If you read Bleistift blog regularly you might have noticed that I really like the Pentel Orenz. I think it’s the best sliding sleeve pencil since Staedtler’s Microfix.
The sliding sleeve works well and the pencil’s design is great, too, but unfortunately there is one weakness in the design that caused one of my Orenz mechanical pencils an issue: The metal clip is very close to the push button and there is only a very narrow strip of plastic to hold it in place. This narrow strip of plastic is will have to bear the brunt of any outward pressure the springiness of the clip cannot handle.
If you regularly clip the pencil onto slightly thicker pockets (or notebooks etc) the plastic will weaken over time and will eventually break off. In my case I regularly carry the Orenz in a pen pocket on my jacket. The pen pocket is not that thick, but apparently thick enough to cause this issue.
If you are squeamish please look away, the following photos, showing pencil mutilations, are not a sight for the faint hearted.
When the plastic from my Orenz broke off I didn’t initially notice as I was in a meeting. I just noticed that, when holding the pencil, the clip seems to be very loose.
Some closer inspection revealed the true horror and damage, though.
Here is a comparison how this looks like on an undamaged Orenz.
I love sliding sleeve pencil and am a big fan of Pentel’s Orenz, so naturally, I couldn’t resist when, last year, I saw a fake Pentel Orenz for sale. Well, I say fake, but this copy doesn’t actually pretend to be an Orenz, nevertheless, it is as close as can be…
At the time when I bought it the fake Orenz wasn’t much cheaper than the real thing. I bought mine in November 2017 for £2.23 (~ $3.16; €2.55), but now you can get them for much less (£1.32 or $1.50 with free postage).
In a recent blog post I introduced the new Pentel orenznero, also called PP3002, its model number (for the 0.2mm version).
As you probably know nero means black in Latin and Italian – and, surprise surprise, the orenznero is black. Nero is also oren, as in oren(z), spelt backwards. Pentel seems to try to emphasise this fact by not using capital letters and the o on both ends of orenznero is stylised as, what looks to me like, a lead in a pencil sleeve viewed from the top.
Thanks to Yumiko I got one just after it was released in Japan. Altogether I paid just over £30 (~$36;35).
Here are my observations regarding this pencil after a week of use.
Transporting this pencil
First off: transporting this pen.
You can’t make this pencil pocket safe very easily. It is possible to retract the sleeve, but you have to push the sleeve/pipe really hard into the body of the pen, for example with your fingernail.
It’s also not a great pen to transport in pen sleeves/pockets/slots I am trying to clarify here as very different things are called a sleeve.. If you try to put this pencil in a pocket where the pencil’s sleeve or pipe will touch the material of the pen slot (think of something like the Nock Co Hightower) the lead will forward and possibly break in your pen slot.
The Orenznero looks beautiful. Especially on photos where you think it has something of the allure of the Rotring 800.
In reality, the Orenznero feels much cheaper. The body is made from plastic, but it is nice to touch plastic with a little bit of a texture.
The original Orenz is a great pencil. It felt as if Pentel revived an old friend of mine, the Staedtler Microfix.
In my previous blog post about the Orenznero, I talked about the history of the sliding sleeve pencil and about alternatives, including very cheap alternatives from Faber-Castell that cost less than a tenth of what I paid for the Orenznero.
Well, I have to say that the Orenznero feels, of course, better and is better made, but because the original or classic Orenz was so good I somehow expected that the Orenznero represents a quantum leap for auto advance pencils. This is not the case! It is, however, a nice pencil.
The Orenznero will work great is you hold it vertically, but if you write at an angle the sleeve will not glide back properly as it does with the classic Orenz, so if you don’t use light pressure when writing your graphite lines on the paper will get very thin or will even disappear as the sleeve will cover them. The force needed to slide the sleeve starts very low, like a classic Orenz, but the more the sleeve is pushed into the body the more pressure you need, in the end up to 0.3N.
Advancing the lead with a click and using the Orenznero like a normal pencil is not an option as it will advance too much of the 0.2mm lead – it would break. One thing to add, the Orenznero is very comfortable to write with hand has a nice centre of gravity in the front half.
It’s a nice pencil, but it requires a bit more pressure to write with. This is off putting in my case, as I am not so keen on pens that subconsciously make me change my writing habit (in this case to make me press harder when writing), something that might turn into the behaviour I use with other pens, too.
Just because it is such a nicely designed pencil I will use it a bit longer though, at least for now.
