mechanical pencil


Zebra’s Tiny TS-3 3

Ten years ago I bought Zebra’s tiny TS-3 mechanical pencil. Back then it cost £2.50. These days it’s a bit more expensive, but is still quite affordable.

You’d think that a pencil with such a small size, it’s only 10 cm long and has a diameter of just over 5 mm, it can only be used if no better pencil is available..

..but the truth is that it’s much more comfortable to use than many other emergency pencil, i.e. the kind of pencil that comes with some of the Swiss Army Knives.

In May I put a video review online that provides some more information about this pencil.

Compared to a selection of other mechanical pencils the Zebra TS-3 is tiny

It might not be your best choice for a daily writer, but it’s certainly a good choice for a pencil you can store in a pocket or bag so that you have a mechanical pencil when you need it. The comfort to size ratio is certainly better than what you might expect.

 


The Kaweco Special 0.5 Push Pencil Black 1

The video for the Kaweco Special 0.5 Push Pencil Black has been added to my YouTube channel in April, so it’s high time to follow with the blog post for this nice mechanical pencil.

All the useful bits of information about this pencil can be found in the video itself, where I had a look at the 0.5mm version. There is also a 0.7 mm, a 0.9 mm and a 2 mm version.

I only cover the black aluminium version, but there is also a brass version.

While the body is made from aluminium, the front section seems tobe made from plastic. It does look pretty sturdy, though.

The pencil doesn’t come with the clip. If you like the clip you have to order it separately.
Compared to other mechanical pencils I reviewed recently the Kaweco Special has a larger diameter (so is furthest right in the chart below).

Compared to a selection of other mechanical pencils the Kaweco Special has the largest body diameter

There is no ‘dedicated grip section’, it’s just the front of the body, so this pencil is again leading the pack in terms of diameter.

Compared to a selection of other mechanical pencils the Kaweco Special has the largest grip diameter

The actual mechanism in the Special is from Japan and does contain plastic parts, but seems quite sturdy and should last many decades.


Lamy’s cp1 Multi Pen – Pencil Plus Highlighter In One

This blog post was first published on The Pen Company’s blog in April 2018.

1974 is a special year: In the USA, Star Trek: The Animated Series got cancelled; in the UK, ABBA won the Eurovision song contest in Brighton with their song, ‘Waterloo’; in China the Terracotta army was discovered; and in Germany, the VW Golf and the Lamy cp1 multifunction pen were launched.

I’m happy to say that the cp1 pen/pencil is still with us today, so many years later. Designed by Gerd A. Müller, who also designed the Lamy 2000, the cp1 has seen quite a few additions to the line over the years — Lamy’s design history page shows that the twin pen was the first off the line, but there’s also a fountain pen, ballpoint pen, rollerball, mechanical pencil and tri (multifunction) pen in the cp1 series.

The Lamy cp1 twin multifunction pen lets you switch between a 0.5 mm mechanical pencil and a ballpoint pen. My cp1 has Lamy’s M55 orange highlighter refill instead of a normal ballpoint refill. This way I can write with the pencil in my diary but can also highlight anything that needs further attention.

You’ll find more information in my video review below:


Stationery Factlets #6: Staedtler was the first European manufacturer of mechanical pencil leads 6

Time for another stationery factlet: Staedtler was the first European manufacturer of mechanical pencil leads.

Staedtler made lead holders and leads for the lead holders for a long time. Below is a page from their 1935 catalogue.

Staedtler Catalogue 1935

Staedtler Catalogue 1935

When thinner lead diameters were introduced Staedtler was the first European manufacturer of these thinner leads – the kind of leads I would refer to as mechanical pencil leads.

Staedtler’s catalogues from the 1960s don’t seem to show pictures of these leads, but the catalogue from 1970 does – and it shows a very familiar lead container.

Staedtler Catalogue 1970

Staedtler Catalogue 1970

Staedtler Catalogue 1970

Staedtler Catalogue 1970

The Mars lead container still has the same shape today, but the plastic is now transparent. The opening of this lead container has the perfect diameter for refilling Mars micro mechanical pencils as you can see in the old video from my 2015 neox blog post.


I would like to thank Eberhard Rüdel for his detective work regarding my mechanical lead questions.


The TWSBI Precision Mechanical Pencil in 0.5 mm (and a Quick Look at the Fountain Pen, too) 10

As part of my search for the perfect sliding sleeve pencil, I nearly bought a TWSBI Precision in 2015. I say nearly because after talking to Philip Wang1 I found out that the sleeve is not designed to slide back while you are writing – so I didn’t go ahead with the purchase.

TWSBI Precision – mechanical pencil and fountain pen

 

This Summer, three years later, I had a chance to try out Scribble‘s Precision. He lent his Precision mechanical pencil and fountain pen to a few bloggers for an upcoming United Inkdom meta-review.

TWSBI Precision fountain pen

The Brand

I’ll skip introducing TWSBI here, as by now there is quite a good article about TWSBI on Stationery.wiki. I assume it’s only a matter of time before someone will copy this article into Wikipedia, thanks to Stationery.wiki’s Creative Commons license. Wikipedia has deleted stationery articles in the past, with the argument that the brands, products or people or not ‘notable’ enough, but maybe TWSBI is big enough by now. If not then there is always Stationery.wiki, which is better suited to geek out about stationery.

The Fountain Pen

Let’s talk about the fountain pen first.2 Both are called ‘Precision. Seeing the mechanical pencil and fountain pen together I get that there is a resemblance between both (hexagonal body, round grip section, Caran d’Ache style clip), but it is not very strong (certainly not as strong as with Rotring pens of the same series) and in my opinion they could be part of a different series and didn’t need to have the same name. That said, Precision is a nice name which does represent TWSBI’s expertise.

