Rotring


Holbein x Rotring 600 3 in 1 120th anniversary pen 1

Holbein was celebrating its 120th anniversary in 2020. They are the Japanese stationery manufacturer that imported Rotring into Japan and they took on an ever bigger role after Rotring was bought by Sanford and manufacturing was moved out of Germany.

Holbein became a manufacturer in 1946, so you tend to see 1946 being mentioned as their starting date, but their origins lie in 1900 (as a retailer) and to celebrate their 120th anniversary this 3 in 1 Rotring 600 was released last year.

It comes in matt white, which looks very special, probably mainly because that’s not a typical Rotring colour. The 600 3 in 1 is a recent addition to the Rotring lineup and features a black and red ballpoint pen as well as a mechanical pencil.

You change the pen/colour by twisting the knurled top part of the 600. You’ll find more information about this pen in my video.


Traces of graphite – Massimo Fecchi update 2020 5

I have a small update for my 2016 blog post about Massimo Fecchi, the Italian artist who draws comics with the, in my opinion, best proportions, shapes and lines with beautiful variations.

Massimo Fecchi drawing with his Rotring 500
Fecchi with a Rotring 300 (Image © Massimo Fecchi)

When I asked Massimo about his pencils in 2016 he used a Rotring Tikky II for his initial drawings. Recently, he posted a photo of himself drawing for fans at the Comic Con in Wels, Austria. In this photo, he has switched pencils, or rather pencil models, not the pencil brand. When I asked him he told me that he is now usually using a Rotring 500 in either 0.5 mm or 0.7 mm. He described it as being lighter and more precise than the Tikky II.

Rotring 500 on a Fecchi drawing
Not quite fake news, but this is my Rotring on Massimo’s drawing – not his Rotring

I find it astonishing that even though most of us amateurs associate heavier pens, including mechanical pencils, with a more luxurious pen or better quality, while the professionals, in this case, Massimo, who use pencils as tools to get work done value lightness, probably to stop them from getting some sort of finger fatigue.

Massimo Fecchi's Comic Con Austria sign
Comic Con Wels (Image © Massimo Fecchi)

I believe that the use of this Massimo Fecchi’s photos falls under “fair dealing” as described by the UK Copyright service.


Kaweco’s Royal Blue and other blues

When Scribble offered me to send some Kaweco inks for testing I was quite excited.

My wife and I have, between us, a few Kaweco fountain pens and ink cartridges and in 2012 it got even ‘worse’ when Cultpens had an offer where you could get a free Kaweco Twist and Out Cartridge Dispenser, that offer involved buying even more cartridges.

..but  recently I started assuming that the Kaweco inks have some special properties, based this sentence Cultpens had in their description of Kaweco inks:

The colours and character of these inks is very reminiscent of the long-discontinued rotring inks.

..so Scribble’s offer was very much appreciated.

Scribble's sample and my other blues

Scribble’s sample and my other blues

Well, Cultpens has now removed this sentence from their web site, but nevertheless, I was intrigued. What are those colours and characteristics? They’d have to be somehow special to be worth mentioning. I wouldn’t be surprised if neither Rotring nor Kaweco make/made their own inks, so maybe all of these inks are made by a third party, probably a German company, so are these inks maybe even identical?

Luckily I still had some NOS Rotring ink (even unopened) from many years ago. These are pretty hard to come by these days. I only found one on eBay USA and one on eBay in Europe.

I didn’t know what to expect from the Kaweco and Rotring ink, so the whole thing was more exploratory and I didn’t have any hypotheses, mainly because I wasn’t even sure what Rotring’s magic ink properties are supposed to be.

To find out more I thought I compare the Kaweco and the Rotring blue to some other blues. Unfortunately I didn’t have what I would think of as the standard blue, Pelikan’s royal blue, at home. I also didn’t have Lamy’s blue. I guess after writing with these for more than a decade when I was in school I wanted to try some other inks and never stocked up one them again.

For comparison, additional to the Kaweco and Rotring, I picked Diamine’s Blue Velvet (one of the 150 years anniversary ink) and Cartier Blue (or should that be must de Cartier, as written on the ink bottle?).

Blue ink comparison Kaweco Rotring Diamine Cartier

 

Well, I wasn’t disappointed, but as I mentioned, I didn’t have any expectations either. The Kaweco Royal Blue is definitely a different ink than the Rotring Brillant Blue, also called Ultramarine. To be honest, there are so many languages on the box, I am not sure whether Ultramarine is supposed to be the English name for this ink or the ink in another language, but I have seen people call this ink Ultramarine on the web, so it might help identifying this ink.

Blue ink comparison Kaweco Rotring Diamine Cartier

The Kaweco Blue is stronger and less red than the Rotring Brillant Blue. Have a look.

Blue ink comparison Kaweco Rotring Diamine Cartier

The Rotring is the least blue and most red ink in this comparison. It is however still a proper blue ink.

