Imperfectly Perfect: The Musgrave Test Scoring 100 Pencil

My top three
[Three favorites]

I’ve already written about my top two pencils— the Stabilo 8008 Graphite and the Palomino Blackwing Pearl— but lately a third pencil has been sneaking into my line-up more and more often. The Musgrave Test Scoring 100 pencil pops up quite often in Twitter discussions, as well as in the Erasable Podcast where it was recently the “Pencil Of the Week” (meaning that it was used by Johnny, Tim, and Andy for the course of one week, not that it was necessarily their favorite pencil).

Because of the Twitter chatter and a blog post here and there, I ordered myself a pack from and have been using them for awhile now, both at home and at work. The Musgrave Test Scoring 100 is currently resting solidly in one of the top spots in my pencil arsenal. Going by appearance only, it’s a bit of an unlikely candidate.

Musgrave Test Scoring 100 pencils

While my Palomino and Stabilo favorites are thickly and evenly lacquered, the silver paint on the Musgrave TS 100 appears to be thin and a little bit uneven. I think Tim Wasem noted that you can almost see the brush strokes, and I have to agree. The branding features a font that would look right at home on a mimeographed (yes, I’m old) test paper. The letters wiggle a bit and are not as polished or perfect as the rock-solid branding on the Palomino or the Stabilo. But you know what? I don’t care.

Musgrave TS 100 Branding

The pencil body is full-hex, meaning that the edges aren’t rounded off and feel more pronounced— maybe even severe— compared to a semi-hex or rounded pencil. Personally, I enjoy the edges because they give the Musgrave TS 100 an old-school feel— like you’re REALLY using a pencil. Maybe they’re meant to keep you awake while you’re taking a test or to make it easy to distinguish the TS 100 from the herd of other pencils in your pencil cup or to keep it from rolling off of a desk. In any case, I find the feel of the distinct facets to be…well…distinctive, not annoying. Granted, I tend to use pencils in fairly short bursts so I’m not looking for long-lasting comfort.

Musgrave TS 100

Made in the USA, and featuring what is described as an “electro-graphite” core (which is supposedly picked up better by test scanning machines), this pencil is a true bargain at $3.25 per dozen— just $0.27 per pencil. Though I’m no longer taking “fill in the bubble” tests anymore— thank god— I still appreciate the look and feel of the graphite. Though not as silky or creamy as the graphite in my top two pencils— the Stabilo 8008 and Palomino Blackwing Pearl (my true love)— the darkness and smoothness of the TS 100’s graphite is a bit of a surprise. In fact, I feel like the smoothness improves as the pencil wears down, though it’s entirely possible that I’m imagining that. Point retention is decent. I’m not running to the sharpener very 5 seconds (as I can be prone to do). Again we learn the lesson, don’t judge a book by its cover— or a pencil by its paint job or price.

Writing samples

Musgrave TS 100 eraser

The eraser does a decent job, too. Though a black eraser would look pretty cool, this one is unabashedly pink— again adding to that old school look. Erasing is quite clean and the eraser “debris” is more strand-like than crumbly. The eraser wears pretty easily, but still I run out of pencil before eraser. The ferrules are secure and look sharp against the pencil’s cool silver finish.


This isn’t a perfect pencil. The finish is basic but adequate. One of the cores in my pencils showed a slight flaw— a bit of a “cavity”— though it sharpened just fine. The branding is decidedly low-tech looking. The full hex body may annoy those who write for hours.

Musgrave TS 100

Despite those flaws, and maybe even because of them, the Musgrave Test Scoring 100 pencil has captured my pencil-loving heart. It’s not trying to be something it isn’t. It’s like a pair of broken-in jeans and a favorite t-shirt— ready for work. And the price? Well, what’s not to love?!

Writing sample
[I like looking at writing upside down. A quirk.]

If I was paying a premium price, the minor flaws I’ve described might annoy me, but given the excellent performance of the graphite, I can’t help but reach for this pencil, sometimes over my top two favorites. There’s just something about that hex.

Musgrave Test Scoring 100 pencils

The Musgrave Test Scoring 100 pencil sits solidly in the #3 spot on my “favorite pencils” list. Considering the competition, that’s high praise. Very high praise.

Top 3 pencils

This is a pencil that is, to me, imperfectly perfect.

Albert Einstein, the Pencil

It’s no secret that Physics and I have had a rocky relationship. All I can say as far as college Physics goes is, “Thank God for a smart lab partner.” My seat in the lecture hall was in the WAY back (alphabetically arranged) which didn’t help my precarious grasp on the formulas and theories that the professor tried to jam into my head. I got through…somehow. This was not my finest hour, academically speaking.