Auto-advancing mechanical pencils have been around for a while now. The Faber-Castell alpha-matic was released in the 1970s and was, as far as I know, the first of this type You can’t this model them for quite a while now and used prices for the alpha-matic can easily reach £200 (~$250; €235) or more..
These pencils usually work by forwarding the lead a bit when the sleeve or cone near the tip is depressed while writing. This will forward the lead a bit. As forwarding the lead is done automatically every time the sleeve is pressed during writing there is no need to push the pencil’s button anymore.
Pilot has a pencil similar to the Faber-Castell alpha-matic, but Pilot’s version is still made today. It’s called the Automac and looking at the grip section I think that the mechanism isn’t the only thing this pencil has borrowed from the alpha-matic. I think the Automac pays homage to the original auto-advancing pencil with its similar grip section.
My experience with auto-advancing pencils
If you want to try out a pencil like this: Faber-Castell still has you covered: For under £3 (~<$3.50; <€3.50) you can get a plasticky one with a cone that does the job. Ten years ago I used these a lot, just because of the novelty (at least for me it was new at that time). It was the only auto-forwarding pencil I have ever used. It worked well for me, but anytime I’d hand it over to a colleague to write with, especially if the pencil is filled with coloured leads, the user was almost guaranteed to break the lead and clog up the mechanism as it didn’t work well with soft leads, like coloured leads, at all.
Enter Pentel’s orenznero
When Pentel’s fibonacci mountain video came out last week I was immediately intrigued. In this video the new orenznero is used in a plotter. I never owned a plotter, but having spent most of my pocket money in the 1980s on computer magazines the video was more than fascinating as a normal plotter wouldn’t work with a pencil for long periods of time without some extra mechanism. Pencils tend to get shorter when you write, unlike ballpoint pens or fountain pens, so the plotter would either have to lower the pencil again and again (for wood-cased and mechanical pencils) or it would have to press the button to forward the lead (for mechanical pencils).
The plotter in Pentel’s video doesn’t do either, so the orenznero must have some sort of auto-forwarding mechanism. Just like when writing with a normal Orenz, you can write for a long time with the new orenznero without having to push the button to forward the lead, but this time it’s not the sleeve retracting, it’s the lead forwarding that makes this possible.
Some of the diagrams from Pentel make me think that their mechanism works even if the sleeve doesn’t touch the paper at all, but I am not sure about that and the Japanese I learned at university in the 1990s is just enough for me to decipher some Katakanas, not enought to figure out how the orenznero works, so I’ll have to wait and see.
The good news is that Yumiko, I mentioned her before on this blog, has bought me one already, from Umeda (Osaka) Loft, so I will be able to try it out soon.
There is a 0.2mm and a 0.3mm version. Even though 0.3mm would enable me to use Stadtler Mars micro and Pilot neox graphite leads I asked for the 0.2mm version as that is closer to a freshly sharpened wood-cased pencil and fits my small writing better. Well, it turned out that the 0.3mm version was sold out anyway and there were only two or three 0.2mm pencils left. Lucky me!
I would like to thank Yumiko for helping me to get this pencil.
You might have seen my Facebook post about the recently released 0.5 mm and 0.7 mm version of the Orenz and about the Orenz Mannish Line that will be released in June.
The Mannish Line has some interesting colour combinations. Very tempting.
The Orenz in 0.5 mm and 0.7 mm doesn’t seem to be available in Japan. The one I bought was the official UK version, but made in Japan, of course.
The sliding sleeve
The 0.3 mm version of the Orenz needed quite a bit more force to slide the sleeve than the 0.2 mm version, see the sliding sleeve table for more information. This made me think that the 0.5 mm version will need even more force to slide the sleeve, but to my surprise that was not the case. While the 0.3 mm version needs more than 0.1 Newton, the 0.5 mm version needs only about 0.1 Newton. That’s still more than the best 0.5 mm pencil, the Staedtler Microfix S, but as far as I know, this is the best value for a pencil currently in production. Using different leads might result in different values, but both the 0.3 mm and the 0.5 mm version of the Orenz were tested with the original leads they came with.
Weight: 10.4 grams
Length: 14.5 centimetres
Diameter of the grip section: ~8 millimetres
Force needed to slide the sleeve: ~0.1 newton
Overall: it’s a fantastic pencil. Pentel’s pencil designs are very polarising for me, I either love or dislike them, but the Orenz has a design I really love, unlike the P20x series liked by many, but not me.
It’s a shame that this pencil is only available in black. Pentel, please release it in other colours, too.