Mechanical pencils


A Look at Pentel’s orenznero PP3002 3

In a recent blog post I introduced the new Pentel orenznero, also called PP3002, its model number (for the 0.2mm version).

As you probably know nero means black in Latin and Italian – and, surprise surprise, the orenznero is black. Nero is also oren, as in oren(z), spelt backwards. Pentel seems to try to emphasise this fact by not using capital letters and the o on both ends of orenznero is stylised as, what looks to me like, a lead in a pencil sleeve viewed from the top.

Thanks to Yumiko I got one just after it was released in Japan. Altogether I paid just over £30 (~$36;35).
Here are my observations regarding this pencil after a week of use.

 

Transporting this pencil

First off: transporting this pen.

You can’t make this pencil pocket safe very easily. It is possible to retract the sleeve, but you have to push the sleeve/pipe really hard into the body of the pen, for example with your fingernail.

It’s also not a great pen to transport in pen sleeves/pockets/slots1. If you try to put this pencil in a pocket where the pencil’s sleeve or pipe will touch the material of the pen slot (think of something like the Nock Co Hightower)  the lead will forward and possibly break in your pen slot.

Materials used

The Orenznero looks beautiful. Especially on photos where you think it has something of the allure of the Rotring 800.

The Orenznero next to a Rotring 800

In reality, the Orenznero feels much cheaper. The body is made from plastic, but it is nice to touch plastic with a little bit of a texture.

The surface has a bit of a texture (enlarge picture to see)

Handling

The original Orenz is a great pencil. It felt as if Pentel revived an old friend of mine, the Staedtler Microfix.

Top to bottom: Staedtler Microfix, Pentel Orenz and Orenznero

In my previous blog post about the Orenznero, I talked about the history of the sliding sleeve pencil and about alternatives, including very cheap alternatives from Faber-Castell that cost less than a tenth of what I paid for the Orenznero.

Grip section to the left

Well, I have to say that the Orenznero feels, of course, better and is better made, but because the original or classic Orenz was so good I somehow expected that the Orenznero represents a quantum leap for auto advance pencils. This is not the case! It is, however, a nice pencil.

The Orenznero will work great is you hold it vertically, but if you write at an angle the sleeve will not glide back properly as it does with the classic Orenz, so if you don’t use light pressure when writing your graphite lines on the paper will get very thin or will even disappear as the sleeve will cover them. The force needed to slide the sleeve starts very low, like a classic Orenz, but the more the sleeve is pushed into the body the more pressure you need, in the end up to 0.3N.

A picture from an old blog post to illustrate this

Advancing the lead with a click and using the Orenznero like a normal pencil is not an option as it will advance too much of the 0.2mm lead – it would break. One thing to add, the Orenznero is very comfortable to write with hand has a nice centre of gravity in the front half.

You can see the centre of gravity where the pencil is balanced

Conclusion

It’s a nice pencil, but it requires a bit more pressure to write with. This is off putting in my case, as I am not so keen on pens that subconsciously make me change my writing habit (in this case to make me press harder when writing), something that might turn into the behaviour I use with other pens, too.

Just because it is such a nicely designed pencil I will use it a bit longer though, at least for now.

Mass-carved & Microfabbication??

  1. I am trying to clarify here as very different things are called a sleeve. []

Pentel’s new orenznero 3

Auto advancing pencils, from the 1970s to now

Auto-advancing mechanical pencils have been around for a while now. The Faber-Castell alpha-matic was released in the 1970s and was, as far as I know, the first of this type1.

These pencils usually work by forwarding the lead a bit when the sleeve or cone near the tip is depressed while writing. This will forward the lead a bit. As forwarding the lead is done automatically every time the sleeve is pressed during writing there is no need to push the pencil’s button anymore.

Pilot has a pencil similar to the Faber-Castell alpha-matic, but Pilot’s version is still made today. It’s called the Automac and looking at the grip section I think that the mechanism isn’t the only thing this pencil has borrowed from the alpha-matic. I think the Automac pays homage to the original auto-advancing pencil with its similar grip section.

