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.
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.
Another blog post about my stationery adventures in Shanghai.
This time I want to show you another mechanical pencil I bought: The Orenz in 0.3.
This is my fourth Orenz now, but the first one in 0.3 mm. I guess you might say I’m overdoing it a bit, but it is a really nice pencil, so I couldn’t resist trying out the 0.3 mm version.
When I bought it I had certain expectations.
Hypothesis 1: The 0.3 mm will need more force to slide the sleeve than the 0.2 mm version.
This is based the assumption that there is a bigger area of contact between lead and sleeve and between the sleeve and the rest of the body, which would result in more friction.
Hypothesis 2: The Orenz in 0.3 mm will need less force than the Staedtler Microfix S 0.5 to slide the sleeve.
This is based the assumption that there is a smaller area of contact between lead and sleeve and between the sleeve and the rest of the body, which would result in less friction.
Price and colour
I bought the black version for 50 元 (~$7.60; £5.20; €7) from Shanghai Jiajun Craft Gifts Co. Most stores on FuZHou Road charge 55 元, but one or two charged 50. I bought mine in one of the cheaper shops. Some of the Orenz in the shops had the Japanese packaging, some had the English packaging.
On the web I have seen a gorgeous dark green version of the Orenz, but I’ve only seen it online so far – it wasn’t available in any of the shops I visited, so in the end I bought the black version because I didn’t like pink and I already have the white and blue versioning 0.2 mm.
Well, I wasn’t keen on the black version when I bought it, but now I started to like it. With the right light the shiny black surface can look really good.
What about the sliding sleeve?
So what about the force needed to slide the sleeve.
Hypothesis 1 was correct. When I checked I had to use 1 dN – 2 dN to slide the sleeve, certainly much more than what is needed for the 0.2 mm version.
To my surprise Hypothesis 2 was not correct. I had to use more force to slide the sleeve of the Orenz in 0.3 mm compared to my Staedtler Microfix S 0.5 77305.
To qualify this point: Other Orenz and especially other Microfix might behave differently. Some leads might have a slightly different diameter than others, which might result in different numbers when testing the force needed. Plus: my Microfix was bought in the 1980s, Staedtler stopped selling them in 1988, so maybe it got better with time. On the other hand, maybe Staedtler just did a stellar job with the Microfix and created a sliding sleeve that is unsurpassed by modern pencils.
Other items I bought in the shop
Other items I bought in the shop include an Indonesian Castell 9000 and a 12B pencil from Lotory.
The background of the first photos is a tribute to Lexikaliker, who kindled my interest in the Orenz – just that my background isn’t a Tenugui, but a Furoshiki – in my case a non-woven wrapping sheet from Muji.
Thanks to Lexikaliker whetting my my appetite and with some help from Shangching I got my hands on a Pentel Orenz. I have been using it for a few weeks now and like it very much. A blog post will follow, hopefully, once my time permits.
One of the nice features of the Orenz is the sliding sleeve. You don’t have to keep manually forwarding the lead to be able to keep writing. Instead the sleeve will slide back while you write until there’s no sleeve left. Only then do you have to forward the lead – and the sleeve will slide out again.
Retractable vs sliding sleeve
Just to clarify, when I write about a sliding sleeve I mean a one that slowly slides back while you write. The other type, a sleeve that is either completely out (for writing) or completely in (for transport) is the type I call a retractable sleeve. I hope these labels are correct, I’m not sure, but this helps to avoid confusing both types. Please let me know if the names I use for the sleeves are wrong.
In the past
The sliding sleeve is nothing new. The Staedtler Microfix Available from 1977 until 1988. I used in school could do that. At that time Staedtler sold mechanical pencils with three different types of sleeves: fixed (F models), half slide (HS models) and full slide (S / SL models), but as far as I know the sliding sleeves have disappeared in the late 1980s.
Why are they gone?
Unfortunately these types of mechanical pencils are quite rare. I can see the advantage of a fixed sleeve for an engineer who needs his or her pencil to create precise drawings, but these days that kind of work is done on a computer – so why did the sliding sleeve not come back? In my opinion it provides a much better writing experience than a fixed sleeve mechanical pencil.
You can still get mechanical pencils with sliding sleeves. One example is Caran d’Ache’s 844 pencil, mentioned previously, but the 844’s sleeve is quite wide meaning it will prevent full contact of the lead with the paper – the sleeve is in the way when you are writing.