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The Americans

The FaberCastell American 2.5 was the only pencil I used for most of high school and all of college. It was cheap, unpretentious, and easy to find. I would buy a dozen (or two? I can’t remember) every fall and work through most of them over the school year.

I settled on the 2.5 because of its point retention. It lay down a good line like a 2, but was just firm enough to last a whole class period of note-taking without losing much of its point. I could start out with three or four freshly sharpened pencils each morning, and get through the day without visiting a pencil sharpener. (Also, no one else used them. Boring yellow pencils were everywhere, sure, but not with an uncommon number like two point five. If I saw one kicking around, I knew it was almost certainly one of mine.)

During college, I gradually switched to pens, until that was almost all I used. I remember the last Americans I bought in the early 90s, after not having picked any up for a while. There were no 2.5’s so I got a dozen 2’s instead. The pencil stock at St Paul Book and Stationery struck me as eerily small: instead of both sides of an entire aisle devoted to dozens of different kinds of woodcased pencils, there was a grim little ghetto with only a few selections from the most common brands.


Years later, when I was rediscovering the pleasure of writing with pencils, I got all misty and nostalgic for my boring old Americans. I rounded up as many as I could find from our junk drawer, and the back of our home-office supply closet, and from scattered pencil cups. I found more than I expected, even some that were still unsharpened:

Several from before FaberCastell acquired Eberhard Faber—

Eberhard Faber Americans

Fourteen FCs—

My last 14 American #2s

But only three of my beloved 2.5’s—

three American 2.5's

(Yes, the stubby one has a staple in it. I have no idea why.)


Recently, due to all these pencil posts, I found myself comparing the 2.5 to some of my other pencils. Depending on the paper, I can’t tell it apart from the Field Notes, the Bugle, and the Goddess. No wonder these are some of my favorite pencils: I like them to the extent that they behave like the 2.5.

A week or two ago, I found some 2.5’s online, and I decided to buy a dozen. (Cheaper than Blackwings!) I don’t collect pencils for their own sake. If I buy a pencil, it’s with the sincere expectation that I will use it. So I will be sharpening and using all of these 2.5’s. Slowly, but surely.

eleven unsharpened and one sharpened American 2.5 pencils

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