Pentel’s Orenz is a mechanical pencil I use often, but I haven’t had the pleasure of using another one of Pentel’s pencils yet: the Graphgear.
The Graphgear’s design is great. I especially like the retractable sleeve, activated via the clip. The grip section, knurled metal with rubbery dots, officially referred to as Latex-free grip ‘pips’, and lead hardness indicator, as well as the overall construction are also amazing and show a nice attention to detail.
The lead that came with the pencil doesn’t seem to be all HB. The lead from the 0.5 mm pencil is so much softer than the one that came with the 0.4 mm pencil.
I will certainly enjoy using the different lead diameters and retracting the sleeve when I have finished writing… When I write a lot in one go I will probably still want to use a sliding sleeve pencil out of convenience, i.e. to always have the right amount of lead looking out of the sleeve.
Having used Kaweco’s AL Sport stonewashed fountain pen since 2014 I thought that a stonewashed pencil might look rather nice, too. Unfortunately, the ‘Stonewashed series’ only includes a fountain pen, a ballpen (that the official name) and a rollerball – no mechanical pencil (or push pencil, the name used by Kaweco).
The ballpen and the push pencil look very similar, so I thought it might be possible to simply use the AL Sport pencil mechanism in the ballpen body, but that would mean having to buy the ballpen even though I wouldn’t use it – and it’s just guesswork that the parts would fit, so earlier this year, in February, I contacted Michael Gutberlet from Kaweco asking whether there is or will be a AL Sport stonewashed pencil. I had his contact details from an earlier email exchange in 2013, when Michael Marzani from Just Another Pen and I were discussing the brass body of the Kaweco Liliput he reviewed in his blog. As part of the discussion Michael Marzani contacted Michael Gurberlet, who was providing information about the brass he used for this pen.
To my surprise Michael Gutberlet then made a Prototype A real prototype 8^) not like this year’s April Fools Day Prototype. Kaweco and Prototype, that reminds me of SBRE Brown’s blog post and video about the Kaweco Ranger, which, as far as I … Continue reading for me. I got the impression that the main issue when creating this pen was the push button, but since I don’t have an AL Sport ballpen I can’t really comment how much the ballpen and the pencil’s push button differ. I assume the top looks the same, but the button is different, probably because the pencil push button is held by the lead pipe, but the ballpen push button is on the click mechanism – but this is pure speculation. Michael Gutberlet seems to be very hands-on with the pens he creates, so as far as I know he made this prototype himself. He also finishes each Lilliput Fireblue fountain pen individually. Massdrop is currently selling them for $139.
In March 2016, when the pencil was ready, I was contacted by Sabine Götz – and she called it a prototype – how exciting! The word prototype hadn’t been mentioned before, so that was a very exciting moment. I guess this makes this pencil a one of a kind.
I also got a bill. The pencil was a bit more expensive than the AL Sport stonewashed fountain pen I bought a few years ago, but that was more down to the fact that I found a shop that sold it for a good price. I guess what I paid for the pencil is similar to what the official retail price for an AL Sport stonewashed pencil would be.
Shape and lead
The pencil itself is quite stubby, but all Kaweco Sport push pencils are, so I knew what I was getting. Nevertheless, I think the stubbiness makes the pencil less elegant than the fountain pen version. The pencil takes 0.7 mm leads. According to the mini manual that came with the pen there seem to be versions of the Sport pencil in 0.5 mm, 0.7 mm, 0.9 mm and 2 mm, but I don’t think I ever saw the Sport in 0.5 mm.
I ordered a clip for the pencil so that I can transport it easily. Pen Heaven had the best price I could find in the UK, £1.99 (~$2.90; €2.50), including postage. I do use the pen with the clip, but that does make rotating the pen (and using the lead up from all sides) more difficult.
The pen itself feels solid and feels like it’s mainly made from metals (mainly aluminium) or metal alloys (the mechanism?), but the lead pipe is made of clear, slightly flexible plastic. The push button gets stuck on this pipe (friction fit). There is no eraser in this pencil.
According to the manual you can store two leads in the pipe. You might think that, as with mechanical pencils from many decades ago, you can store leads in the space between the pipe and the body, but you would only be able to store leads with a length of about 2 cm there, so this space is more or less ‘wasted’.
By the way, my wife was very impressed by the lead the pencil came with. Her comments were: ‘creamy and buttery, soft, but does not smudge’. That is high praise coming from her as she doesn’t like leads that smudge …so the Lamy Scribble’s original leads had to go. Her dislike for smudgy leads goes so far that she is using H leads in a pencil that is used for an Atoma notebook (H is actually great with Atoma’s paper).
