Why did the sliding sleeve disappear? 15


Getting to know the sliding sleeve pencils again

Thanks to Lexikaliker whetting my my appetite and with some help from Shangching I got my hands on a Pentel Orenz. I have been using it for a few weeks now and like it very much. A blog post will follow, hopefully, once my time permits.

One of the nice features of the Orenz is the sliding sleeve. You don’t have to keep manually forwarding the lead to be able to keep writing. Instead the sleeve will slide back while you write until there’s no sleeve left. Only then do you have to forward the lead – and the sleeve will slide out again.

You start writing like this...

You start writing like this…

Retractable vs sliding sleeve

Just to clarify, when I write about a sliding sleeve I mean a one that slowly slides back while you write. The other type, a sleeve that is either completely out (for writing) or completely in (for transport) is the type I call a retractable sleeve. I hope these labels are correct, I’m not sure, but this helps to avoid confusing both types. Please let me know if the names I use for the sleeves are wrong.

In the past

The sliding sleeve is nothing new. The Staedtler Microfix1 I used in school could do that. At that time Staedtler sold mechanical pencils with three different types of sleeves: fixed (F models), half slide (HS models) and full slide (S / SL models), but as far as I know the sliding sleeves have disappeared in the late 1980s.

...after a while it looks like that

…after a while it looks like that

Why are they gone?

Unfortunately these types of mechanical pencils are quite rare. I can see the advantage of a fixed sleeve for an engineer who needs his or her pencil to create precise drawings, but these days that kind of work is done on a computer – so why did the sliding sleeve not come back? In my opinion it provides a much better writing experience than a fixed sleeve mechanical pencil.

You can still get mechanical pencils with sliding sleeves. One example is Caran d’Ache’s 844 pencil, mentioned previously, but the 844’s sleeve is quite wide meaning it will prevent full contact of the lead with the paper – the sleeve is in the way when you are writing.

Orenz, Microfix and 844

Orenz, Microfix and 844

You can still buy new old stock (NOS) of the Microfix, but it’s not cheap (If I were to win the lottery this weekend I’d buy the whole set).

Do you know of any nice sliding sleeve mechanical pencils still available?

  1. Available from 1977 until 1988. []

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15 thoughts on “Why did the sliding sleeve disappear?

  • Jimmy Simpson

    You can still get the Pentel PS315’s for about $10 off eBay.
    http://www.ebay.com/itm/Pentel-PS315-Sliding-Sleeve-Sharp-Pencil-Blue-0-5-mm-/391072644401?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item5b0dbefd31

    Pentel also had the PS523 3mm pencil and two of the 3 Film Pencils (PF335 & PF337) were sliding sleeves.

    TWSBI also has a retractable sleeve pencil for $25. It is a heavy pencil (which I really like).
    http://www.twsbi.com/collections/pens-pencils/products/twsbi-precision-mechanical-pencil

  • Matthias Post author

    Jimmy, thank you for this information. That’s great! I’ll look those pencils up.

  • Matthias

    I had a quick look. Do you own the TWSBI? The description makes me think it has a retractable sleeve (either completely in or out), not a sliding sleeve (that slowly slides back while you write).

  • Jimmy Simpson

    Yes, I own both the fixed and retractable.
    It may be a bit tighter, but I just tried it, and it works as a sliding sleeve just fine.

  • Klecser

    It blows my mind that Pentel made a version of the P20X (the PS315) that has a sliding sleeve that doesn’t fully retract! I mean, how hard was it to combine both features?

  • Manu

    Hey Mathias, there are a lot of pencils with retractable sleeve from pilot and uni. Though most of them they are not the “high end” ones, because “the high end” ones are more for draughting, wich require a fixed sleeve. A really good one is the PILOT the shaker 1010. The most famous one, and it has a sliding sleeve. On the other hand, most of the people I met prefer a fixed sleeve, so when you write the pencil feels more precise, more sturdy, the tip doesn’t jiggle, something that do happen on sliding sleeve mechanical pencil’s. Sory for my English.

  • Manu

    Hey Mathias, there are a lot of pencils with retractable sleeve from pilot and uni. Though most of them they are not the “high end” ones, because “the high end” ones are more for draughting, which require a fixed sleeve. A really good one is the PILOT the shaker 1010. The most famous one, and it has a sliding sleeve. On the other hand, most of the people I met prefer a fixed sleeve, so when you write the pencil feels more precise, more sturdy, the tip doesn’t jiggle, something that do happen on sliding sleeve mechanical pencil’s. Sory for my English.

  • Manu

    Furthermore I believe that the idea behind the sliding sleeve wasn’t that you can write longer without pushing the button (I really don’t see why you make an issue about that), instead the idea is that it safer for the pencil when you put it away in your bag, in your pocket, in order to protect stabbing the cloth and to protect the tip in case of falling.

  • Matthias

    Klecser,
    Staedtler made similar pencils, I think these versions are called “halfslide’, but I am not sure why there’s this version in the middle, i.e. what the advantage is. I guess maybe if you need to use it with a ruler you can if you have the sleeve pushed in.

    Manu,
    my wife has a Shaker, maybe 15-20 years old. I should check whether hers has a sliding sleeve. Thanks for letting me know.
    Regarding the retractable sleeve, there are pencils that can do that, like the Mars micro 775, but the sleeve is either completely out or completely in. I prefer sliding sleeves where I can just keep writing without having the press the button, but everyone is different.

  • David

    Re the fact that the ps315 doesn’t slide all the way back: that wasn’t the point of the design. The mechanism only allows 3mm of slide. It’s a drafting pencil, and the point was to have the sleeve be there to slide against a straightedge, just like with other drafting pencils, but with the added advantage of greater support of the lead and longer drawing time between clicks. They made another version, the ps535, with the same mechanism but a shorter sleeve that did retract all the way, but that one was meant more for business use. I really like the ps315 because I never put pencils in my pocket, I like always being able to see the tip of the sleeve while I draw, and I like the longer time between clicks that the long sleeve travel affords.

  • Matthias Post author

    David, thanks for explaining the ps315 which sounds very similar to the half slide from Staedtler, mentioned in the blog post.
    The ps315 seems to be difficult to get, at least here in the UK, but at least seems to be still available. Nice.

  • Matthias Post author

    Jimmy,
    thanks for the link to the seller.
    I think the shops here are missing a trick by not offering this pencil.

  • JImmy

    I have looked at all the Pentel websites around the world to see what they offer in the P200 Sharp family, and the US is the only one to carry the PS315.