Kuru Toga


Disappointed with the Kuru Toga – again 13

Welcome to a blog post that is linked to my 2009 blog post about the Kuru Toga and is my third blog post this month about sliding sleeve pencils, after the M&G m9 and the 0.3mm Orenz.

If blog posts came with a soundtrack this post’s sound track would be Queen’s ‘Under pressure’, you’ll see why…

As mentioned previously there is a new Kuru Toga model that features a sliding sleeve – and I had to buy one.  It’s from a Japanese seller on eBay and I paid $14.09 (~£9.75; €13.00) (sorry, no link to the product as the seller doesn’t sell it anymore).

Kuru Toga Pipe Slide

About the ‘pipe’

I will call this model ‘pipe slide’ for now as there is no English version with an English name out yet and one of the only things I can read on the Japanese packaging is ‘pipe slide’ in Katakana. The name is slightly misleading as the sleeve is more of a cone than a pipe. Otherwise it looks pretty similar to the original Kuru Toga, with one of the more obvious differences being the black grip area, instead of the original silver one.

More of a cone than a pipe

More of a cone than a pipe

The idea, as with other sliding sleeve pencils, is that you can just keep writing without having to advance the lead – because the sleeve that protects the lead is sliding back further and further as you use the lead up …until you have used up the several millimetres of lead that where originally protected by the sleeve.

About the mechanism to rotate the lead

On my original Kuru Toga in 0.5mm you had to press the lead down 40 times to rotate the mechanism by 360°. The ‘pipe sleeve’ model, also 0.5mm works differently. Each pressing down of the lead will rotate the lead about twice as much as the original model, so pressing the lead down 20 times will rotate it by 360°.

Kuru Toga Pipe Slide

Does it work?

…the sleeve

Well, the sliding sleeve works. It’s not as good as the one from the Pentel Orenz or the Staedtler Microfix S, because the sleeve is more likely to press into the paper, but it will work well.

When the sleeve is partly retracted the lead will feel a bit more wobbly, but it isn’t a problem at all. You will need about 0.05 N of pressure to slide the sleeve back, which is a pretty good value, but as mentioned earlier the sleeve is more in the way, so the writing experience you get from a pencil with similar pressure requirements, like the Microfix S, is better.

…the mechanism to rotate the lead

The mechanism still doesn’t work for me, just like the original Kuru Toga, six years ago.  It does seem to work for others. This pencil is in the Pen Addict’s Top 5 and Brad wrote: “Not a gimmick either. It actually works.”, but I assume when writing he is using much more pressure than I do.

There seems to be a strange discrepancy here. Many people seem to prefer soft wood cased pencils, indicating that they might use less pressure than me when writing, but on the other hand many people seem happy with the Kuru Toga, indicating that they use more pressure than me when writing.

What is your experience with the Kuru Toga – and what kind of wood cased pencils do you prefer? I’d love to find out how they relate to each other for others. 

You need quite a bit less force or pressure to rotate the lead of the pipe slide model, 0.3 N in my case, but that’s still more than I seem to normally use. Things get even worse when you write in cursive, as there’ll the lead will be lifted and placed on the paper less often, so there are fewer opportunities to rotate the lead anyway.

Maybe that’s the reason why my Kuru Toga pipe slide came with a reasonably hard lead1, so that you press a bit harder.

Conclusion

It’s not a bad mechanical pencil, but unfortunately it is just not good at doing what is supposed to set it apart. I wonder whether Schmidt’s2 rotating lead apparatus would have worked any better, or Kotobuki’s mechanism…

Kuru Toga Pipe Slide

 


Price and exchange rates: January 2016

Please open the images in a new tab/windows to see them at full resolution.

The video is available in full resolution on YouTube.

I have added the Kuru Toga Pipe slide to my sliding sleeve table.

Michael Fryda has a YouTube review of this pencil.

  1. harder than the lead some other Japanese pencils I have came with []
  2. Not related to Lexikaliker, I think. []

Sliding sleeves, Kuru Togas, DelGuards and more 1

Just a few small points I want to mention:

Sliding sleeve

I have created a table showing some of the sliding sleeve pencils and the force needed to slide the sleeve. I have averaged the values displayed in previous blog posts, just to make the table sortable. I plan to add the Orenz in 0.3 and the M9 to this table very soon.

Speaking of the Orenz, there’s a new Metal Grip version of the Orenz.

Kuru Toga

I have also ordered the new sliding sleeve version of the Kuru Toga. I did learn some Japanese in the 90s, but all I remember is some Katakana characters. Just enough to figure out that this version of the Kuru Toga is called “Pipe Slide”. Michael Fryda has published a video review of this pencil.

There is also a limited Adidas edition of the Kuru Toga. There used to be a Faber-Castell and Adidas cooperation in the past, not surprising as they are both from the Nuremberg area, but now Adidas seems to cooperate with Uni Mitsubishi Pencil.

