Stabilo LeftRight

The biggest stationery shop I know on Shanghai’s FuZhou road is in the building labelled “Shanghai culture commercial building”. Unlike the small, independent stationery shops found nearby this shop is state-owned – at least I think it is. In this shop different brands have their own different counters and staff and even though prices are a bit higher than in some surrounding shops prices are still reasonable compared to what you pay in shopping malls or in hip and funky stores which tend to charge you a packet just because they are so cool…

Shanghai culture commercial building

The Stabilo LeftRight

One of the things I bought in the Shanghai culture commercial building, on New Year’s Eve, was Stabilo’s LeftRight. Officially referred to as a retractable pencil this is a leadholder for 2mm leads.

I paid  ¥18 (~ £1.80; $2.90; €2.20) for this set which includes the leadholder, a very nice eraser, a lead sharpener – very nice, too, and a container with four 2mm leads, supposedly 2H. I wouldn’t call these 2H. For me they are definitely softer than H B. As we know there is no standard to say what is HB, what is 2B, etc.,  but even in Asia, where leads with the same grade are generally much softer than in the West, most manufacturers wouldn’t label the leads that come with the LeftRight as 2H. Back to the set: all items that come as part of the set are blue and triangular. There is also a pink set available and as far as I know both, the right-handed and the left-handed version, are available in both colours. The items from the set do look quite nice. In my eye, the worst looking of these items is actually the leadholder, just because it looks a bit plasticy.

The problem

The left-handed and right-handed version of this leadholder come with a “ergonomic triangular thumb pointer grip for correct gripping”. Unfortunately there is a problem with this pen: because of the indentations there is only one comfortable position for holding this pencil. That’s intended. The (probably) unintended consequence is that the 2mm lead will always be used on the same side and will get too wide too soon which means that it will need sharpening too often – at least when you use the LeftRight for writing Western text. The situation might be different if you draw or if you write Asian character and hold the leadholder vertically like a brush. Rotating the pencil, to compensate for the one-sided use, is not really comfortable and rotating the leadholder mechanism in the pencil is only possible of you remove the triangular cap.

The Stabilo LeftRight on a Seagull notebook



The original idea for this leadholder might have been good, but the execution is less than exciting. I would not be surprised if a ballpoint pen user came up with the ergonic grip series idea – which I guess works well on the LeftRight ballpoint pen. It is really a shame because all the items that come with the Pencil set look quite good together. You really want to use this pencil, but it has such an off-putting property… I use it… …nevertheless …at least for now. All in all still not a bad buy as value for money is excellent, at least if you get it for a good price. The LeftRight seems to be for sale in very few countries [1]including China, Malaysia and Russia . I am not sure whether Stabilo wants to start selling it in more countries or whether they have realised that something is not right therefore and don’t introduce the leadholder in more markets.

Presharpened vs. sharpener-sharpened


Price: December 2011

Exchange rates: February 2012

You can find information about the LeftRight on Stabilo’s Malaysia page.

There’s also a commercial for the LeftRight.



1 including China, Malaysia and Russia

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