My experience with auto-advancing pencils

If you want to try out a pencil like this: Faber-Castell still has you covered: For under £3 (~<$3.50; <€3.50) you can get a plasticky one with a cone that does the job. Ten years ago I used these a lot, just because of the novelty (at least for me it was new at that time). It was the only auto-forwarding pencil I have ever used. It worked well for me, but anytime I’d hand it over to a colleague to write with, especially if the pencil is filled with coloured leads, the user was almost guaranteed to break the lead and clog up the mechanism as it didn’t work well with soft leads, like coloured leads, at all.

Umeda (Osaka) Loft (image © Yumiko)

Enter Pentel’s orenznero

When Pentel’s fibonacci mountain video came out last week I was immediately intrigued. In this video the new orenznero is used in a plotter. I never owned a plotter, but having spent most of my pocket money in the 1980s on computer magazines the video was more than fascinating as a normal plotter wouldn’t work with a pencil for long periods of time without some extra mechanism. Pencils tend to get shorter when you write, unlike ballpoint pens or fountain pens, so the plotter would either have to lower the pencil again and again (for wood-cased and mechanical pencils) or it would have to press the button to forward the lead (for mechanical pencils).

The plotter in Pentel’s video doesn’t do either, so the orenznero must have some sort of auto-forwarding mechanism. Just like when writing with a normal Orenz, you can write for a long time with the new orenznero without having to push the button to forward the lead, but this time it’s not the sleeve retracting, it’s the lead forwarding that makes this possible.

Some of the diagrams from Pentel make me think that their mechanism works even if the sleeve doesn’t touch the paper at all, but I am not sure about that and the Japanese I learned at university in the 1990s is just enough for me to decipher some Katakanas, not enought to figure out how the orenznero works, so I’ll have to wait and see.

The good news is that Yumiko, I mentioned her before on this blog, has bought me one already, from Umeda (Osaka) Loft, so I will be able to try it out soon.

Mine 8^D (image © Yumiko)

There is a 0.2mm and a 0.3mm version. Even though 0.3mm would enable me to use Stadtler Mars micro and Pilot neox graphite leads I asked for the 0.2mm version as that is closer to a freshly sharpened wood-cased pencil and fits my small writing better. Well, it turned out that the 0.3mm version was sold out anyway and there were only two or three 0.2mm pencils left. Lucky me!


I would like to thank Yumiko for helping me to get this pencil.

If you want to find outmore about the (old) Orenz, here is my blog post about the 0.2mm version0.3mm version,  0.5mm version, and sliding sleeve pencils in general. There is also a page comparing different sliding sleeve pencils.

Reviews of the (old) Orenz can be found at Lexikaliker (german), The Pen Addict, I Liek Pencils, One Lone Man’s Pens and Pencils, and Rhonda Eudaly.

 

 

  1. You can’t this model them for quite a while now and used prices for the alpha-matic can easily reach £200 (~$250; €235) or more. []

The double adjustable OHTO Conception 0.3 8

OHTO Conception 0.3

Today: a mechanical pencil I ordered in October. I planned to do a review for a while now and it was supposed to be released today, but the day before yesterday Jeff Abbott released a review of this pencil at the biggest stationery blog of them all, The Pen Addict.

He said all and more I could have said, so change of plans then, I only post a short review of this mechanical pencil, but talk about why I like sliding sleeves, again.

The indicator that shows how much lead will advance

The indicator that shows how much lead will advance

Sliding Sleeves

I don’t know why sliding sleeves are such a niche. In my imagination drafting and technical drawing is done on a computer, so there’s no point in having a rigid sleeve/pipe around the lead so that you can use your mechanical pencil more precisely with a ruler.

OHTO Conception 0.3

In my imagination most use mechanical pencils for writing, at least when we talk about today and when we talk about Earth. Of course there will be exceptions, too.

When writing with a fixed sleeve you have to ‘click’ after you used up the 0.5mm or however much you have advanced the lead.