A quick look at the dimensions of the pen:
It is hexagonal and has a diameter of 13 mm (just over half an inch) – much wider than most mechanical and wood cased pencil. For comparison: the current Noris has a diameter of 6.8 mm. The pens length is 10.8 cm and it has a weight of 29 g (just over one ounce).
Daily use and overall verdict
I have used this pencil for a while now, together with the AL Sport stonewashed fountain pen. Together they are such a nice pair. I have to say that I always preferred using the pencil, despite its stubiness. I find the pencil’s look much less attractive than the stonewashed fountain pen’s elegance, but because it is instantly ready it was my pen of choice – there is no cap that needs to be taken off and posted first.
Overall this is a great pencil, even though I would prefer a slimmer, longer version. I wonder whether this stonewashed pencil (not my imaginary slimmer, longer version) will be available in shops in the future. I guess the original problem was that different pen parts need ‘stonewashing’ for different lengths of time, but now that there is a prototype (and a recipe how long its parts need ‘stonewashing’) it should be easier to make more stonewashed pencils.
Regarding the stonewashing: I have to add that my fountain pen has a better stonewashed effect, but this might be caused by the different shape of the parts (or, less likely, the different paint). The question now is whether Kaweco sells enough pencils to think it’s worth offering an AL Sport stonewashed pencil.
Price: March / April 2016
Exchange rates: May 2016
I would like to thank Michael Gutberlet for making this prototype for me.
A real prototype 8^) not like this year’s April Fools Day Prototype. Kaweco and Prototype, that reminds me of SBRE Brown’s blog post and video about the Kaweco Ranger, which, as far as I know, is not a prototype, but one of the first models released after Kaweco became Gutberlet owned. Unless of course the reviewed set was a prototype for the Ranger series that was available in the 1990s.
This is my second blog post about pencils that The Pen Company sent to me They send pens to several bloggers. You don’t have to pay for the pens, but are expected to write a blog post about the pens.. The original blog post can be found on their blog.
Me and Lamy, Lamy and I
You might not have guessed, because of the lack of Lamy posts on Bleistift, but Lamy is one if the stationery brands I feel strongly connected to. It all started about 1985 when I got my first Lamy Safari fountain pen. From that point onwards I only used Safari fountain pens in school. After I left school I didn’t use fountain pens on a daily basis any more and temporarily lost my link to Lamy. I did buy the occasional Lamy pen, though, until finally, in 2008, I rediscovered Lamy as one of my favourite brands after I got a Lamy 2000 fountain pen.
Volker Albus, architect and designer: Just think of his Scribble writing set for Lamy. Seldom have the central functions and haptic requirements of such a twist action pen been translated so precisely and at the same time unmistakably into an aesthetic vocabulary.
Studio Hannes Wettstein (2011, p. 151)
Lamy and pencils
I was quite excited when Lamy’s wood cased pencils came out in 2010, even though, for my taste, they are a bit too soft for daily use. I have also bought a few of their mechanical pencils and I have been tempted on several occasions to buy a Lamy 2000 or Lamy scribble mechanical pencil. So, naturally, I was very excited when I received two Lamy scribble pencils from The Pen Company, the Lamy scribble 0,7Germany, like most European, African and South American countries, adopted the comma as their decimal mark.Mechanical pencil and the Lamy scribble 3,15Mechanical pencil. Because of its width I’d actually call the 3.15 mm version a lead holder, but I’ll go with the official name here, according to which it is a mechanical pencil.
The design – the process
First computer designs and prototypes of the scribble were created in 1997 by Swiss designer Hannes Wettstein, one of Switzerland’s most important designers see NZZ: Suche nach den Archetypen von morgen, 7 July 2008. This was followed by two more prototype series in 1998 that lead to the final drawings in 1999. I’ll write more about the design later in this blog post. Overall, the development time of the scribble took less than two years.
The design – the colours
The current version of the scribble features what I tend to see as a classic colour combination: black and silver. It is a colour combination that I associate with simple design that follows functionality. Interestingly enough many of the great black and silver products I can think of feature a similar distribution between the two colours: lots of black and a bit of silver – and they also try to avoid unnecessary design elements that don’t contribute to the products function.
Another version of the scribble was available until 2010. Instead of fittings with a palladium finish it featured fittings in black chrome I’d like to thank Lamy’s Marco Achenbach for this information..
The design – the shape
The bulge in the middle of the short shaft makes SCRIBBLE a highly ergonomic tool. Its ergonomic quality is further enhanced by the flat surfaces, which are cut into the shaft. These flats also prevent the pen from rolling away.
