There comes a time when you have to eat your words. For me, that moment came with the General's Cedar Pointe. I always loved the design of the pencil, but felt that there wasn't much difference between the #1 and #2 and that both were too hard. I'd also determined that I didn't like some other General's products based on that assertion. Then I had some core shattering issues with a series of General's Test Scoring pencils, and avoided all of their pencils for a long time. Recently, though, I picked up a pack of the Cedar Pointe #1, having somehow misplaced mine in the move I did almost a year ago. I was looking for a natural cedar pencil with absolutely NO lacquer and I had forgotten about this one. I'm glad I was reminded: this is an awesome pencil.
The words that came to mind when I started thinking about this pencil were Rustic Minimalist. Natural cedar with a black imprint, black ferrule, black eraser. Nothing extraneous. No bells and whistles. This pencil looks just at home 100 years ago as it does today. With no paint and no clear lacquer, this truly naked pencil will develop a patina over time. Oils from your hand, graphite dust from your pencil case, drops of fountain pen ink. What will start off as a medium-light wood tone will become darker and dingier over time. By the time you're at the Steinbeck Stage, you should have a dark wood pencil in your hands.
I'd hate to think they'd call this pencil the Cedar Pointe and not make it with cedar. Of course it's cedar. I find that the cedar smell from a completely unlacquered cedar pencil is usually faint after time, especially in ones that are stored in open face boxes like these. Or maybe my sniffer is immune to the pleasant smell of cedar pencils because they're around me all the time. The pencils come factory sharpened in the box, so it's not as easy to tell if the cores are all centered, but it seems that way.
This brings me to an interesting situation: the box that I got, #1, says #2 all over it. General's was going to cancel the #1 in the line, but kept it due to customer demand. But all the boxes now just say #2, so when buying a box in person, you should look at the pencils inside, which you can see through the cutout in the box, to make sure they're the grade you want. My preference is for the #1, and I ordered mine online, so I hoped they would pick and send the right ones. They did.
The #1 core is smooth and lays down a nice black line on paper with a bit of tooth. On smoother paper like Field Notes' Finch Opaque Smooth, it writes a little light and a little grayish with brown undertones. But on my testing paper and the paper in the Leuchtturm1917 I'm currently using, it lays down a nice dark line that doesn't smear too awful much. The attached black eraser does a nice job of getting most of the line off the paper. The General's erasers have always been fairly decent, and this one is no exception.
I'm glad I revisited this pencil. Whether I had a harder-than-normal batch variation or was just using the wrong paper, I wasn't impressed at the time, but now I am. These are a perfect example of what I want natural pencils to be, simple and understated, letting the cedar do the talking. I love that it's unlacquered, unvarnished, and that it accumulates a nice patina over time. If you're looking for that, plus a pretty decent core, the Cedar Pointe is one you should get.
Available from Amazon. $8.80 for a box of 12.