Mechanical pencils


Faber-Castell Grip 2011 1

Today: a look at the Faber-Castell Grip 2011 mechanical pencil. Many years ago I bought a gel pen from the 2011 series. Unfortunately Faber-Castell stopped this gel pen and their gel refills, but there are good alternatives available.

Just like the 2001, the Faber-Castell wood-cased grip pencil, the 2011 has a triangular design with rubbery grip dots and I have read in the past that this series of triangular gip-dotted pens was a big success and saved Faber-Castell from many headaches.

Availability and price

I paid around £10 for my grass green version at PurePens. From what I can tell these are easily available in many European counties and I have seen them in high-street stores in Germany and the UK. In the USA the situation is different: I had a look to see how much they are in the USA, but I only found one place that sells them: Amazon Marketplace – for $18.

Now with a cool hologram sticker

Properties

Shape and grip

I have already mentioned the main deign feature: the triangular design with rubbery grip dots.

As always, different people buy a specific pen for different reasons. I bought the 2011 mechanical pencil so that my blue gel pen from this series has company. Other make that decision to help them write without pain: a previous colleague of mine only had items from the Faber-Castell grip line in his office. When I asked him about the reasons behind this he told me that he has carpal tunnel syndrome and that it is easier for him to write with pens from the Grip line. He only used pens from this Faber-Castell series and instead of typing on his keyboard he used dictation software. I don’t know enough about this syndrome to comment further, but it sounds as if Faber-Castell’s grip design can help people to write easier or with less pain.

Weight and the grip diameter to weight ratio

Another speciality of this mechanical pencil is the low weight, probably partly down to the clutch mechanism I will mention later. As seen in the diagram below the 2011 mechanical pencil is very much on the light side.

The Grip 2011 is pretty light

If you don’t only want a light pencil, but also a big grip diameter then it’s worth looking at the diameter to weight ratio. Here the Grip 2011 is near the top, with a ratio 2.5 times better than some other pencils, like the TWSBI precision. Only the the Staedtler 925-15 is doing better, thanks to its low weight and its big diameter, but it does have a slightly thinner grip diameter. The only pencil in my database with a similar grip diameter to the Grip 2011 is the Caran d’Ache 888 Infinite.

Mechanism

The main disappointment for many seasoned mechanical pencil fans will be the Grip 2011’s clutch mechanism: it is a very simple two-jawed plastic clutch. That’s not a problem, but many mechanical pencileers prefer a brass mechanism. Generally speaking very cheap mechanical pencils, like Staedtler’s $1 graphite 777, will come with plastic clutches, but there are also much more expensive mechanical pencils than the 2011, like the Rhodia ScRipt, that have plastic clutches.

Lead capacity

If you want a mechanical pencil that can hold a lot of leads then the Grip 2011 might also be for you: 0.7 mm leads usually have a diameter of less than 0.7 mm. The inner diameter of the Grip 2011 is 6.75 mm. If you look at the circle packing in a circle problem you will realise that this pencil can hold a huge number of leads.

Conclusion

The clutch will put many potential customers off, but with it’s low wide, its good grip-ability, the above average looks and the reasonable price this pencil will have no issues finding enough customers.

If you want to find out about the fountain pen version have a look at the Well-Appointed Desk’s review.


The EGO.M Cento 3 – a graphene pencil

Lead holder and mechanical pencil (click to enlarge)

A few weeks ago I received a surprise parcel from John Hall of Write Here fame. Inside the parcel were two rather unusual pens that I have been using regularly since then. It’s time to send them back soon, but before I do that I want to show you these very special pens and talk about their unusual design.

Pens made from graphene on a notebook made from coffee (click to enlarge)

You can also find a video about the Cento3 on the Bleistift Youtube channel:

The mystery of a pen body made from graphene

Let’s get their most exotic property out of the way first: these pens are 3d printed from graphene. With graphene not being very think (one layer of atoms) you could think of it as being two-dimensional. You also commonly read that a one atom thick layer of graphite is graphene. With that in mind I am wondering how something three-dimensional can be graphene without turning into graphite. Maybe it is a flat ‘two-dimensional’ layer rolled up with some other material in between, but in that case, does it keep graphene’s properties and are they desirable in a pen body in the first place? So many questions….

The front of the mechanical pencil (click to enlarge)

I also wonder whether creating the Cento3 pen body requires very special 3d printers so that the graphene layers don’t melt together into a lump of graphite and whether the body has some sort of lacquer on top. Whatever the answers to all my questions are, the pen that Ego.M have produced is a very special pen and as I don’t understand enough about materials science I will just go along with the claim that this pen is made from graphene.

The design’s history

The idea for this pen was thought up 20 years ago, in 2001, when Achille Castiglione and Gianfranco Cavaglia came up with a pen design using the ‘trilobate’ shape. Think of three slim pens arranged together like a three-leaved clover and connected – I hope the image below gives you a better idea than my short description.

I hope this image give an idea how the ‘trilobate’ shape is being used for this pen. (click to enlarge)

At the time some non-working prototypes were made from wood, but the pen was not commercially produced until recently when the prototypes were rediscovered by the designer’s children and EGO.M, based in Bologna, started developing the prototypes into commercially produced pens which were then officially released in February 2021, 103 years (100 = Cento, so Cento3 = 103) after Achille Castiglione was born.

