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The Art Gear Guide is your one stop shop for the most recent, up to date, honest reviews on all your favourite art supply products. 

 

Caran d'Ache Grafwood Graphite Pencils

Caran d'Ache Grafwood Graphite Pencils

Caran d'Ache Grafwood Graphite Pencils

I purchased these Caran d'Ache Grafwood Graphite Pencils about a month or so ago and in that time I have completed a few drawings, one of which I have added on my YouTube channel in the form of a speed drawing. I know and fully expect the price of the Caran d'Ache Grafwood to be a bit of a talking point, I must admit, when I first ordered this set, it was the first Caran d'Ache product I was apprehensive about because of the price 

Anyone that is aware of Caran d'Ache products will know and understand that although costly, you always, without exception; receive top quality products. However, with the graphite pencils I couldn't help feel, could there really be a difference between an HB Caran d'Ache Crafwood Graphite Pencil and a regular HB pencil from a stationary store. I was so happy to discover that there is a huge difference between the various graphite pencils on the market and as usual, thus far, Caran d'Ache are among the best graphite pencils I have had the privilege of using. 

Caran d'Ache Grafwood Characteristic

Perhaps the most unique and striking characteristic of the Grafwood pencils is the barrel colors and the visual representation they provide. As you can see from the image, the barrels of the Grafwood pencils are colored in accordance to the graphite grade. So the hardest, yet lightest grade of graphite, 4H, the barrel is lacquered a very pale grey color almost silver and the softest graphite core, though darkest, the 9B, has an almost pure black barrel. 

I have never seen graphite pencils displayed in this manner before, however it is an excellent way of working, visually indicating the grade of graphite you require, a much quicker method than constantly searching the barrels for the grade indicator. 

In true Caran d'Ache style, the barrels are made from the highest graded Cedar wood casing, making the sharpening process a pleasure. the barrels are 8mm in diameter, housing an ample 3.8mm graphite core. With some smaller sharpener's you may experience a snug fit when sharpening, I added a video a while back showing the 5 sharpeners I use and all of them sharpen the Grafwood Pencils to an excellent point, you can follow the link to check out the sharpeners

The Grafwood barrels are hexagonal, which I know a lot of pencil artists love as they tend to use a drafting board or easel, the hexagonal form helps prevent the pencil from rolling of the surface and shattering. 

Along one side of the barrel is stamped in silver print "Grafwood", indicating the brand of pencil you are using. Caran d'Ache do have another brand of graphite pencil, however I have not used or tested those. Moving along the barrel is stamped the Caran d'Ache name followed by "Swiss Made". After this is a number 775, this number is found on all the Grafwood pencils and is simply another method of recognising that you are in fact using a Grafwood pencil, it is also to help with the ordering process for open stock pencils. Finally, toward the very end of the pencil is the graphite grade, 4H, 3H, HB, F, 3B etc. 

With regards to the grades of graphite in the Caran d'Ache Grafwood range, the hardest core is 4H and the softest is the 9B. Other graphite sets can go as far as 9H as well, however, when you start using a pencil this hard, the graphite content within the core is very small and mainly binding agent which leads to the scratchy effect and feel you can sometimes get in cheaper sets.

Caran d'Ache Grafwood Performance

I mentioned at the very beginning of this review about the price of the pencils and how some people may ask, with good justification, how much difference can there really be between a Grafwood HB pencil and a run of the mill HB pencil from a stationary store. I too had this thought until I purchased them and began using and test them, so in short and to answer such a question that may be on peoples minds, there is a huge difference. 

The graphite from the Caran d'Ache Grafwood pencils is soft and smooth, even the 4H core, although by nature a hard core, there is a softness and a smoothness to it. The graphite blends and moves about beautifully, either using a paper blending stump or tissue paper. 

Due to the smoothness of the graphite and no grittiness to cause scratching, the coverage on the paper is perfect. Due to the high quality Cedar Wood and high quality graphite, sharpening is effortless, effortless in the sense that there is no wood chipping or graphite shattering under the blade. I will be adding some comparison videos at a later stage whereby I will be able to demonstrate the clear difference between a graphite of this standard in comparison to a cheap and badly made graphite pencil. It is important not to be getting confused with cheap materials used in the manufacturing process and cheap pencils. There are plenty of cheap pencils for sale that provide a wonderful quality graphite, perhaps not quite this level, but not a million miles away either. 

I was able to complete this drawing of an eye, as well as providing a speed drawing video which  you can see on my YouTube channel. This is just a quick drawing but it highlights nicely the different grades and shades of graphite within this one tin. You will be able to see a slight shine of the darker graded graphite, although this is not a desirable effect for a lot of graphite artists, I have to confess that the lighting used in the video is incredibly bright in order to provide a clear image. 

Caran d'Ache Pricing

Here in the UK, the set of 15 Caran d'Ache Grafwood pencils ranging from 4H to 9B in the tin will cost you £29.99 and for 6 Grafwood Graphite pencils in a flat tin, consisting of a 2H, HB, 3B, 5B, 7B and 9B will cost £16. There is a beautiful Gift Set of Grafwood which cotains other items such as eraser, sharpener, grahpite blocks and willow, this set will cost you £135. You can get a few other combinations of sets but it is best just to have a look about the Caran d'Ache Website for those sets. An individual Grafwood pencil here in the UK will also cost you £2.75 

For the same sets in the US, the 15 set of Grafwood pencils will cost you $43 and the 6 set will cost you $27 and the Grafwood gift set will cost approximately $150. Finally an individual Grafwood pencil in the US will cost you $3

In Europe for the same sets, the 15 set will cost approximately €39, the set of 6 pencils in the tin will cost €23.99 and the gift box set approximately €188. Finally the pencils in open stock will cost €3.19.

There is no doubt about it, the gift box set is beautiful, but you get in it 15 pencils, as you get in the round tin, 3 Aquarelle pencils, a sanding block , eraser, sharpener, 3 graphite blocks and 3 charcoal blocks, but I think it is all down to personal choice as to whether or not such a set is worth the money. 

Conclusion 

I absolutely love the Caran d'Ache Grafwood Graphite Pencils and there is a huge difference between an HB pencils from this set and an HB pencil from your local stationary store. As to whether or not I feel they are worth the money, well this is what I think. 

If you are a graphite artist, someone who loves to draw using graphite, I would say these pencils are worth every single penny and then some. If however, you purchase them, do one drawing and leave them sat on your work top never to be used again, I would say that this is not the set for you. 

If you are unsure about graphite art of just like to dabble from time to time, I would highly recommend purchasing a few of the Caran d'Ache Grafwood pencils open stock,, a 2H, HB, 2B and maybe a 4B, see how you get on and if you like them, purchase a full set. The fact that you have a few doubles will not matter as they will get used. Check out my YouTube review of the Grafwood pencils as well.

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