Every now and then I come across a pencil that I'd never seen or heard of before. That shouldn't surprise me as I am not arrogant enough to believe that "I've seen them all". But when I do come across something strange or unusual it's generally something old or out of manufacturer or from a company that I've never heard of or has long gone out of business or has had a name change, etc. It's rare that I come across a new, modern pencil that's still being made in one form or another that I've never heard a bout or seen. But that's just the case with the Retro 1951 Hex-O-Matic drafting pencil. Until I was gifted the pencil I didn't know they existed! But then again, I've been away from blogging for a while, so anything could have slipped by me!
Apparently the company has been around since 1990! But the reason they have slipped under my radar is because the manufacturer ball point pens! They have a line called the Tornado, which seems to be their best seller, which also includes a few mechanical pencils. The pens/ mechanical pencils all share the same basic shape! They all look like a round metal spike! The design of each is unique but the shape is always the same! While not unattractive pens/pencils, they just aren't for me. The Hex-O-Matic is more in line with what I look for in a drafting pencil.
The overall look is indeed retro. As one can see the overall design on the outside looks a lot like the rotring 600 and family as well as the Koh-I-Noor Rapiodomatic series. It has a hexagonal barrel forming the main part of the body, and a round knurled grip which is slightly smaller than the barrel itself. Integral with and above the body is a pocket clip, which rests in a recess in the body. Then there is the area above the pocket clip which on similar designs houses the lead grade indicator but on the Hex-O-Matic is just knurled bright metal with a satin bright metal push button with the numerals "51" painted on the end. The pocket clip is also satin bright metal as is the tip with the lead sleeve being bright stainless steel. There is a black band between the body and the knurled top ring where the two join.
The only wording on the pencil aside from the "51" on the push button is on the pocket clip, which has stamped into the ring, "RETRO 1951 HEX-O-MATIC".
The body is made from aluminium which on most pencils is clear anodized giving the pencil that raw metal look. Or it is anodized black. If the surface of the pencil is rough when anodized it has a flat, rough texture! If smooth, then it will have a smooth texture. But this version of the Hex-O-matic is not finished in the traditional way. It's been painted white! I have never seen a white drafting pencil before. Now let's not confuse the color white with the term "white metal" or "In the white", which means in both cases, the raw color of the base metal. This is usually a silver tone of some sort. But this pencil has actually been painted white (backed on enamel, I hope). While not an unpleasing color, it is unusual. However it is not offered in white on the Retro 1951 website!
The only 2 finishes currently offered on the Hex-O-Matic pencils and companion pen, is black (anodized, I assume) and silver (clear anodized). It appears that the white painted finish is no longer sold. Probably because of paints lack of durability, especially on such an item as a pencil which is going to get banged a round a bit! It's also a much heavier finish than anodize. This means when it chips, there is a hole where the paint used to be. Just like a chip out of a car body! So I'm not surprised that the company dropped the painted white pencil from the lineup.
The Hex-O-Matic has one very nice feature, a sliding sleeve! Most pencils will have a fixed lead sleeve about 4 mm long. This can be a hazard when the pencil if placed into a shirt pocket! Ouch! So some pencil makers have come up with various ways of hiding the lead sleeve to protect it and the user! One way is the hide-away or projecting sleeve. Another is the sliding sleeve. The difference between the two is that the former will lock in the extended position while the latter is free floating and as the lead wears down the sleeve moves with it, protecting the lead. The Hex-O-Matic is a true sliding sleeve pencil.
Some other features of the pencil are a smooth, but noisy, ratcheting action, smooth transition from hidden to extended lead sleeve and a hidden clean out rod under the eraser. That's becoming a rarer and rarer find in drafting pencils now a days. The grip is nicely knurled however I think that the fact that it's painted detracts from the bite it could have if it were anodized. As is the grip is adequate. The overall fit and finish is very good. The paint job is even with no drip marks or runs. All the joints are tight with no gaps. Over all the appearance is very pleasing, it's a very attractive pencil, even in white.
Hum... I suppose that you, the reader, would like some stats, huh? Well, OK, here goes... The pencil,with tip hidden is 134 mm long, 137 with it extended. Across the flats the body measures 8.4 mm while the diameter of the grip is 8.2 mm. The pencil weighs 21.8 grams and the balance point is64 mm from the tip and 72 mm from the bush button. Technically this means the pencil is top heavy, but in reality when held in the writing position the pencil feels quite well balanced. From a "cold start" (lead sleeve hidden) one push of the lead advancement button (push button) extends the lead sleeve. a second push extends a minimal amount of lead while a third extends enough to write with. The lead reservoir is of average capacity and can hold 6 leads easily. All things considered the Hex-O-Matic delivers a pleasant writing experience.
The only time you may need to break down the Hex-O-Matic is to clear a lead jam. but in order to do so you practically have to break it down completely! First, hold the grip and body in opposite hands and unscrew the two apart. Next, separate the tip from the grip in the same fashion. Now do the same to separate the tip from the clutch assembly (hint: they separate at the point the metals change colors). Now hold the tube so that the clutch is pointed down and remove the push button to reveal the eraser. Remove the eraser and replace the push button to avoid spilling all the lead from the reservoir. See All Jammed Up for further instructions. To put the pencil back together simply reverse the breakdown procedure.
My over all impression of the Hex-O-Matic is a very good one. I like the way it feels and writes as well as how it works internally. The white paint issue aside there is just one thing I dislike about the Hex-O-Matic. And that's the fact that it comes in one lead size only! That one size is 0.7 mm! The only thing, for me, that could make the pencil less appealing is if it came in 0.9 mm only! Having said that, well, regular readers of my humble blog know my prejudice against any lead size above 0.4 mm! So with that in mind I'd say Retro 1951 has a winner in the over all design and construction of the Hex-O-Matic! Thy would reach a broader customer base, however, if they would produce the pencil in the full range of available lead sizes. But, if you are in the market for a 0.7 mm drafting style pencil, then by no means overlook the Retro 1951 Hex-O-Matic.
For Hans and Penelope. Thanks for reading my blog.