About the pen

Surface

The first thing most people will notice when they look at this pen is that the individual strands of extruded plastic filament are quite visible. On the body of the mechanical pencil I received for testing the pattern produced by the 3d printing process is much less ‘even’ than on the lead holder I got. I assume every pen is unique in this respect and if you pick another sample this might be different, i.e. another mechanical pencil might look ‘smoother’ and another lead holder might look less smooth. The uneven surface loves to attract dust which is quite visible if you enlarge the photos.

The EGO.M logo on the mechanical pencil(click to enlarge)

Weight

The next thing to notice is that for their length and diameter the Cento3 pens are quite light. In the diagram below you can see that compared to some of the mechanical pencils we looked at in the past only slim and plastic-y mechanical pencils and tiny mechanical pencils are lighter than the Cento3 mechanical pencil.

Mechanical pencils by weight (click to enlarge)

Amateurs like me often like heavy pens as they give the user the feeling of being more substantial and of higher quality, but professionals actually like light pens. It makes sense to use a light pen that isn’t tiring when you use it all day long.

Mechanism and ageing

I was not able to figure out what kind of mechanism is used in the mechanical pencil as I don’t see a non-destructive way of getting to the mechanism. I assume the 3d printing of the body is done directly on the mechanism.

Pens change over time. One example is the beautiful surface of the Lamy 2000. Over time it becomes more and more smooth and shiny. I am not sure how hard the filament is that was used to print the Cento3, but there is a good chance that over the years the surface might become more and more smooth. This is just a guess, but it might change the character of he pen over time.

The weight and shape make the pen surprisingly comfortable to hold and use. The 3d printed structure provides a good grip when you hold the mechanical pencil. Many mechanical pencil users rotate the pen automatically and even subconsciously to make the lead use up more evenly. This is slightly more difficult with the Cento3 compared to a thinner pen, but it is possible without hassle.

The lead holder

In my opinion the lead holder version of the Cento3 feels much posher than the mechanical pencil. Maybe it is down to the chrome-y front section or the more even printing of the filaments.

The front of the lead holder (click to enlarge)

Conclusion

These pens are a great innovation. They are not the first 3d printed pens available, but the first ones I know of with the graphene link. The mechanical pencil sells for £60, as does the lead holder. There’s also a fountain pen version for £80.

Thanks to John for lending me these for my blog post and video.

If you want to find out more about these pens you can do so

Please note that the pen is properly black, I just lit it so that you can see the surface well which made it looks less black on my photos than it actually is.


Cleo Skribent Messograf

A blast from the past: Three years Cult Pens provided pencils for Bleistift’s giveaway for the first ever Mechanical Pencil Day. One of these was the Messograf, a very special mechanical pencil I showed at the time, but never presented in its own blog post – something I want to rectify today.

You can find out more about Cleo Skribent, the company behind the Messograf, their history, the Messograf itself and the ever-so-cool built-in Vernier caliper in the video below.

I hope you enjoyed the video.

Mechanical Pencil Day Prizes, Messograf on the right

The giveaway was a great opportunity for me to try out new pencils I hadn’t used before, before sending them on to the winners.


Graphene pencil

Coming soon: a look at an Italian-made pen [1]available as lead holder, mechanical pencil and fountain pen, designed 20 years ago and now 3d printed using graphene. I got the lead holder and the mechanical pencil on loan from Write Here and will have a closer look in the next week or so.

My understanding of chemistry is very limited. With graphene not being very think (one layer of atoms) I am not sure how something three-dimensional can be graphene without turning into graphite. Maybe it is a flat ‘two-dimensional’ layer rolled up. I wonder whether this requires very special 3d printers so that the graphene layers don’t melt together into a lump of graphite. In any case the result is a very special pen.

As expected the pens are very light, but as seen in the mechanical pencil comparison above there are lighter mechanical pencils available.

References

References
1available as lead holder, mechanical pencil and fountain pen

A most suitable pencil for desk work 3

The manga series Oh My Goddess was originally published from 1988 until 2014. I am only familiar with the early comics from this series, so the following might not apply to comics from the later years – but there was always exceptional detail on products and technology. Specific products and their features were often being mentioned or hinted at. A lot of this information was about cars, motorbikes, cameras, but you can also see calculators and mechanical pencils in this series, as seen in the examples below.

Keiichi using a Sharp PC-1401 calculator/computer and a so far unidentified mechanical pencil (Oh My Goddess #5, p.39, read right to left)

I am not sure if the pencil from page 39 is supposed to be the same as the one from page 71, but it’s a great close up drawing. The sleeve seems, proportionally, rather slim, though.

There were many different version of the Zebra Knock Pencil. Some versions of the M-1300 had the text “A most suitable pencil for desk work” printed on the side. As far as I can tell the Zebra Knock Pencil is not being sold anymore and Zebra has replaced this model with more high-end mechanical pencils.

Urd is using a Zebra Knock Pencil (Oh My Goddess #5, p.71, read right to left)

The images have been taken from the English version of Oh My Goddess, published by Dark Horse Manga as Volume #5. I believe that the use of these images falls under “fair dealing” as described by the UK Copyright service.