Ultimate Pencils for Worksheet Marathons
If there's one thing around here that we burn up more than paper, it's pencils. And we've tried plenty of them. As a result, I've become something of a demented pencil snob. My fixation is your gain, however, and I have found what I think is the ideal pencil for my personal pencil cup, as well as a jumbo kid version that's held up under the most rigorous of Rocket Math worksheet marathons.
Hex barrel pencils have always felt weird to me, so the historical pencil of choice here has been the Mirado Black Warrior. The Black Warrior is widely available and well regarded by most pencil aficionados, but it never resonated with me as more than a basic implement. Recently, however, I wrapped my fingers around a Dixon Tri-Conderoga Black Pencil and fell in love. The Reuleaux triangle shape seems much more comfortable in my hand than either a hex or rounded barrel, and the soft-touch finish felt almost like holding leather. Dixon calls this the "World's Most Comfortable Pencil" and until I find something nicer, I'll back them up. The shape encourages you to hold the pencil properly and it doesn't roll so readily, which is an enormous advantage on a busy desk.
Beyond the barrel shape and finish, the rest of the pencil is top notch. The wood is made from incense cedar, which makes it sturdy and aromatic coming right from the sharpener. The 2HB lead sharpens to a razor point each time and a black eraser tops the package off. It's a work of art, pencil-wise. The black Triconderogas have become standard issue in Dad's personal pencil cup.
Paradoxically, smaller fingers seem more comfortable with bigger pencils. Fortunately, my Triconderoga pencil fetish uncovered a jumbo kid-sized version that's great for death-grip, manic-timed math drills. The Dixon Ticonderoga Tri-Write Beginner's Pencil is close in diameter to a primary school size pencil, and it's got a big beefy eraser on the end. I'm sure we're not the only house where the erasers on the pencils get burned up well before the pencil is sharpened down, and these big erasers definitely help. These are big versions of the real, soft erasers like what you find on a quality pencil, not the crumbly plastic that seems to show up on typical primary-school size pencils. These Tri-Writes don't have the same soft-grip black finish as their smaller Dixon-kin, but the shape is great for encouraging kids to get their fingers in the right places. We're still working on that, and the big triangular pencils seem to work much better than the slip-on pencil grips which failed us miserably here.
You do wind up needing a jumbo sized pencil sharper, and you'll want an electric if you're really using these in any volume. If you have a pencil sharpener that takes primary sized pencils already you should be in good shape. Unfortunately, the electric pencil sharpener we've been using only took the standard #2's, so we wound up with a new X-Acto School Pro Sharpener with selectable sizes. The Beginner's Tri-Writes go in the biggest hole and the motor's strong enough to get a good point on those big logs, but you've got to get them in straight.[Update:Two years later, that X-Acto sharpener is still going strong!]
The only downside to the Tri-Writes is the price and I've only found them for order online. They're a touch on the expensive side on a per-pencil basis especially if you get stuck with a big shipping charge (Amazon Prime saves the day for us), but they seem to last a lot longer then a smaller #2. It seemed like during homework hour we were working a set of three or four #2 pencils that got resharpened at the start and midway through. Three of the big Tri-Writes seem to get us through the homework on only one sharpening session. Maybe at some point I'll figure out how many worksheets we can get out of a single pencil (that'll make me popular, I'm sure.)
Anyway, I hope you give those Tri-Writes a try or if you have other pencil recommendations, drop a comment below... That may well help me hold off on buying any those discontinued Blackwing 602's floating around on eBay. Just for comparison, you know. Pencil dementia, indeed.