Blue ink comparison Kaweco Rotring Diamine Cartier

The Diamine Blue Velvet is strong and dark and certainly happier and less serious than the Kaweco (oh my, this is getting very subjective now).

Blue ink comparison Kaweco Rotring Diamine Cartier

The Cartier Blue is probably the most reserved and modest of the bunch.

Well – I am still not clear about these properties of the Rotring and the Kaweco that Cultpens hinted at without going into any details.

Maybe some water can help to solve the mystery?

Blue ink comparison Kaweco Rotring Diamine Cartier

No. I’m still not any closer to finding out what these properties are. Well, it doesn’t matter though. They are all nice blues. I wonder which one I should try next in a fountain pen…

By the way, I used a dip pen with a Brause No 361 nib (Shangching calls this nib the blue pumpkin), to make it easier to control ink cross contamination. This results in much more ink being out on the paper than with your average fountain pen.


Disappointed with the Rotring 800+’s stylus tip 2

I recently got the Rotring 800+ in black and 0.5mm, a mechanical pencil I was very excited about. Unfortunately, the 0.5 mm version in black was slightly more expensive than the silver or 0.7mm version.

Rotring 800+

What is special about the 800+

According to Rotring’s website, the Rotring 800 was introduced in 1993. It features a retractable sleeve and lead [1]It is not a sliding sleeve, so it is either fully retracted or fully extended. When retracted the sleeve will disappear in the body of the pen.. The Rotring 800+, introduced in 2014, is a very similar pencil that features a stylus tip at the front of the pencil, so when the sleeve is retracted you can use the front of the pencil for writing. In that respect, the 800+ is different as most ‘combination pens’ with a stylus tip have it at the end, for example instead of an eraser.

The stylus tip and the sleeve (extended)

The stylus tip and the sleeve (extended)

Rotring’s roller-coaster price

When including postage cost Amazon was the cheapest, selling this version for just under £49 (~$65; €59). Reichelt was cheaper, but unless you buy other products from them to get free shipping the postage cost would have ended making this order more expensive than on Amazon.

Well, suddenly, a few days later, this pen got £10 cheaper, despite the falling post-Brexit vote Pound and it now sells for under £39 (~ $52; €47). It was a gift from my wife, so I didn’t pay for it, but still, £10 cheaper now – not happy. Nevertheless, when it was bought £49 incl. postage was the cheapest price, as far as I know.

Do you remember my Scraping pencils post where I programmed an R script to track price developments on the Cultpens web site? Camelcamel does something similar, but automated, for Amazon products – and when you look the 800+ price is just crazy – according to Camelcamel this pen sold for nearly £60 in December 2014 but was less than £25 in December 2015.

The Rotring 800+, disassembled

The Rotring 800+, disassembled

Stylus performance

Have a look at this video where I have a look at the performance (if that is the right word here) of the stylus. It is quite disappointing. The Staedtler’s Noris Stylus is much cheaper, but performance is similar.

The video should display the force needed in Newton, but this doesn’t seem to display on all mobile devices. It should however work if you watch the video on a computer.

 

When I asked Rotring about the poor performance of the stylus tip their reply included these statements.

There is no difference of sensitivity between different rubber. We also found that you do have to press a little more than with a finger.

Well, as you can see in my (unscientific) test there was a difference between different rubber tips. The second rubber tip that came with the pen needed a force of between 1.2 N and 1.5 N, but the third rubber tip only needed between 0.1 N and 0.8 N.

Rotring 800+

You need to press quite a bit for the stylus to work.  Just a quick back of the envelope calculation that will not be very precise: if I take the Axial Pen Force mentioned in this paper [2]Van Den Heuvela, van Galenb, Teulingsc, van Gemmertc: Axial pen force increases with processing demands in handwriting, see http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0001691898000316 and put them into the equation from this paper [3]
Schomaker, Plamondon: The relation between pen force and pen-point kinematics in handwriting, see http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2FBF00203451
, assuming an angle of 45°, you get a normal pen force of less than 0.9 N. So I some users, on some devices, only have to press a little more than compared to normal writing, but I doubt these people use the same force when they use their fingers on their smartphone. In my case, because I don’t press very hard when writing, the normal pen force used is much lower than the 0.9 N from the back of the envelope calculation. I need to press harder than to get the 800+ to work on my devices, compared to writing on paper and I =most definitely= need to press harder to get the 800+ stylus tip to work compared to using my fingers.

I noticed that the force needed is different for different devices, so the Rotring 800+ might work better on your device, but in any case, you will need much more force than you would if you used your fingers.

I disagree with Rotring’s statements. As far as I can tell there seems to be a difference between different rubber tips and you need to press much more, not just ‘a little more than with your finger’ to get the stylus tip to work.

