Spring is officially here, and with that comes that start of my favorite sport: baseball. Teams are finishing up spring training, getting ready to compete on an almost daily basis for the next 5 months. It's a time where each team starts on the same level, and from here, anything can happen. Well, apparently it's the same in the pencil world, because a thing that almost never happens just happened: CW Pencils got General's Pencil Co. to make a special pencil just for them.Read More
Test Scoring. Mark Sheet. Exam Grade. They all mean the same thing, but what do they mean? In the 1930s, IBM developed a scanning machine for standardized tests, however, the marks could only be read using a special graphite that was highly conductive. So IBM had pencils made, and the General Pencil Co. was the one who made them. The IBM pencils are no longer made, but the Test Scoring pencil lives on.Read More
Choosing a pencil to go up against the original IBM Electrographic was hard. There were a few factors at play; I'm not really a vintage pencil collector, so I didn't have much of the MANY options there were in this time period. It seems nearly every company had their version of a Test Scoring pencil.Read More
When I posed the question of which one is better to the Erasable Facebook Group, the results were surprising. These are two pencils that I have more of a history with than any of the others in the lineup. I used to be staunchly in the Musgrave camp, and felt that very few people supported that claim. However, when the comments rolled in, there were a lot of people who sprang to its defense. It was a fun and polarizing question.Read More
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.Read More
Introducing a new series called "A Week With..." which focuses on the use of one writing instrument for the whole week, no ifs, ands, or buts, except for instances in which such use is prohibited or otherwise unavailable. These are basically reviews but on items that aren't new and may even be extremely old.
It is a yellow pencil, the same color as the General's Semi-Hex, with the same green foil imprint and standard General black striped gold ferrule. This brings back memories of grade school, for sure. This pencil is very similar to the Semi-Hex, down to the foil. I may even say that the only difference is the name, but I don't have that on any authority other than my own experience with both pencils.
I used the Supreme #1 on a variety of paper types, and all took the graphite fairly well, save for the Field Notes Expedition, which doesn't hold onto anything halfway dark at all.
The lacquer on this pencil is the typical General's yellow, which is similar to the Ticonderoga yellow, maybe a touch lighter. All the General's yellow pencils in production right now currently use this color and it seems to be a lighter color than some of the other "yellow #2" pencils out there, which are more Goldenrod.
The imprint also matches the Tic and the Semi-Hex. A bright green foil that looks black when there is no light hitting it, at the right angle, you could mistake it for a black imprint almost certainly. This is where it differs from the Tic. At no point could I not see green on that pencil, but the color depth of the General allows for it. The imprint on my review pencil was perfect, both thick and thin lines in the imprint being equal depth and showing perfectly.
The ferrule is where it steps away from Ticonderoga looks. A light gold aluminum ferrule with a black stripe, the General's standard ferrule for all the office and school pencils. The eraser is a deep reddish pink, and looks to be of higher quality and not as dry as some other yellow #2s out there.
The wood on this pencil is a nice cedar, but it doesn't have a very pungent smell to it. It sharpens cleanly during a hand-sharpen, and the comes along cleanly with the wood shavings. There is no breakage of of the wood where it meets the graphite core, even on a long point.
For a #1 or B pencil, the core is still the average size when compared to the Ticonderoga #1 B. This is not to say this is a thin core, just thinner than a popular competitor. It is the same size as the #2. When writing with a #1, a thick core doesn't really do much anyway, because I'll end up sharpening it before taking advantage of the thicker graphite. The core was perfectly centered in both pencils I used this week.
Line darkness is what you'd expect for most American #1. It is just a bit darker than the #2 in my writing tests and is slightly darker than the Ticonderoga #1, while being a bit cooler in gray tone, making for a darker look yet. I would say it's not as dark as I expect a B to be, and I think it's a little too close to the #2 version of this pencil. Maybe it should be called #1.5. Compare to the Musgrave Ceres, where the difference between #1 and #2 is night and day.
Point retention is average for a #1. You're not going to go on a marathon math assignment without sharpening the Supreme, but it writes smoothly with a little scratchy sound. The Tic #1 edges it out in scratchy sounds, though in the hand it feels the same.
As I said before, the eraser is of higher quality than any of the erasers you can find on pencils in this price range. It is a deeper pink and doesn't feel dry at all. There is not a dusty white sheen covering the outside of the eraser and it keeps its deep color throughout. It erases quite well, and even manages to work fairly well on the Field Notes Workshop Companion, also known as the "Graphite Vice Grip" paper. The eraser lasts a fairly decent amount of time and doesn't take too much to get rid of a mark. I'm finding that while I like that a lot of pencils are now turning to dust-free erasers, they tend to use up before I can use up the pencil. This is not a dust-free eraser and does not have that problem. It is very solid.
This pencil is of normal size, but seems to be a bit heavier in the hand than the Semi Hex. That's not to say it's heavy, it just feels dense and well made. It is balanced and hangs in the ear perfectly...and that's important! It is a semi-hex grip, which though General owns the name Semi-Hex, everyone has gotten that memo (except Musgrave). It it a joy to write with and very nice to the fingers even after a long-ish writing session.
Price & Availability
This pencil seems to be a ghost. It's not even listed on the General Pencil Co. website. Pencils.com doesn't carry it. When I Googled "General Supreme 550", the first page that comes up is CW Pencils' listing for it and the Brand Name Pencils entry for it. Then a Reddit thread about how this guy loves the pencil but can't find it anywhere.
Then I stumbled upon an old Pencil Talk post about the pencil and there's a mention that General sells this pencil to a distributor that sell to college campus bookstores. Not sure if this is still the case, but obviously it's not available anywhere but CW. That's why we need to buy from them any time we can, so they keep the good stuff in stock. These are $1.10/pencil on CW, which I can only assume is because it's hard to find, because these are definitely not more premium than the Semi-Hex at 50¢/pencil.
This is a better quality pencil that should be in big box retail, or big box office supply chains at the very least. Any time I need to, I'm glad to be able to snag a USA Gold or a Casemates at Walmart, or even an Up & Up at Target. My local Staples now has nothing but Ticonderoga and some Staedtler Mars drawing pencils in the drafting section. It is a shame and I would love to see these and other American-made, heritage pencils in these stores. If money is an issue, go with the General's Semi-Hex, which are about 50¢ per pencil at CW. The difference is marginal at best and the Semi-Hex is available in 5 hardness levels.
Available at CW Pencils, $1.10 per pencil.