I have quite a few piston fillers, but I think none of the others has such a small ink window. When filling the pen I couldn’t really see the piston. Somehow the whole mechanism feels very much buried deep in the pen and I didn’t get an intuitive feeling how much ink capacity there is or how much ink there might be left in the pen.

Similar texture (top to bottom: Lamy 2000, Staedtler Pigment Liner, TWSBI Precision)

On a positive note, I did like the surface of the pen very much. It reminds me of the surface of the Lamy 2000 or Staedtler’s Pigment Liner.

Texture Staedtler Pigm. Liner

Texture Lamy 2000

The Precision’s texture

Of all the TWSBI fountain pens I have used or that I own this one is my least favourite. It is a nice pen, but the design just doesn’t work for me. If you like the look of this pen then it might be the right one for you though. As is common with TWSBI you get good quality and a few extras for your money.

The Mechanical Pencil

When I first got the Precision mechanical pencil I didn’t like the look very much. That was then. Over time it really grew on me. By the time I had to send it back to Scribble I was very keen on the looks and on the pencil as a whole. If it wasn’t for the issues I will mention later I would probably order my own TWSBI Precision now.

Similar Pencils

How does this pencil compare to others on the market? To me, it’s similar to a Rotring with some Caran d’Ache mixed in. In my video about this pencil, you’ll see that the clip of the Precision is so similar to a Caran d’Ache that it’s virtually impossible for this similarity to be a coincidence (Jump to 1:05 in the video to see the different clips side by side).

Variations

Some shops referred to a version 1 and version 2 of this pencil. I was not able to find out what version 1 was. It might be a reference to the TWSBI Precision X, I am not sure.

It looks as if the Precision X didn’t make it past the prototype stage. It is somehow similar to the Rotring Rapid, which has been discontinued (not to be confused with the Rapid Pro), but is still available online as new old stock.

Colour-wise current Precision was available in silver and black, but in 2018 only the silver version is available. This has also been confirmed by TWSBI’s Philip Wang.

Tip-wise there is a retractable and a fixed version and diameter-wise there is an 0.5 mm and an 0.7 mm version.

Vitals

As a metal pencil, the Precision is of course on the heavy side. It weighs 25 g. The knurled grip is quite nice, at least in my opinion. the knurling is not as fine as on a Rotring which means little bits of dust and dirt don’t stick as much to the grip section.

Eraser

Most mechanical pencils have quite short erasers. There are of course exceptions to this rule, like the Faber-Castell Executive, the Vario L or some of their Grip pencils. Well, you can add the Precision to this list of exceptions. The Precision pencil even comes with replacement erasers.

My issues with the Precision

Let’s get to the point where I discuss my issues with this pencil. I am still not sure whether my two issues do occur with all Precisions or whether it’s just something the one Precision I had on loan suffered from.

..but fear not! Dave of Dave’s Mechanical Pencils fame said he will have a look at his pencil, so with some luck, you can expect an update here or on his blog. There is also a planned meta-review of the Precision on United Inkdom and I am hoping one of the other reviewers will pick up in the following two points.

a) I had a lot of lead breakage with this pen. Lead breakage that occurred within the Precision that is, i.e. I want to advance the lead, but notice it is broken. This could be down to the fact the lead that was in the pencil when I got it was very soft. It could also have happened during transport, i.e. the lead was already damaged. It could also be linked to my next point.

b) I haven’t used another pencil with that much lead advance. More than 2 mm per click. Compared to other pencils I reviewed as part of my Pencil Videos series it is off the charts (not literally as I can just change the y axis 😜 and it is not off the charts anymore) – have a look.

Comparison lead advance per 10 clicks in mm (rounded to the nearest 0.5 mm)

When I contacted TWSBI’s Philip Wang I didn’t get a clear answer how many mm the lead should advance per click (the answer was basically “that’s a very strange thing to ask”), so I hope Dave will be able to tell me more. Ian reviewed the exact pencil I had in my hands and he reported that the lead advances 1.5 mm per click. My measurement was nearly 50% bigger. Maybe there is something wrong with this specific pencil and the advance shouldn’t be that much?

Update:

Less from the Comfortable Shoes Studio and the RSVP podcast owns the retractable 0.7 mm version. I contacted her and she reports that her pencil gives 1.5 mm of lead at the first click, the next 0.5 mm, then 1 mm and after that it’s always 1 mm or 0.5 mm.

Dave from Dave’s Mechanical Pencils left a comment under this blog post reporting that he also has the retractable 0.7 m version, like Less. He reports that ’10 clicks advance 7.5mm of lead, and I think they are all even, so that’s 0.75mm per click, a relatively normal amount’.

I assume Dave’s Precision works as intended, Less and the one I borrowed from Scribble don’t. I am not sure whether this indicates that the Precision is more prone to ‘lead advance issues’ as we don’t know whether Less’s and Scribble’s pencils weren’t ‘mistreated’, e.g. by the postal service.

Why is the increased lead advance an issue? The more the lead is extended, the more likely it will break (breaking outside the pencil, as opposed to inside the pencil). More nominal (and also axial) pen force (explained in this old blog post) or a more acute your writing angle will make your lead more likely to break. If you hold your pen vertically it could of course also break because of the pen force.

A discussion about a potential link between lead advance and sliding sleeve can be found in the comments to this blog post.

Overall

Overall this is a great pencil. I like the long eraser, I (now) like the looks, I just wish the lead advance would be more in line with other pencils out there.


I would like to thank Scribble for lending me his Precision pens.

If you liked this blog post you might like these other reviews of the Precision mechanical pencil:

 

  1. I was surprised that the boss himself replied when I asked a question on their website. []
  2. I want it out of the way so that we can focus on the mechanical pencil😜 []