Studio Hannes Wettstein (2011, p. 222)
With 10 mm – 13 mm depending on where you hold this pen diameter the grip section of the scribble certainly has a wider than average diameter. I read in the past that wider grips on pens relieve writing stress and fatigue. I have to emphasise that I didn’t see any such claim from Lamy or Studio Hannes Wettstein, but after having used the scribble for a while I found that writing with another mechanical pencil with a much narrower grip felt much less comfortable, compared to the scribble. Even though the grip section is quite wide the tip is rather slim. This makes it possible to write using with a more acute angle.
The design – awards
It doesn’t come as a big surprise that such an excellent pencil won several awards.
In 2001 the scribble won the Design Plus award in Frankfurt and in 2002it won the if award in Hanover.
The 0.7 mm version
The 0.7 mm version can hold up to 6 leads (if you wiggle the pen a bit to get them all in). It also features a small eraser under the cap that comes with a pin / clean out rod. Each click will advance the lead by about 0.9mm, which is suitable for a 0.7 mm lead.
The 3.15 mm version
The 3.15 mm version has three grooves along the body of the pen. I first thought they are there to support rotating the pen to use up the lead evenly, but they are not close enough to the tip for this, so I assume the grooves are there to visually distinguish the 3.15 mm version from the 0.7 mm version version of the pen. The pen comes with a 4B lead. a bit soft for my taste and unfortunately Lamy only sells refills in 4B, but you can get harder leads from other manufacturers. I assume that slightly thinner leads, like Caran d’Ache’s 3 mm leads will also fit. As far as I know Lamy does not offer a suitable sharpener. So far I have sharpened the lead using a KUM Automatic Long Point sharpener.
Clip and mechanism
Both pens feature a sheet metal clip that can be removed. With 0.65 mm the sheet metal clip is thicker than that of your average pen. Most clips are bent on the corners to give the illusion of volume, but the scribble‘s clip is really that thick. According to Simon Husslein from Studio Hannes Wettstein designing and producing this clip was quite a challenge. I certainly believe that as I was not able to find another pen in my collection with such a thick sheet metal clip.
The lead holding mechanism seems to come from Schmidt. It is featured on page 12 of their catalogue – it’s the second mechanism from the left. The mechanism works very well, but my exposure to lead holders is limited, so I can’t really compare it.
There is also a ball point version available. This seems to be an afterthought that was designed in December 2000. The body is based on the 0.7 mm version body, the one without the grooves.
Hannes Wettstein post scribble
Hannes Wettstein and his studio later also went on to develop the studio for Lamy, which makes him one of the few select designers who designed more than one pen for Lamy. Hannes Wettstein died in 2008, but his design lives on. Current products by Studio Hannes Wettstein are created by Simon Husslein and Stephan Hürlemann and are very close to Wettstein’s design DNA. Look at this Braun watch for example.
It didn’t take long for these two mechanical pencils to become my current favourites. There are other pencils that I like for their design, but I love the scribble because it’s so comfortable to hold (the grip diameter is surprisingly comfortable and the weight distribution is very good, too) and looks so good. It’s just a shame there’s no 0.5 mm version available, but my understanding is that as users of the scribble Hannes Wettstein had architects and designers in mind who want to liberally put their drawing lines on a blank canvas. A thin line just isn’t suitable for that purpose.
I’s like to thank Simon Husslein from Studio Hannes Wettstein for answering all my questions about the scribble patiently. All the information about the design process came from Mr Husslein.
Today: A mechanical pencil from France, the BIC Matic Classic 0.7mm. Probably their most simple pencil On the high-end of BIC’s spectrum you’d find the BIC AI and the BIC Rondo, which has been removed from local shops and from their catalogue, so I assume you will only be able to get the … Continue reading. It’s main advantages, according to the packaging (click on the images of the packaging to enlarge, the thumbnails are rather small):
No need to sharpen and
Writes 2x nore than a graphite pencil.
Value for money
In April I bought a pack with three pencils in my local Morrisons (a supermarket chain from the North of England) for £1.50 (~$2.30; €1.75). £1.50, that’s very cheap – per pencil it’s cheaper than a typical, branded woodcased pencil. If you by the Matic in bulk you can get it even cheaper (i.e. ridiculously cheap). Other lead diameters (0.5 mm and 0.9 mm) and other looks (e.g. a girly, dotted version) are also available.