If you have a sliding sleeve it will retract while you use the lead, so you will have 4mm or more to use up before you need to advance the lead.

If you use soft leads (I don’t) the advantage gets even better than with hard leads because you use the lead p so much faster.

OHTO Conception 0.3

The OHTO Conception

Most of my ideas about this pencil can be seen in this video:

 

In short: You can adjust how far you want the lead to advance and you can adjust whether you want a fixed or a sliding sleeve.

Balanced on a type, in sliding mode, so that you can see the centre of gravity

Balanced on a type, in sliding mode, so that you can see the centre of gravity

That’s a lot of value for the $15 I paid on eBay. Unfortunately the pen is not available for this price anymore. As far as I can tell OHTO doesn’t have an official presence in the UK, so I wonder whether all OHTO pens here are grey imports anyway. If they are I certainly didn’t have to feel bad for buying it for a good price from Japan instead of buying it for a higher price from a grey importer in the UK.

With 23g the pen’s weight is pretty average for a pen with a metal body and slightly heavier than your average pen with a plastic body.

Balanced on a type, in fixed mode, so that you can see the centre of gravity

Balanced on a type, in fixed mode, so that you can see the centre of gravity

You might remember my table with the force needed for different sliding sleeves. Well, the OHTO Conception, at least my 0.3mm version, is a bit difficult to place in that table. When I first checked I got a very good value, 5cN or even better, but when I checked another time, after the pencil was in fixed sleeve mode, a force of four time that was needed. It seems that changing from sliding to fixed sleeve mode and back will not always put the sleeve in the same state. Sometimes you then have a ‘better’ sliding sleeve, sometimes a ‘worse’ one.

Conclusion

A great pencil, that could do with a bit more grip. I only wish I had bought another colour.


Price: October 2016


Staedtler at Insights X 2016 6

Welcome to the first of two articles about Staedtler at the Insights X 2016. This one is looking at one of the great minds working at Staedtler: Helmut Hufnagl.

Helmut Hufnagl

Helmut Hufnagl

Helmut Hufnagl loves to solve problems.

Wopex pencils have a different material, so sharpeners don’t work well with them?

No problem, Mr Hufnagl comes up with a Wopex optimised handheld sharpener as well as the crank sharpener 501 180.

Normal rulers are created for right-handed people, so left handed people might struggle with them?

No problem, Mr Hufnagl comes up with new rulers that are equally suited for right and left handed users.

Sharpeners make a mess in the pencil case?

No problem, Mr Hufnagl comes up with a sharpener that won’t leave bits of wood and graphite all over the pencil case anymore.

For 2017 he also came up with a new set of compasses that convey the idea of geometry through basic geometric forms and that convey the idea of colour through a special paint and a new set of metallic coloured sharpeners.

..but the best one is yet to come and it reminds me of a story I read many years ago about Adi Dassler, the boss of a German sports shoes and clothing manufacturer, who is also from the Nuremberg area. Not only did he equip Jesse Owens who went on to win four gold medals, he once watched the Olympic Games on his telly from his home in Bavaria and noticed that one of the athletes at the Olympic Games in Montreal 1976 was running unevenly. He advised over the phone how to adjust the shoes and Alberto Juantorena, the athlete we saw on telly, went on to win two medals.

Well, Mr Hufnagl’s story is quite similar. He spotted a problem in another part of the world when he was reading an article in Wall Street Journal about his favourite designer, Giorgetto Giugiaro, the man who designed the original VW Golf, the DeLorean (Back to the Future), the Lotus Esprit (James Bond – The Spy Who Loved me) and many many more.

In the article in WSJ Mr Giugiaro wrote:

I can’t live without my blue Staedtler pencils. I use the pencils with the hardest lead when I have to draw the most precise contours, and softer leads for drawing shadows or for 3-D effects. When I draw one-to-one scale figurines, I prefer charcoal pencils and chalks.

