lead holder


Wörther’s Shorty 6

If you follow my YouTube channel you might have spotted this video about Wörther’s lead holder ‘Shorty’.

I was lucky enough to get two of these over the years. One from fellow stationery blogger Scribble and one from Pen Heaven.

I think they must be the first lead holders I have added to my overview of mechanical pencils.

The plastic version is light and very affordable.

While the aluminium version is still not expensive and rather elegant.

In the video you’ll see that the origin of the Shorty is rather fascinating. 

Like fellow German company Lamy and like other companies world-wide including Hero, Wörther’s beginnings have a strong link to the Parker Pen Company. It’s a shame that Parker, like other old established companies seems to have suffered the consequences of past sub-optimal decisions and is not the strong player in this field it once was.

Have a look at the video to find out more.

 


The Magno – a magnetic lead holder

A few days ago I have received a Magno from HribarCain. First I wasn’t sure what to think of it and its unique feature, but now that I have tried it for a while I have to say that I really like this pencil and love the mechanism used to propel the lead.

The Magno is a lead holder with a magnetic mechanism, invented by HribarCain – a team of two British design engineers who started working on this pencil one and a half years ago.

Magno by HribarCain

The mechanism

The special thing about this pencil is the magnetic mechanism used to propel the lead. Instead of clicking a button (..and the lead ‘falls out’) you first loosen the front of the pen. You then move a ring on the outside of the body which will move a magnet inside the pencil. This magnet is attached to the lead. This gives precise control over how much more lead you want to expose.

I know that some people who bought the Penxo, a very different Kickstarter pen  in a similar price range, had problems with the lead breaking easily. I did some initial drop tests and the Magno seems to cope well with being dropped: the lead didn’t break.

The Kickstarter

My understanding is that everything is in place to produce the Magno and it will get made anyway, but instead of just selling these pencils in an online shop HribarCain is launching a Kickstarter campaign on 22 July where early backers can get this pen for £20. The money raised will then be used for other design products they plan to make.

Magno by HribarCain

The options

The pen will be available in four colours that have an iPhone vibe to them, but unlike the Lamy LX the Magno’s colours aren’t a copy of the iPhone colour, which I think is a good thing.

Conclusion

When I saw the photos I thought the Magno is a bit on the bling looking side, but in reality the pen was more ‘serious’ looking than I expected. The ring is still a bit shiny for my taste, but overall the Magno  is serious looking enough to use at work.

Magno by HribarCain

I hope this pencil will sell well so that there will be even more versions in the future. A Rotring-style matt black version, maybe even hexagonal, with a slimmer ring would be such an amazing pen, at least for my taste, others will disagree.

The Magno is very well made and when keeping in mind that there are many lead holders and clutch pencils with a plastic body that cost nearly as much, £20 is great value for money.

You can find the Kickstarter at this address.

A photo from the Kickstarter campaign (Image © HRIBARCAIN)

A photo from the Kickstarter campaign (Image © HRIBARCAIN)


I’d like to thank Ashley from HribarCain who has sent me the Magno free of charge for review purposes.


Lamy scribble 9

This is my second blog post about pencils that The Pen Company sent to me1. 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.

Lamy scribbles

The 0.7 mm version (top) and the 3.15 mm version (bottom) of the Lamy scribble.

 

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 0,7 2 Mechanical pencil and the Lamy scribble 3,15 Mechanical 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 designers3. 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.

Scribble 0.7

Lamy scribble 0.7 mm cap

 

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.

Black and Silver

Black and Silver (Braun, Lamy 2000, 2x Lamy scribble, Leica – unfortunately I couldn’t fit an iMac into this picture as well)

Another version of the scribble was available until 2010. Instead of fittings with a palladium finish it featured fittings in black chrome4.

 

Hannes Wettstein's early sketch of the scribble

Hannes Wettstein’s early sketch of the scribble

 

 

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 mm5 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.

 

Lamy scribble 0.7

Lamy scribble 0.7

 

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.

 

Lamy scibble 0.7

Lamy scibble 0.7

 

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.

 

One of the grooves on the body of the 3.15 mm version

One of the grooves on the body of the 3.15 mm version

 

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.

 

Scribble 3.15

Lamy scribble 3.15

 

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.

Lamy scribble 3.15

Lamy scribble 3.15

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.

 

Lamy scribble 3.15 mm and 0.7 mm version

Lamy scribble 3.15 mm and 0.7 mm version

Conclusion

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.

You can find more information about the Lamy scribble at Pencil Revolution, Jack the Scribbler (ballpoint version) and Dave’s Mechanical Pencils.

Only slightly related: There’s a great article on the Fountain Pen Network: Lamy 2000 and the Origins of “Lamy Design”

The quotes in this blog post have been taken from the following book:
Studio Hannes Wettstein. Seeking Archetypes. 2011. Lars Müller Publishers, Zürich.

  1. 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. []
  2. Germany, like most European, African and South American countries, adopted the comma as their decimal mark. []
  3. see NZZ: Suche nach den Archetypen von morgen, 7 July 2008 []
  4. I’d like to thank Lamy’s Marco Achenbach for this information. []
  5. depending on where you hold this pen []