About the BIC Matic
The clip colours of the “default version” currently on sale in Europe remind me very much of Lamy’s limited edition colours Aquamarine and Lime The Lamy pens in these colours sell extremely well and are sought after. The BIC colours don’t match the Lamy colours exactly, but without a direct comparison they look pretty similar.. The colours used for the clips seem to have changed since this pencil has been reviewed by Pencil Revolution and Dave’s Mechanical Pencils, but the reason for the colour change might be geographical rather than temporal. I haven’t used this pencil in the past, but my pencils’ erasers perform very well, unlike Dave’s specimens. This could indicate that the quality of the eraser might have improved …or the quality of the eraser might vary depending on the origin of the pencil It seems to be produced (or has been produced) in at least four different countries..
These pencils don’t seem to be as common in the UK or Germany as they are in the USA or New Zealand …or France, I noticed this pencil in the French TV series Spiral (Engrenages).
I’ve often seen similar looking, but different, pencils with a similar grip section supplied as no name stationery in offices or supplied as freebies usually with company logos printed on them, but the BIC Matic isn’t a common sight here.
Looking at them my first thought was that they’d be uncomfortable to hold because they are so slim, but actually they aren’t. With more than 8.0 mm at the grip section and more than 7.5 mm at the at the body their diameter is bigger than that of typical hexagonal pencils (7 mm edge to edge, 7.5 mm vertex to vertex).
Writing 2x more
What about the claim that this pencil writes 2x more than a graphite pencil? This might be an accurate claim for many users, but will largely depend on how you use your pencils I’m taking the softness of the lead out of the equation. The provided lead seems to be a standard lead which behaves like many other HB leads). The length of the three leads per Matic added together is twice the length of the lead in a woodcased pencil. The “2x claim” is actually the same on the 0.5 mm and on the 0.9 mm version of BIC’s mechanical pencil, so it’s probably based on the overall length of the leads provided.
In reality your use would determine how much of the graphite you’re actually using. If you sharpen your woodcased pencil a lot you might not even use all of the central 0.7 mm of the lead, but if you don’t sharpen that often and rotate the pencil you might be using more than the central 0.7 mm of your pencil’s lead.
Want to double the 2x more?
If you see the statement “writes 2x more” as a personal challenge that you want to top this paragraph will explain what you need to do to double the BIC Matic‘s 2x writing with a normal, woodcased pencil. The trick is to use as much of the central part of the lead as possible. The central part you use should have a diameter of at least 1 mm. Done? Congratulations. You have now used twice as much of the lead (0.385 mm3 per mm of lead for the Matic compared to 0.785 mm3 for the woodcased pencil). In the following picture you can see a Black feet Indian Pencil with a diameter of more than 1 mm for the “unused” part of the “lead cone”. By rotating the pencil after every few words of writing the average writer should easily be able to produce a line of about 0.4 mm width, or even less if you rotate the pencil more often. You also wouldn’t want to waste graphite when sharpening, so if you really want to increase your use the graphite you could a sharpener with a point adjuster to avoid removing graphite from the central part of the lead A great discussion of the percentage of graphite used in a woodcased pencil can be found at Lexikaliker.. A suitable sharpener is the Deli 0668 – other sharpeners with point adjusters are available from DUX, M+R, Dahle, Carl and other manufacturers. Finally, to avoid wasting the last few centimetres of the pencil: use a pencil extender.
There’s another argument in favour of the woodcased pencil: the typical mechanical pencil can’t use the last centimetre or so of a lead, just because of the way the grip mechanism works. You can find more information about this at Lexikaliker. Thanks to Sean‘s help I got my hand on a few Staedtler Integrity pencils a few years ago. The Integrity wastes less then 2 mm of the lead (the Matic wastes about 11 mm) Unfortunately I didn’t succeed in using the Integrity to use up short bits of lead, feeding it already short bits of lead doesn’t really work.
Since I mentioned Engrenages before and this blog post has a French theme: Laure, the main character in Engrenages is using an orange notepad, but unfortunately it’s none of the three I have shown in this blog (except the Rhodia there’s the Carrefour one and the Oxford one). I wonder how many how many people in France use the BIC Matic and how many different orange A7 notepads there are in France …
Price: April 2013
Exchange rates: June 2013
I’d like to thank Sean for the Blackfeet Indian Pencil seen in this blog post.
The screenshots in this blog post have been taken from episode 7 and episode 9 of the third season of Son et Lumière’s Engrenages. I believe that the use of the screenshots shown in this blog post falls under “fair dealing” as described by the UK Copyright service.
On the high-end of BIC’s spectrum you’d find the BIC AI and the BIC Rondo, which has been removed from local shops and from their catalogue, so I assume you will only be able to get the Ballgraf version from now on.