I have compared ten different graphite pencils, they are:
Faber-Castell 9000 6H-8B
Caran d´ache Grafwood 4H-9B
Derwent Graphic 9H-9B
Prismacolor premier turquoise graphite 9H-9B
Brevillier´s Cretacolor cleos red graphite 9H-9B
Tombow mono 100 9H-6B
Hi-Uni Mitsubishi 10H-10B
Staedtler Mars Lumograph 100 6H-8B
Koh-i-noor Hardtmuth 1500 10H-8B
Koh-i-noor Hardtmuth 1900 10H-8B
The range of degrees (hardness and blackness)
All of the brands seem to have their own idea what the numbers should stand for.
Staedtler Mars Lumograph 100 has a very black 8B (blacker then other brands) if you want a pencil as black as Staedtler’s 8B you have to go to 9B or even 10B in other brands. So if a brand doesn’t carry as many degrees as others doesn´t necessarily mean that they don´t have a real black or light pencil.
Caran dáche Grafwood does not have 10H-5H, but are lighter earlier and therefore do not need the lighter grades.
If you compare a 2H from Prismacolor Turquoise and Staedtler, with Derwent or Tombow Mono 100 the differences are very noticeable. The Prismacolor and Staedtler are far lighter than the Derwent and Tombow.
Most of the brands carry a very dark as there darkest, in spite of the number. The only ones that don´t have a real dark one are the Koh-i-nor 1500 and 1900 (I don´t know about the Prismacolor since my set didn´t have the darkest one).
They all have a bit of a shine, especially in the darker grades. However, one of the darkest pencils I have doesn´t shine at all, and that is the 8B Staedtler Mars Lumograph 100. Strangely enough they do have a bit of a shine in their 4B, 5B and 6B (I do not own the 7B, so I don´t know about that one).
The wood casing
How the wood will hold the lead is also very important in my mind. Sometimes the wood won´t sharpen all around the lead. That means that a piece of wood is left on one side and prevent you from using the pencil on that side.
Derwent is one of the worst ones. It is very often that I have to sharpen twice or even work with sandpaper to get rid of the wood that prevent me from using the lead. The wood is also often torn.
|Cretacolor Cleos red|
Cretacolor has the same problem. I have also had many problems with lead breaking with Cretacolor.
Prismacolor also has broken and torn wood.
Koh-I-Noor also has torn wood, but it doesn´t seem to affect the lead as much as the other brands.
Some brands have huge differences between their light pencils (H) lead diameters and their dark pencils (B) lead diameter.
If you look at a dark Staedtler and a light one, the lead diameter is very different. The same goes for Caran dáche, Hi-Uni and Cretacolor. All three show a huge difference.
|Staedtler Mars Lumograph 100, 2H and 8B|
Faber-Castell and Derwent also have a difference, if not as noticeable.
Koh-i-noor 1500 and 1900 hardly have any differences at all (they don´t carry as dark grades as others).
The pencil itself
They all have a hexagon shape.
Caran dáche is a bit thicker than the others, and Tombow is a perhaps a bit thicker too, but it is hardly noticeable.
Prismacolor has a very small printing on it.
|Tombow mono 100|
In my opinion the Japanese brands Uni Mitsubishi and Tombow make the most beautiful pencils: Caran dáche is also good looking (especially together, since they are colored with the grades on the pencil as you can se on the photo).
|Caran dáche Grafwood|
How they feel
As I understand, the scratchiness depends on how much the graphite and clay has mixed together in the process of making the pencil. Therefore you will find more of the scratchiness in the harder lead, since they have more clay than the darker ones. I find that sometimes the problem is so huge that you will have problems with making a simple mark with your light pencils.
The worst brands in my opinion are: Prismacolor, Cretacolor, Koh-i-noor 1500 and 1900. They all work just fine in the darker (B range) but are terrible in the lighter range.
I think that Derwent is in the middle here. It could be better, but it is not as bad as the worst.
The Tombow, Staedtler and Caran dáche do very well, but the absolute best (comparing only the feeling of the lead) are Faber-Castell and Uni Mitsubishi.
Cases for the pencils
Most brands have a square tin case for their pencils, if you are going for a cheaper case. Most of the brands also offer beautiful wood cases. Some has chosen to make the tin case round, like the Caran d´ache. One of the more interesting solutions is the Tombow Mono 100 case. I really appreciate when a company is creative.