Musgrave wood - wouldn't you?

by Scribble Monboddo

Musgrave pencils might have continued flying under the radar on this side of the Pond if it wasn't for Nero lighting upon them, and we should be pleased he did. All of them are good, and some of them, frankly, are positively splendiferous. I've been doodling with several and, if you want to cut to the chase, you can see the results on my pencil blog in all their grainy detail. If you'd like a bit of history, though, read on.

Cedars are holy trees, or at least trees mentioned in holy books. 'All over the Old Testament, for a start. President Macron just planted one to mark the centenary of Lebanon, as it happens. But there are also rather a lot of them in southern parts of the United States, and the ancestor of the current Musgraves cottoned-on to an excellent wheeze for shortening the seasoning process by doing a deal with local farmers to take old cedar fencing posts down and put up shiny wire fencing in their place. We'd call it recycling these days, but then it was just smart business. Apparently the resulting wooden slats were first shipped to Europe, which possibly means that some ended up in Cumberland or Nuremberg, but wartime convoys put a stop to that and pencil production in full became a 'domestic' activity.

It's been going on for a long time and, sadly, they don't use horses any more. But here's a picture of one involved anyway, because horses are awesome.

OK then, we'd better talk about pencils now. Let's start with the maddest frog in the box, the bafflingly-titled Hermitage 525. Does a lot of editing go on in hermitages? No images of a double-ended pencil in the hands of a monk are available, but who knows. It's a nice red, and a nice blue too, and that must be useful for something or other. Clumsy people may be best advised to sharpen one end at a time because the other end points right at one's face and is, well, a bit stabby. But it certainly all works.

Then it seems only fair to mention the equally bewildering Bugle 1816. Are there any cedar-derived components in the average bugle? What on earth happened in 1816? Again, it's all a mystery. But this is a good round pencil with a pretty decent #2 (i.e. HB) lead, and it looks classy too.

Harvest time, next. This may look like a natural partner to a yellow Field Notes book, and indeed it probably would be, but supposedly the yellow was observed to be the colour of a harvest moon, which is odd because those are orange over here but, again, what the heck. It's a classic, old-school pencil and it writes well, so why worry about the back story?

Finally, we come to the cream of the crop, the Test Scoring 100. The name really doesn't help here, especially as it sounds like it could be a dull HB intended for inscribing even duller baseball scores. However, thankfully this isn't remotely dull at all. Scoring, in this case, is a synonym for marking, i.e. making an indelible impression on the paper. The original intended use was those wretched multiple-choice exam papers which are the bane of so many children's lives (although less so this year, obviously), but that means this is a long pencil with remarkably soft dark lead - and that has loads of alternative uses. It writes impressively smoothly, it's good for drawing with, it sharpens well and, frankly, if you can't be bothered with all the hype of Blackwings, this is just as good at a fraction of the price. It's a scandal that they have been a secret for so long, but by golly is it time to bust them out and scribble!