Daily Archives: 8 May 2015


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. []