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Tennessee Red

After CW Pencils had closed their NYC storefront and shortly before they suspended their online shop, I ordered a bunch of pencils from them, including a dozen Musgrave Tennessee Reds. It was kind of an impulse buy, like candy at the checkout, but I had been persuaded (by Pencil Revolution and the Weekly Pencil) that these were pencils worth getting.

And they are just gorgeous.

I knew going in that this early run was marred by uneven cores, which was true for three or four in my dozen.

Red with an off-center core

But I didn’t care. It was worth it for the Red Cedar. This wood is intensely aromatic, with a rich spicy scent. It summons deep memories of old wardrobes and chests. You can still buy small blocks of Red Cedar to put in drawers with your wool clothes, since its oil repels moths. (Or maybe it kills the larvae? I don’t know — dammit, Jim, I’m a doctor not an entomologist!)

In the 1800s and through about the 1920s or ’30s, it was also the most common wood for pencils. Shortages (among other reasons) eventually led to it being replaced by Incense Cedar.

Of the original dozen, I set aside the several with really bad off-center cores, then my wife snatched some up, and I’ve got two or three nearby. As usual, a little darker than I like, and the erasers are pretty terrible — but my goodness, what lovely pencils.

a tumble of Musgrave Reds

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