OK, so I will admit that I may have been a bit too intense in my examination and review of the Dixon Ticonderoga. After all, this is just a simple pencil, right? Well, yes and no. It’s not anything like analyzing plane wreckage and decoding the black box recording device but we can certainly learn a lot about materials and manufacturing in general from this. Just how far will a manufacturer compromise on process, consistency, and quality in order to produce an acceptable product for the intended market? The Ticonderoga gave a pretty good answer to that. Could the Ticonderoga been made better? Certainly, but it also could have been made worse.
The Ticonderoga is a decent pencil despite all the physical shortcomings that I found. Sharpen it and it will write. Turn it around and rub the other end on paper with markings on it and the markings will disappear. It holds its point for a reasonable amount of time and the eraser is superb. Who can complain about that? How many times have we drawn a line and felt something like sand rub against the paper? Think of the erasers that shred paper and smear the markings instead of gliding on the paper and remove the markings. The Ticonderoga works as advertised and would serve well as an office work horse, an artist’s sketching instrument, or a student’s tool in learning.
Yet, somewhere in the back of my mind, I can’t help but wonder if it could have been better. When I look at the crimped ferrule and the contrasting green and yellow color scheme I realize that it’s all for show. The vertical crimp markings are nothing more than decorations. Gone is the idea that the shape and structure of the ferrule gives strength. Now all I can think about is the uneven crimping pressures, ooey-gooey lacquer oozing out, and off-axis leads (if not warped pencils). We buy so many things in life that come short of expectations only to let it all go because it’s disposable: the $500 commuter car for school, the $0.99 hammer at the discount store, and the $9 shoes from Walmart. Society has learned to accept mediocrity. It certainly doesn’t bring life to halt and our wealth and access to more consumables distracts us from thinking about it.
Consider the price of the Ticonderoga. Pricing helps position a product. Rolex watches can cost several thousands of dollars. Besides being a timepiece, it is a piece of decorative jewelry. Does it really cost several thousands to make a Rolex? No, of course not, but those several thousands of dollars spent puts the watch into a league of it’s own. You pay for the exclusivity, the experience of ownership, and the service you should receive from the jeweler and Rolex. In all reality, you are buying a watch that will never keep time very well and is rather fragile. So how does this relate to the Ticonderoga? Compare it to the Rolex. Does the Ticonderoga offer something more than the generic Asian pencils flooding the office supply stores? Is there some jump in quality or appreciation in ownership experience? Do I feel any more exclusive or inspired by using the Ticonderoga? Unfortunately, my answer is no. Granted, $3.44 is not the same as $3,440.00 but the idea should translate. That is what Dixon is counting on.
I wanted this.
But I got this.
I wish the Ticonderoga could have been better. I wish I could hold the Ticonderoga as a token of American heritage and say, “Look, here is an American pencil. Like all things American, it is better than anything in the world.” But I can’t say that. All I can say is, “Look, here is an American pencil! Like many things American, it has been outsourced and denigrated into a cheap commodity.” It may sound like American arrogance but which nation isn’t proud of its identity and presence? Who wants to see their national icons fall to the wayside? I hear rumblings that Ticonderoga still produces an American made pencil for export only. If it is true then it is a great irony that there are “Made in USA” pencils being sold all around the world except here where they are made. Does the world really have more faith in American products than Americans do?
I have been using the Ticonderoga since I purchased back in mid February during a business trip to Phoenix, AZ. Since that time, I have yet to finish going through one pencil. I haven’t broken the lead yet and there’s plenty of eraser left. The pencil has been with me through meetings, brain storming sessions, and many drafts of power plant equipment. After all this usage and after this review, I would summarize the Ticonderoga with one word: wanting.
One very good thing that came out of this review was the setting up of a standard. Now I have something to compare my other pencils to. Hopefully I can develop a fuller scale and understanding in grading pencils. I think my future reviews will be shorter too since I laid down a lot of my foundations while examining the Ticonderoga.
So now what do I do with all these left over pencils? Do I clump them together and hide them in a little box like new found porn? I don’t go through pencils fast enough to warrant keeping so many on hand. Probably the best thing I can do is stash them away along with any other excess pencils I get and simply donate them to the local school at the start of year.