Retro 51 Albert pencil

Given that history, you’d think I’d avoid this Retro 1951 Albert pencil like the plague. But no, I had to have it. (Held out for awhile, then cracked.) I have a couple of theories about this:

1) One of my favorite childhood activities was writing and drawing on the blackboard in our playroom. Every now and then my father would apply a fresh coat of blackboard paint so the surface was restored to a deep dark finish. Fresh chalk on a smooth blackboard. Nothing better.

2) My office is situated on the floor with the Physics department so I see a lot of this…

Physics on display

I love where I work, so maybe, this pencil with its blackboards and formulaic scribbles makes me feel at home even though I don’t understand a whit.

Knurling and eraser

Whatever the reason, I love this pencil. It’s my first one from Retro 1951, though I’d been eyeing the all-black stealth model for awhile. Even though that one looked cool, I like this one with Albert Einstein’s formulas scribbled on a blackboard even better. The iconic Tornado knurling holds the pencil’s substantial eraser. And this eraser ERASES! No smudgy business going on here. The eraser feels soft and is big enough to handle even my Physics-sized mistakes.


Albert clip, knurling and eraser

A twist of the knurled section advances the beefy 1.15 mm HB lead, which means that you can advance exactly as much or as little lead as you like. You’re not at the mercy of a click-to-advance system that often extends too much or too little. The mechanism works without a hitch and the lead is luscious. At first I was leery of such a thick lead, but I absolutely love it. I’ll have trouble going back to those fragile 0.5 and 0.7 mm leads.

Various line sizes

The pencil itself is hefty and smooth feeling, not unlike the Makrolon body on the Lamy 2000 writing utensils, but without even that HINT of texture. This is pure smoothness. It feels so good in hand that I find myself using it when I’d typically use a pen. And that’s saying something.

I was pleasantly surprised to find that the Albert pencil comes with a 12-pack of 1.15 mm HB lead as well as a 6-pack of replacement erasers, meaning that I’m set to write and erase for a good long time.

The whole Albert package

Though Physics was not my thing, this Albert pencil by Retro 1951 is. With its slick blackboard look covered with Einstein’s tidy formulas, I can’t help but feel smarter for owning it. Professor Lapetina, though, might beg to differ.

I purchased my Albert pencil from Goldspot Pens. Here’s a LINK. (Not an affiliate link, I’m just a happy customer.)

Back To School Giveaway Thanks To OfficeMax

The products included in this review were provided to me by OfficeMax to facilitate this review and giveaway. I was not compensated in any other way, and the opinions expressed here are my own.

Prize package
Prize package

I’m just back from the DC Fountain Pen SuperShow, and though I was quite conservative in my buying, I have a number of interesting purchases to share with you. But not this week. THIS week, I’m offering you a chance to win a fun selection of OfficeMax products. You know, the things students need as they get ready to head back to school. The basics, done right.

Here’s what’s included:

A 4-pack of retractable gel pens…
Gel Pens
Black ink, 0.7 mm tip

Probably the least distinctive product in the bunch, these pens looks very generic, but write smoothly and without any skips. The line is dark and solid with no globbing or clumping. The rubberized grip makes for a comfortable, if somewhat unexciting writing experience. There’s certainly nothing wrong with these pens. Your student will love them. It’s just that visually, they lack pizzazz. As a utilitarian gel pen, they do the job, and do it quite well.

Retractable Gel Pens
Visible ink supply means no surprises from a dry pen!

A 12-pack of mechanical pencils…
Mechanical Pencils
I’m liking the colored grips!

I gave a few of these to Laura, a student working with me this summer, and they were an instant hit! The colored grip and matching eraser are both eye-catching and functional. Laura immediately commented that the eraser worked quite well and we discussed how so often erasers either don’t work or can even make things worse by smudging what they’re supposed to be erasing. Not the case here. This eraser erases.

Pencil grips

The rubberized grip provides a nice accent as well as a comfortable writing experience. Laura and I both like the look and feel. We were also impressed with the retractable metal sleeve that protects the pencil lead. Because it DOES retract, it won’t get caught on your pocket or purse…a nice touch!

Retractable tip
Retractable tip protector

A 10-pack of liquid highlighters…
Liquid highlighters
Nice color assortment

When I offered these to Laura, she was quick to select a couple of the less typical highlighter colors…green and purple. I’m partial to the orange, but all of the colors are nicely balanced- not so dark that they drown out your writing. The chisel tip makes it possible to draw three line widths, which is nice if you prefer to underline rather than highlight.

