lead holder

Nespresso + Caran d’Ache

Thanks to Pen Heaven I was able to get my hands on a Nespresso + Caran d’Ache fixpencil for the purpose of writing a review.

Cooperations, like the one between Nespresso and Caran d’Ache, often use the letter “x” between the two company names, but Nespresso and Caran d’Ache have opted for the use of the “+” instead, so I will follow their approach.

Before the Fixpencil arrived I expected to see a lead holder that is basically the same as the standard Caran d’Ache (CdA) Fixpencil, just in a different colour, but to my surprise there were several unexpected, but noticeable, if small, differences.

First up: the pen itself.

The surface of the pen, or rather the paint, is less smooth that the other CdA Fixpencils I have handled so far. This surface is not too rough for your fingers and feels pleasant to use. The colour is imitating the aluminium look of the Nespresso coffee capsules.

My pen had three small indentation on the body that don’t seem to belong there. I assume this is a one-off quality control issue.

This Fixpencil is most likely not the only CdA made from recycled aluminium, as mentioned in my previous Nespresso bog post, so I assume the issue with the dents is not a direct result of using recycled aluminium. The dents could probably have occurred with any CdA Fixpencil or other hexagonal aluminium pen, like the 849 and I wouldn’t expect to to be common.

The packaging states that the pen is "made from Nespresso recycled aluminium equivalent to one capsule"

The packaging states that the pen is made from Nespresso recycled aluminium equivalent to one capsule. A very specific claim and as mentioned before I will believe this claim despite some of CdA’s previous claims that were misleading.

When I first used this lead holder I thought the pen feels lighter or ‘hollower’. After using the pen a few times I must have gotten used to it as I don’t notice this anymore, A quick trip to the scales confirmed the initial impression, though: The Fixpencil 22 and the Fixpencil 884 (Junior) both weigh 11.75g, while the Nespresso + Caran d’Ache edition weighs 11.05g.

Top to bottom: Fixpencil 884 (Junior), Nespresso + CdA, Fixpencil 22

The internal mechanism also came as a surprise. The mechanism is the same as in the currently available Fixpencil 884 (Junior). I write “currently available” as the 884 might have contained a different mechanism in the past, but I am not able to verify this.

Correction 4.6.2023: The push button of the Nespresso can actually be removed and has a sharpener built in. I am not sure why I wasn’t able to remove it originally, but now that it has been removed once it is easy to remove it again. This blog post has been updated accordingly.

Next: the lead

To me the Nespresso lead is a big let down. The packaging states that the lead is “partly produced with Nespresso recycled coffee grounds”.

Weight-wise the lead is similar to the CdA Technograph lead, but the surface looks very different: rough and matt instead of smooth and shiny.

This is an interesting idea, but unfortunately, the lead doesn’t write very well, unless you are keen on faint pencil lines. If wonder if those coffee grounds would have had a better use if they were used as fertiliser. Depending on the paper you write on this issue is more or less pronounced, but for me the Nespresso lead’s attributes are nowhere near as desirable as the Technograph’s.

Top: CdA Teachnograph lead, bottom: Nespresso + CdA lead

The lead feels smooth on most paper, but produced a very light line on paper, much lighter than what you would get from Faber-Castell for example. I mention Faber-Castell because the lines produced by their leads are already very light compared to other, like Staedtler for example. Pressing harder when writing with the Nespresso lead won’t help with producing a darker line, i.e. the lead has a high pressure insensitivity.

When you sharpen the lead to a fine point it also seems to break easier than the Technograph lead. To some extent this behaviour reminds me of the Wopex lead, just that the Nespresso lead provides a much worse writing experience. I haven’t had a chance yet to use the Nespresso wood-cased pencil and I doubt I will find someone IRL who owns some and let me try, but based on Pencil Talk’s review of the Nespresso Swiss Wood Pencils, which doesn’t mention the issues I encountered, I wonder if the lead in the Nespresso Fixpencil is worse than the one from the Nespresso pencils.

A side point, but just in case you wonder: the Nespresso lead weighs the same as the Technograph lead.

Overall, this is a nice lead holder with a good, sturdy build. It would have been nice if this Fixpencil came with the same mechanism as the Fixpencil 22. The higher price than normal Fixpencil is due to the fact that this is a Limited Edition – funnily enough that links strongly to Kiwi-D’s and Koralatov’s comments on my previous blog post.

You can find another review of this pencil at The Gentleman Stationer.

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


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)


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)


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.

Wörther’s Shorty

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.


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

This is my second blog post about pencils that The Pen Company sent to me [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.. 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]Germany, like most European, African and South American countries, adopted the comma as their decimal mark. 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 designers [3]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.

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 chrome [4]I’d like to thank Lamy’s Marco Achenbach for this information..


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 mm [5]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.


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


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