Rotring 800+

Conclusion

The Rotring 800+ brought a few disappointments:

  • Having paid too much because the price is fluctuating so much (yes, you could blame Amazon for this, but of course people don’t want to pay more than necessary and the cheapest seller, Amazon, happens to be the one with the fluctuating price), making you think you might have gotten a bad deal.
  • Performance of the stylus that is not at all as expected. Luckily I can use it ok-ish for swiping on my virtual keyboard [4]I use one of those swipe keyboard inputs as once you ‘get a lock’, i.e. the device recognised something is pressing against the display you don’t need too much force to keep the movement going.

This blog post has been brought to you by River Raid


Price and exchange rates: June 2016 (These are post-Brexit vote exchange rates)

If you found the bit about the axial pen force interesting, I have previously mentioned this, including in the Del Guard post.

You can find reviews of the 800+ at the Pen Addict and at Clicky Post. There is also a YouTube review of this pencil.

As usual, please open the images in a new tab to see them in high resolution.

Rotring 800+

References

References
1It is not a sliding sleeve, so it is either fully retracted or fully extended. When retracted the sleeve will disappear in the body of the pen.
2Van Den Heuvela, van Galenb, Teulingsc, van Gemmertc: Axial pen force increases with processing demands in handwriting, see http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0001691898000316
3
Schomaker, Plamondon: The relation between pen force and pen-point kinematics in handwriting, see http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2FBF00203451
4I use one of those swipe keyboard inputs

Pimp my Rotring rapid PRO 0.5

This is a follow-up blog post to my earlier blog post about the Rotring rapid PRO 0.5.

The Rotring rapid PRO is a stunningly beautiful mechanical pencil, at least the black version is …for my taste. As you might remember the sliding sleeve was the worst performing sliding sleeve I have seen so far.

My Rotring rapid PRO 0.5 taken apart

The purpose of a sliding sleeve

The main purpose of a sliding sleeve is, in my opinion, to slide back while you write so that you can keep writing without having to press the button / use whatever mechanism there is to advance the lead.

If the sliding sleeve doesn’t slide back easily you might as well got for a retractable sleeve, one that is either all the way in or out. This make the pencil pocket safe and allows work that is more suitable for drafting purposes, too.

On the unmodified rapid PRO 0.5 you had to use a force of about 1.2 N to get the sleeve to move – far too much to make the sleeve slide back automatically while you write.

The Rotring rapid PRO 0.5's sleeve

The sleeve

Pimp my sliding sleeve

Having never explored how the sliding sleeve mechanism works I assumed ‘simple’ friction is responsible for the force needed to slide the sleeve. The problem is: I thought it’s the friction between the sleeve and grip section holding the sleeve (the grip section can be seen on the left in the first picture). To reduce the friction I took the sleeve out and started removing material from the sleeve on my Spyderco Sharpmaker. This made the sleeve thinner, something I had hoped would reduce the friction, but after a while I noticed that this treatment didn’t help making the sleeve slide easier at all.

The Rotring rapid PRO 0.5's sleeve on a Spyderco Sharpmaker

Trying to reduce the friction – the wrong way: the sleeve on a Sharpmaker

I then figured out that the friction holding the sleeve in place must be caused by the white plastic holder at the bottom of the sleeve. I started using the file from my Swiss Army knife [1]Fun fact: I got this knife from my godfather in the 1980s and I believe it is the same model as the one that the astronauts used on the Space Shuttle, just mine has a cork screw instead of a screw … Continue reading to remove some of the plastic, i.e. making the plastic holder narrower, but that took too long, so in the end I just cut bits of the plastic off with the knife.

This time it worked. Great!

Trying to file some of the plastic off....

Trying to file some of the sleeve holder’s plastic off….

From 1.2 N to 0.2 N

The result: You now only need about 0.2 N to slide the sleeve of my rapid PRO, which makes it suitable for writing without having to advance the lead all the time. This is an amazing result – because of the bigger lead diameter you can’t compare an 0.5 mm sleeve directly to the 0.2 mm sleeve of the Orenz. Just the friction caused by the 0.5 mm lead in the rapid PRO’s sleeve (i.e. just these two parts, ‘outside’ the pencil) means that you need 0.1 N just to slide the sleeve down the lead – that’s without the additional force needed to slide the sleeve within the pencil barrel/ grip section.

If I’d have to do it all again I obviously wouldn’t make the metal sleeve narrower. It made the sleeve a bit more wobbly, but it is not really an issue. It is certainly still less wobbly than a Kuru Toga or Muji’s flat clip mechanical pencil.

That's one small scrape off [a] sleeve, one giant leap in the friction chart.

That’s one small scrape off [a] sleeve, one giant leap in the friction chart.


More about the Cloud Book in the blog post, I’m still using it regularly.

References

References
1Fun fact: I got this knife from my godfather in the 1980s and I believe it is the same model as the one that the astronauts used on the Space Shuttle, just mine has a cork screw instead of a screw driver.