Faber-Castell TK-Fine

Today: a mechanical pencil – The Faber-Castell TK-Fine, which is – despite the similar name – quite different to the TK-Fine Vario L, discussed by Dave. or the TK-Fine Executive, also reviewed by Dave.

Price-wise the TK-Fine is only about a third of the price of the TK-Fine Vario L. The TK-Fine is also slighlty cheaper than the Executive version, but this price difference is not that big.

All of the different TK-Fine pencils come in Faber-Castell’s famous dark green colour you know from the Castell 9000, but the TK-Fine version does not have the twist eraser, nor does it have (adjustable) lead cushioning. Another difference is that the Vario has a grooved metal grip area and that the Executive has a similar plastic grip while the TK-Fine‘s grip area is very much like the Apollo‘s. The Apollo has unfortunately disappeared, but a few weeks ago Lexikaliker had a post about the Apollo (Google translation of Lexikaliker’s Apollo post) and he was even kind enough to give his Apollo to an artist whose Apollo broke after 15 years of intense use.

…but the grip is not the only similarity between the Apollo and the TK-Fine. Let’s have a closer look at the similarities and differences between the Apollo and the TK-Fine.

The Apollo was available from 1983 until 2000. Different version can be seen in Lexikaliker’s post and in my opinion the Apollo XL looks just beautiful!

The TK-Fine has been available for over ten years and looks very similar, the main difference in appearance being the different top cap. It is actually being manufactured using the same tools that were used to make the Apollo, but the TK-Fine is made for technical drawings with a rigid, but fully-retractable lead sleeve, similar to the one you might know from Staedtler’s Mars micro. The Apollo on the other hand was made for writing and had a sliding sleeve that retracts as the pencil is used.

The TK-Fine is being produced in Geroldsgrün in Upper Franconia (Germany) available in 0.35mm (TK-Fine 9713), 0.5mm (9715), 0.7mm (9717) and 1.0mm (9719) and has an according top cap marked according to the ISO norm for technical drawing.

I bought the TK-Fine 9717 in April 2010 in Müller in Volkach (Germany) for €4,39 (~$5.80; £3.70) and the TK-Fine 9715 from Schule-Uni-Shop.de, who also ship internationally, for € 2,67 (~$3.50; £2.25). The price in the UK is comparatively high: At CultPens TK-Fine sells for £4.16 (~$6.50; €4.90).


The TK-Fine offers great value for money if you find a shop that sells it for a reasonable price, but since it is not a common pencil you might have problems getting hold of one.It comes with 3 super-polymer leads in HB, offers a pocket-safe lead sleeve (fully-retractable), it is colour coded according to ISO for lead width, it has an adjustable lead-grade indicator (2B – 4H, plus one neutral setting) and the eraser comes with a cleaning pin.

Prices: April 2010 and November 2010

Exchange Rates: December 2010

I would like to thank Ms Schaklies from Faber-Castell Customer Care for the additional information about the TK-Fine.

By the way… Faber-Castel made it into the Economist again. This time into the Economist’s Schumpeter column, which was introduced about a year ago.

13 thoughts on “Faber-Castell TK-Fine”

  1. How do you change the hardness indicator on the back of the mechanical pencil.

  2. Thank you for your kind comments.

    Rares, to change the indicator, just turn the clip.

  3. After some time with the MP i’m disappointed. The cap fells off very easy. If you have the pencil ratteling in a briefcase at the destination you’ll have to reassemble it.
    I have 2 of them the .9mm and the .5mm. I have lost the cap of the .5mm already. Without a cap and with a used eraser is very hard to push the lead mechanism. And i know that this is a common problem for this pencil because i have a collage that has the .5mm and .7mm and he lost the cap of both for the same reason.

  4. Strangely, the TK Fine and the Mars Micro are both very easy to find in Australia. Problem is…I don’t like either of them. The TK fine feels cheap to me and both the Mars Micro and TK Fine have rather bulbous front sections (particularly the Micro) which I also don’t like.

  5. hi sean, the fine vario is about the only big name drafting pencil I am yet to own…and yet I like it’s design immensely. It is definitely on my shopping list and is nearly always in my Ebay watch list.

  6. I actually have one of these — I bought it several years ago, and though I don’t use it very often I think it’s a really nice pencil. The weight of it is very substantial and it’s very comfortable to hold. But all of that is coming from a guy who owns exactly two mechanical pencils, so… 🙂

  7. I’ve been using it as my main drawing pencil for about 7 years and I love it. Robust build and has never jammed on me once. I use the 0.35 for all my fine linework. I tried the Vario-L for about a month last year and despite claims of being a more premium pencil (premium price too), I eventually switched back to the much cheaper fine. More comfortable and better balanced than the Vario-L and I found the chromed “grip” on the Vario a lot slippier than the plastic top end on the regular fine.

  8. Thank you for your comments.

    Rares, a very similar design was sold under all sorts of different names and there is still at least the dark green version and the coloured version available. I wonder whether some are better in terms of the cap fitting than others.

    Kevin, I do like the Mars. The new colours released a few years ago are also nice. Funnily enough in the UK the Mars mechanical pencils have kept their price, which means that they are now cheaper than some other, Chinese made mechanical pencils.

    Sean, I tried the Fine Vario L. Didn’t get the point of adjusting the springiness though, as even on springy you have to press very hard to notice it. It looks nice.

    John, I really like the look of the Vario L. The grip if ok for my type of use, but I wonder why I pay extra for a feature I don’t even understand (the soft / hard setting). There’s an artist who used a very similar pencil for many year ( http://www.der-flix.de/flix-heldentage-2-13.html?episode=702 ). Luckily Lexikaliker sent him a replacement when his pencil broke.

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