Stabilo LeftRight

The biggest stationery shop I know on Shanghai’s FuZhou road is in the building labelled “Shanghai culture commercial building”. Unlike the small, independent stationery shops found nearby this shop is state-owned – at least I think it is. In this shop different brands have their own different counters and staff and even though prices are a bit higher than in some surrounding shops prices are still reasonable compared to what you pay in shopping malls or in hip and funky stores which tend to charge you a packet just because they are so cool…

Shanghai culture commercial building

The Stabilo LeftRight

One of the things I bought in the Shanghai culture commercial building, on New Year’s Eve, was Stabilo’s LeftRight. Officially referred to as a retractable pencil this is a leadholder for 2mm leads.

I paid  ¥18 (~ £1.80; $2.90; €2.20) for this set which includes the leadholder, a very nice eraser, a lead sharpener – very nice, too, and a container with four 2mm leads, supposedly 2H. I wouldn’t call these 2H. For me they are definitely softer than H B. As we know there is no standard to say what is HB, what is 2B, etc.,  but even in Asia, where leads with the same grade are generally much softer than in the West, most manufacturers wouldn’t label the leads that come with the LeftRight as 2H. Back to the set: all items that come as part of the set are blue and triangular. There is also a pink set available and as far as I know both, the right-handed and the left-handed version, are available in both colours. The items from the set do look quite nice. In my eye, the worst looking of these items is actually the leadholder, just because it looks a bit plasticy.

The problem

The left-handed and right-handed version of this leadholder come with a “ergonomic triangular thumb pointer grip for correct gripping”. Unfortunately there is a problem with this pen: because of the indentations there is only one comfortable position for holding this pencil. That’s intended. The (probably) unintended consequence is that the 2mm lead will always be used on the same side and will get too wide too soon which means that it will need sharpening too often – at least when you use the LeftRight for writing Western text. The situation might be different if you draw or if you write Asian character and hold the leadholder vertically like a brush. Rotating the pencil, to compensate for the one-sided use, is not really comfortable and rotating the leadholder mechanism in the pencil is only possible of you remove the triangular cap.

The Stabilo LeftRight on a Seagull notebook



The original idea for this leadholder might have been good, but the execution is less than exciting. I would not be surprised if a ballpoint pen user came up with the ergonic grip series idea – which I guess works well on the LeftRight ballpoint pen. It is really a shame because all the items that come with the Pencil set look quite good together. You really want to use this pencil, but it has such an off-putting property… I use it… …nevertheless …at least for now. All in all still not a bad buy as value for money is excellent, at least if you get it for a good price. The LeftRight seems to be for sale in very few countries [1]including China, Malaysia and Russia . I am not sure whether Stabilo wants to start selling it in more countries or whether they have realised that something is not right therefore and don’t introduce the leadholder in more markets.

Presharpened vs. sharpener-sharpened


Price: December 2011

Exchange rates: February 2012

You can find information about the LeftRight on Stabilo’s Malaysia page.

There’s also a commercial for the LeftRight.



1 including China, Malaysia and Russia

8 thoughts on “Stabilo LeftRight”

  1. Thank you for this review! I haven’t seen this pencil before, and I couldn’t find it on Stabilo’s German website. – It looks very nice but the disadvantages you have mentioned are off-putting. It is a pity since it is great to see a standard lead size in such a pencil, and the sharpener seems to be great too.

  2. Interesting item and thorough review. These posts about Chinese stationery retailers I find very interesting…now we just need you to visit Japan for the blog to really “hit the roof”. Is this pencil a regular 2mm push and gravity feed type or an incremental feed type like the Staedtler 925-25-20? – I’m assuming it is the regular 2mm given its inexpensive price. Again another well presented modern pencil that seems like more hype than substance. Perhaps a ballpoint as you suggest may be the right product for this type of restrictive grip. It seems Stabilo’s business model revolves around quirky designs and functions and the colour “baby blue”.

  3. That store is also tends to be the only place you can get a number of pen/pencil stationary items in Shanghai.

  4. Thank you very much for your comments.

    Gunther, all the accessories are very good, the erasers, too…A triangular version without the indentations on the grip would be nice…

    Kevin, I hope I’ll find the time to write more. There are a few more things I want to write about, but to be honest, that happens every time after I am back from Shanghai and after a few weeks I usually give up and write blog posts about new things, because I think the information from Shanghai is too old by then. The LeftRight is the incremental feed type, you can use it upside down if you want. Each time you press the lead is propelled approx. 2mm. The baby blue is actually quite nice. The blue fits well with Lexikaliker’s logo and reminds me of the two shades of blue of a Commodore 64 screen.

    ExcaliburZ, I have seen many of the items in this shop in other shops, but some things you can find there are not common in Shanghai. For example many of their imported Staedtler and Faber-Castell items. They also used to have a Pelikan counter, but it either moved or closed down. I wouldn’t be surprised if it closed down as Pelikan pens in Shanghai tend to be about twice as expensive as in Europe.

  5. Thanks Matthias for the explanation re the feed type …this certainly sets it apart as an inexpensive 2mm incremental feed,..I can’t think of any others in the low cost range. This makes the grip problem even more frustrating.

  6. Matthis: don’t know about others but for me blogs aren’t newspaper, timeliness isn’t why i keep reading them. i wouldn’t mind hearing about what you saw in Shanghai even months after your visit, especially now that your reports are so detailed. so thanks for sharing and keep them coming please!

  7. Thanks for your kind comments.

    Kevin, yes, it is a real shame.. Forwarding the lead feels like a normal mechanical pencil.

    Claire, once I wrote about the new Shanghai stuff I might be tempted to write about things from the past. The problem is that for every blog post I find time to write I get several new ideas for blog posts that never materialise.

  8. Thank you for this review! I haven’t seen this pencil before, and I couldn’t find it on Stabilo’s German website. – It looks very nice but the disadvantages you have mentioned are off-putting. It is a pity since it is great to see a standard lead size in such a pencil, and the sharpener seems to be great too.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.