Mr Giugiaro's lead holder

Mr Giugiaro’s lead holder (Image © Wall Street Journal)

The article also features a photo of Mr Giugiaro’s Staedtler ‘pencil’ – it has a beige mark, presumably to indicate which type of lead is in the lead holder. This is where Mr Hufnagl realised that it is easy to help Mr Giugiaro and others by introducing a lead hardness indicator. This was the birth of a classic with a new twist, the Mars technico 780C with a lead hardness indicator that can bet set to 4H, 2H, H, HB, B, 2B, 4B, red and blue by twisting the clip. I find it amazing how a simple idea can improve a tool that has been around for decades. The special black edition of this lead holder, pictured here, is being released at the same time as the traditional blue version gets the lead grade indicator update.

Staedtler Mars technico

Staedtler Mars technico

The new lead hardness or lead grade indicator is probably especially useful if you don’t use Staedtler leads. If you buy the original leads each different grade is supplied with a different colour replacement push button (they are however only push buttons, the lead holder comes with a more useful push button that doubles as a pointer/sharpener). This is not being mentioned on the Staedtler web site, but you can find this information in the comments on Dave’s Mechanical Pencils, on the Cult Pens web site or in Pen Paper Pencil’s review of the lead holder.

Staedtler Mars technico

Staedtler Mars technico

Mr Hufnagl is changing his role within Staedtler, he stopped working as a Product Manager in the area of sharpeners and technical drawing and has started his new role as Head of Trade Marketing. I hope he will still have an opportunity to develop new products in his new role.

Staedtler Mars technico

Staedtler Mars technico


Google also lists a patent with his name on.

I believe that showing the image from the Wall Street Journal in this blog post falls under “fair dealing” as described by the UK Copyright service.


The Magno – a magnetic lead holder

A few days ago I have received a Magno from HribarCain. First I wasn’t sure what to think of it and its unique feature, but now that I have tried it for a while I have to say that I really like this pencil and love the mechanism used to propel the lead.

The Magno is a lead holder with a magnetic mechanism, invented by HribarCain – a team of two British design engineers who started working on this pencil one and a half years ago.

Magno by HribarCain

The mechanism

The special thing about this pencil is the magnetic mechanism used to propel the lead. Instead of clicking a button (..and the lead ‘falls out’) you first loosen the front of the pen. You then move a ring on the outside of the body which will move a magnet inside the pencil. This magnet is attached to the lead. This gives precise control over how much more lead you want to expose.

I know that some people who bought the Penxo, a very different Kickstarter pen  in a similar price range, had problems with the lead breaking easily. I did some initial drop tests and the Magno seems to cope well with being dropped: the lead didn’t break.

The Kickstarter

My understanding is that everything is in place to produce the Magno and it will get made anyway, but instead of just selling these pencils in an online shop HribarCain is launching a Kickstarter campaign on 22 July where early backers can get this pen for £20. The money raised will then be used for other design products they plan to make.

Magno by HribarCain

The options

The pen will be available in four colours that have an iPhone vibe to them, but unlike the Lamy LX the Magno’s colours aren’t a copy of the iPhone colour, which I think is a good thing.

Conclusion

When I saw the photos I thought the Magno is a bit on the bling looking side, but in reality the pen was more ‘serious’ looking than I expected. The ring is still a bit shiny for my taste, but overall the Magno  is serious looking enough to use at work.

Magno by HribarCain

I hope this pencil will sell well so that there will be even more versions in the future. A Rotring-style matt black version, maybe even hexagonal, with a slimmer ring would be such an amazing pen, at least for my taste, others will disagree.

The Magno is very well made and when keeping in mind that there are many lead holders and clutch pencils with a plastic body that cost nearly as much, £20 is great value for money.

You can find the Kickstarter at this address.

A photo from the Kickstarter campaign (Image © HRIBARCAIN)

A photo from the Kickstarter campaign (Image © HRIBARCAIN)


I’d like to thank Ashley from HribarCain who has sent me the Magno free of charge for review purposes.