obon-pencils-mineO’BON: Building a Better Pencil

These fabulous pencils aren’t built in Los Angeles but we can sure benefit from them

by Deborah Shadovitz

Instead of pencils and paper, how about pencils made out of paper — and paper made from sugarcane.

You know that mild frustration that comes when you sharpen a pencil — and the wood doesn’t peel evenly so you have to keep cutting away at the wood until you can actually write or draw with that pencil?

Or the frustration of a pencil point that keeps breaking off as you sharpen it?

I don’t — when using O’BON pencils.

I first saw O’BON pencils at an ecology show at the Los Angeles Convention Center. They were laid out on a table and were so attractive that I just had to stop and look. Picking one up, I noticed how smooth the sharpened area looked, and then I saw the unique design that encircled the lead. It was then that I noticed the bowl full of pretty swirls was actually a bowl of pencil shavings.

Could a pencil really be made from newspaper wrapped graphite?

I’d never really thought about how that graphite ever got into its wood.

I tried the pencil.
It was an excellent quality 2B graphite, silky smooth both writing and held to the side for sketching. I came to learn that O’BON makes a point out of using high-quality graphite.

O’BON also makes sketching pencils and colored pencils.

I liked them all.


It turns out, too, that by using rolled paper instead of wood, the graphite is better protected. Apparently, when dropped onto the floor, these pencils won’t splinter the way a wood pencil will. O’BON points out that because the pencil doesn’t splinter or break as much, its pencils last about three times longer than their wooden counterparts.

There are several earth-friendly aspects to these beautiful pencils as well. To start, trees are not used, so that leaves the trees in place to full-fill their natural place in the ecosystem. But it gets better. Less energy needed in the manufacturing process. As the O’BON website explains, there are “no trees to chop, no wood slates to grind and no hexagonal shape to cut by grinding wood.”

obon-pencil-topThis pencil company also takes care to repurpose the left over paper bits. They are saved, filtered, and then used as mulch on the company’s grounds.

It seems that aside from the graphite, everything in the pencil creation process is post-consumer waste product, rather than raw materials.

You may notice these pencils don’t come replete with an eraser atop. Considering how many of those erasers have gone dry and hard on me, I don’t mind a bit. There are so many cute erasers out there these days, that it’s easy enough to always have one handy.

These beautiful 2B writing pencils sell for about 50¢ per pencil in packs of 5, 9, 10, or more. For $5 you can get 10 Wildlife or Rainbow pencils or 9 O’BONanza Series Bursts of Fruit design pencils. There are several designs.


Colored pencils are sold as a 12-pack for $6.


The $10 L’Artiste Series is comprised of 10 high quality professional art pencils. Their graphite, from harder to softer is 2H, 1H, 1B, 2B, 3B, 4B, 5B, 6B, 7B, and 8B. Again, the graphite is wrapped in recycled newspaper, but these professional sketching pencils sport a brushed nickel finish.


For now, O’BON products are primarily known in Asia. If you can’t find them near you, you can purchase these terrific eco-friendly pencils from their website, which per O’BONs FAQ, happens to be at an energy-respecting hosting company.

Notebooks and Binders, too

O’BON also makes binders and journals (notebooks). The journal pages are made from Sugarcane (aka Bagasse) Paper, covers printed with Soy-Based Inks. This means that no trees are used in the process of creating the paper. Not even recycled paper.

About Bagasse

Bagasse (Buh-Gas) is the remnant of a sugarcane plant after the juice is drained from it. By creating paper from it, the company is getting more from the plant.
You can learn more about bugasse here at O’BON’s website and learn more about the making of the bagasse products here.

More Info

You can learn about the making of these and traditional pencils on the O’BON website.