Highlighters at work
The highlighters at work

Chisel tip & liquid ink supply
My favorite part? The sloshing ink!

Unlike highlighters with opaque barrels, these highlighters don’t keep you guessing about the ink level. The ink is visible AND sloshable. Which might not be a word, but it’s a fun feature in a pen.

Writing sample
My OfficeMax test drive

The summer is winding down. Sniff. Time to dust off those backpacks and lunch boxes, and stock up on school supplies. But before you go shopping, why not try to win the products reviewed here!

Here’s how to enter:

1) Leave a comment on this blog by 11:59 PM Sunday August 18th. One comment per person, please!
2) Each comment will be assigned a number based on the order in which it was posted.
3) A random number generator will be used to select the winner of the set of gel pens, highlighters, and pencils. The winner will be announced on this blog the evening of Monday August 19th. OfficeMax will ship the prize package to the winner directly.
4) US residents only, please.

Simple(ish): Stabilo All 8008 Pencils (Graphite)

Click on any picture to make it larger.

Life can be complicated, and sometimes we pen folk add another level of complication to our days. If you’re anything like me, there so many daily decisions to be made. What type of pen? What color pen? What color ink? What nib or tip size? Blah, blah, blah. Sometimes I wear myself out with all of the pen chatter that streams through my head.

Sometimes I just want to write a quick note. Like, without belaboring it.

And here’s the perfect tool for keeping things simple(ish).

Stabilo All 8008 pencils

The backstory (because, of course, there is one): When my great aunt moved into a nursing home, I was part of the family team that packed up her belongings. Because she had to drastically pare down her belongings, we spent the last afternoon of packing divvying up what was left behind. I didn’t take much…just a lovely sweater, a stack of cookbooks, and two pencils. Two Stabilo pencils. The pencils turned out to be DIVINE, which I didn’t realize when I tucked them in my purse. The lead is creamy smooth, and the line soft and dark. (My favorite.) I’ve been milking those pencils since November 2008, partly because they were Aunt Clara’s, but also because they are SUPERB pencils. Who knew? (Apparently Aunt Clara did.)

Aunt Clara’s vintage Stabilo on top. New Stabilo on bottom. Equally wonderful.

And so the quest for a NEW stash of Stabilo pencils began, because those two originals weren’t going to last forever, no matter how sparingly I sharpened them. I eventually tracked down a box of 12 at Ahhhh, replenished!

Stash o’ Stabilos

You’ll notice that the pencils are missing an eraser, but I usually use a separate eraser any way, so no big deal. And in place of the eraser, you get a lovely little swan. So much better than a lousy eraser, isn’t it?

A bevy of swans

So while it would be SUPER simple of grab any old pencil, that’s not how we pen types roll. Grab a STABILO pencil to jot a note, balance a checkbook, or make a grocery list. You’ll enjoy the writing experience without having to make all of those pen-related decisions.

Choosing a Stabilo is simple(ish).

Must sharpen to perfection.

Jetstream F*Series 2 Color 0.5 mm Ballpoint + 0.5 mm Pencil

Sooo…multipens. Addicted. Totally addicted. Which is kind of crazy given that having one multipen should be sufficient to meet all of one’s pen needs, right? In theory, yes. Problem is, once you try one multipen, you need to (okay, want to) try more. And more. And more. Until there are multiple multipens in your pen cup. And purse. And messenger bag.

Here’s one of my favorites…one that I recently re-discovered…the Jetstream F*Series 2 Color 0.5 mm Ballpoint + 0.5 mm Pencil (quite the name!). According to the description on the Jetpens website, the “F” stands for “feminine.” I don’t see this pen as being all that feminine, though I suppose the slim design, stripes, and little charm on the end could be considered more feminine than masculine. All I know is that I fell in love with the stripes and the fact that I could carry black ink, red ink, and a pencil in one pen body.


Because it’s a Jetstream, the 0.5mm line is sharp and crisp and the colors are true. Black is black and red is red. No wishy-washiness. Jetstreams, as a rule, do not disappoint. Simply twist the pen body forward or backward to rotate through the three options. My only beef with multipens is that I sometimes forget to check which point I’ve selected, and I wind up writing in red when I want to write in black, or vice-versa. But that’s not the pen’s fault, just user error. And age.

The pen tips are sharp, but smooth. Just perfect, especially if you prefer a fine line. There’s not even a HINT of scratchiness. Smoooooth.

And on the end…a tiny charm. Thus the F series, I guess.

A charming pen, no?!