One upon a time, the beginning of August meant walking to the elementary school down the street from my house to see the lists on the door detailing who my teacher would be for the new school year. Would I be in the same class as my friends? Would I get to have the "fun" teacher? These were all things I worried about. With all of this came a much more exciting thing: The shopping list. The list always asked for the same things, usually a pack of Crayola markers, colored pencils, Elmer's glue, a certain number of notebooks and folders, and, of course, two dozen #2 pencils.
These days it seems a lot of teachers request a certain brand, usually Dixon Ticonderoga. Though Ticonderogas are superior than most other brands found at Target, Staples or WalMart, we think we call do better than that.
Not all #2s are created the same. Different countries and different companies have different standards for pencil grading, so not all #2s are going to write or feel the same way. In fact, some can feel drastically harder/darker/smoother than others. Your perfect #2 pencil might not be the same as that of your classmates and we're here to help you find the right one! If you're in New York City we invite you to come test them all out in person, but if you're someplace else, here's a little guide:
Most Classic #2 Pencil: General's Semi Hex #2
This one is made in the USA and is a similar hardness to Ticonderoga, though it writes a little bit darker. The eraser works well and it's made out of high quality cedar so you don't have any trouble sharpening, even in a dull classroom sharpener.
Best #2 Pencil for Dark Writing: Tombow 2558 HB
Made in Vietnam for the classic Japanese brand Tombow, this pencil writes a great deal darker and smoother than the vast majority of #2/HB pencils. An added bonus: the eraser is superb! It's a little bit more expensive but totally worth it if you're a burgeoning pencil snob (not a bad thing, I promise!).
Best #2 Pencil for Learning How to Write: J.R Moon Try-Rex Jumbo Pencil
For tiny hands that need a little extra help, this pencil is not only larger and easier to hold but also triangular, which encourages you to hold your pencil the right way. The core is a pretty standard American #2, if not a little bit darker.
Best #2 Pencils for Left-handed Writers: Caran d'Ache Yellow School Pencil
This particular pencil tends to have terrific point retention, an excellent eraser and is remarkably less smudgy than most. Another great option is the Tombow Mono Professional in HB. It doesn't have an eraser, but pop one of these guys on there and you're all set.
Best #2 Pencil for Nostalgists: Musgrave Harvest #2 Pencil
It's inexpensive, it looks super old-school and it's made in the US. The core writes like a firm-ish #2 and erases easily. You really can't go wrong with this one. Like the Semi-Hex, it's a better version of the American classic.
Best #2 for Purists: Palomino ForestChoice Pencil:
Unfinished and made from FSC certified cedar, this pencil is a super affordable, better-writing version of a #2 than you'd find in a big-box store. Not only it is sustainable and useful but it's also super pretty.
Best #2 for the Serious Writing: Kita-boshi Academic Writing Pencil
We love this pencil because on the back it's printed that it's for 'Academic Writing'. Of course you can use it for anything, but for the discerning school supply curator this one is an extra special choice. The core is dark and smooth and just right for note-taking.
Best Pencil for Productivity: Milan Graphite/Highlighter Pencil
The graphite half of this pencil is a little bit firm and has amazing point retention (read: less sharpening). The other end is a bright yellow colored pencil for underlining or highlighting.
Best #2 Pencils from Big Box Stores:
Staedtler Norica #2
Write Dudes USA Gold #2
Papermate Mirado Black Warrior
Of course there are so many to choose from! You can find these and many many more here. We suggest trying a couple to find your favorite or shoot us an e-mail and we'll help you find the perfect pencil. Having the right tools make school, work or anything else so much more pleasant. Though I won't be going back to school this year I'll still be making my own list of supplies to start the new season off right (Mr. Sketch markers, anyone?). You don't have to be a student to have fresh new supplies this Autumn.