Speaking of the Kuru Toga: M&G seems to offer a Kuru Toga copy, the AMP89202, but I haven’t seen it in reality, so I am not sure whether it is functional or only copies the look, not the functionality of the Kuru Toga.

DelGuard

One last point to mention, I noticed that two weeks after my DelGuard blog post and its video Zebra published a video that seems somehow similar – featuring the new 0.3 mm and 0.7 mm version of the DelGuard. There’s not as much information about the force needed in the video, but they have proper equipment to take close-ups, so it looks much better. Have a look at their video.

Wooden paper

One last thing I came across: Kizara memo pads, instead of paper they use wood shavings. Reminds me of the wooden Field Notes cover.


The Kuru Toga – a disappointment 38

Introduction:

Kuru Toga UK packaging - front

Kuru Toga UK packaging - front

The Kuru Toga is a mechanical pencil from uni / Mitsubishi pencil. In Japan it has been available for more than a year. The plastic version is now officially distributed in the UK and other countries, while the successor, the new Kuru Toga pencil, is already available in Japan.

The Kuru Toga’s unique selling point is that its lead rotates which keeps the tip sharp when writing. When pressing the lead against the paper to write or when lifting it the gears of the “Kuru Toga Engine” revolve, rotating the lead slightly.

After reading a review of the Kuru Toga on Dave’s Mechanical Pencils I was really impressed and quite excited when I saw that the Kuru Toga is now officially available in the UK. Cultpens.com sells this mechanical pencil in many different colours for £ 7.99 (~ € 8.90). I bought mine from Ryman, a High Street chain, for £ 4.99 (~ € 5.50), but unfortunately they only seem to stock the black version.

Packaging:

My first surprise, when I saw the packaging, was that the advantages of the Kuru Toga Engine were not advertised as much as I expected. Somehow I expected this pen to stand out from the other pens on the shelf, but this wasn’t the case at all. For the designers who created the packaging the Nano Dia leads seem to be nearly as big a selling point as the Kuru Toga Engine. If you are in marketing or advertising it might be difficult to resist telling the potential customer about the “400 million nano diamonds” in each lead. Yes, nano is a buzzword (see PhD Comics) and diamonds sound very precious, but instead of just throwing numbers and cool words at customers I would have preferred an explanation why having 400 million nano diamonds in a lead is an advantage and how that helps to deliver super strength and a smooth, crisp line.

Kuru Toga

Kuru Toga

Problem:

Using the Kuru Toga for writing was a big disappointment. The pressure I exert when writing “normally” does not seem to get the lead to rotate. I could of course press the pencil down harder to get the gears to revolve and consequently the lead to rotate, but that is not how I would normally write. Real world use has shown that when I write in a hurry I use more pressure and the lead will rotate, but the lead should rotate whenever I write,not only when I write in a hurry. When using more pressure the lines tend to get wider anyway and I got better results, i.e. thinner lines, by rotating the pencil in my hand.

Kuru Toga UK packaging - reverse

Kuru Toga UK packaging - reverse

Analysis:

Two possibilities come to mind when looking at the problem of the non-rotating lead.

  • It might be a substandard pencil, and other Kuru Toga Engines work with less pressure. This would would mean that there is a quality control problem at uni / Mitsubishi pencil. This is probably not the case.
  • I might not press the pencil down hard enough to get the gears to revolve. This could be because of many years of using fountain pens (which do not need a lot of pressure) and a relatively infrequent use of ballpoint pens (which need much more pressure). When I went to school you had to write with a fountain pen and today I still like to use fountain pens and avoid ballpoint pens. My wife, for example, is using much more pressure when writing.

Conclusion:

The Kuru Toga has been a disappointment for me, as the lead is not rotating, eliminating the advantage of this pencil while the disadvantages of this pencil remain:

  • the relatively high price for a mechanical pencil compared to similar pens made from plastic …more than twice the price of a Rotring Tikky, which is usually £ 1.99 (~ € 2.20), but to be fair: the Tikky does not come with a pack of replacement leads.
  • and the inability to fill in as many spare leads as in some other mechanical pencils (maximum 4 – 6 leads, depending on length and whether you try hard to squeeze them in)

It is difficult to predict, but my guess would be that the market share of pencils using the Kuru Toga engine or similar mechanisms will increase, because they are great of they work for you. On the other hand most mechanical pencils still do not even have a retractable sleeve and most consumers do not really seem to care but buy what is available and cheap.

Assuming you usually write in a Western language and use joint writing a lot (I do) the lead will also not rotate as much as it would if you use block letters or South-East Asian characters ..unless you apply different levels of pressure.
On a positive note the eraser of the Kuru Toga seems to be working really well, and if your writing pressure exceeds the pressure necessary to set the Kuru Toga Engine off this might be the pencil for you. The rotating lead is a great idea, but the implementation does not seem to do this idea justice. I think I will give my Kuru Toga to my wife. She is using much more pressure when writing…

Prices and exchange rate: November 2009