind cedar. The dark pits are growing on me and the wood has more character than basswood.
The cores with the Hindustan pencils that they send over here as Casemate are generally all over the place, but these seem to be true to grade. They rarely like to put a grade on the pencils except for HB, choosing to use their own marketing terms for their darker pencils. The core feels similar to the Casemate HB's we get over here, particularly the colored lacquer ones in the 20 pack for $1.47. The Marble seemed to write darker than the Casemate Yellow HB and lighter than the Casemate Neon HB. These are all matters of degree, and they all fit within the acceptable range of what could be considered HB, especially when it comes to the Indian grading. It erases really well when using the Apsara Non-Dust eraser, which is pretty much my go-to at this point, because I have so many and they're so small, I don't feel bad just taking one with me and if I lose it, no big deal.
Overall, this is a great pencil for the price. It's fun, colorful, writes well, sharpens well, and is inexpensive. You can get singles from CW Pencils if you're just looking to try out a few, or you can buy a jar of 100 on Amazon. The jar from Amazon was around $25, but that included shipping from India. If you take into consideration at least $10 of that is shipping the big jar, I'm thinking these are $15. But of course we can't discount the shipping cost out of the price, so these are about 24¢ per pencil all said and done.
Available from Amazon, jar of 100 for $24.37, shipping included.