Some years ago Mitsubishi came out with a unique pencil under the uni (uni-ball) label. They called it the Kuru Toga, meaning auto rotation pencil. The idea was a simple one, rotate the lead in the pencil rather than having the user rotate the pencil in order to keep the end of the lead, where it contacts the paper, from ovaling, or flattening, out. When the lead ovals out the line it produces is wider than the actual diameter of the lead itself. The lead also ends up with a sharp angular point that causes the lead to dig into the paper, when the pencil id rotated, and breaks the lead. This is especially true with small diameter leads like 0.5 mm and 0.3 mm. Draftsmen once were taught to rotate the pencil in their hand as they drew a line to give the lead a conical point and avoid lead breakage. However with so many of us using drafting pencils and mechanical pencils designed like drafting pencils to write with the draftsman's technique does not work. But the ratcheting mechanism of the Kuru Toga does.
Basically the mechanism works much like the mechanism that operates a "click" style pen. Teeth in a clutch, under spring tension, hold the tip in place until pressure is put on the tip, such as what happens when one puts pencil to paper. The clutch releases, rotates the lead a small degree the reengages, much like when one presses the push button on a "click" style pen. As one writes the constant pressing and releasing of the lead to the paper causes a continual flow of energy to the Kuru Toga engine, rotating the lead continually, giving it and keep a conical point. The result is less lead breakage and a written line with a diameter less than the actual diameter of the lead. Thus a 0.5 mm pencil delivers close to a 0.3 mm line and a 0.3 mm pencil close to a 0.2 mm line. Brilliant!
|0.5 mm version|
The original Kuru Toga was an almost entirely plastic pencil with a metal tip cover and a clear grip. The grip was clear so the user could see the auto rotating mechanism in action and be amazed at the brilliance of Japanese engineering! Or something like that. The tip cover has a rubber ring around it to enhance the grip of the pencil. This pencil was first offered in 0.5 mm only, then later in 0.5 mm and 0.3 mm.
|0.3 mm version|
But the pencil, as awesome as the design was, is as inelegant as it is functional. Enter the High Grade. This was the next phase in the Kuru Toga line. It featured a more elegant looking and smaller diameter upper body as well as a metal pocket clip and more traditional mushroom style push button. A metal conical ring separates the upper body from the lower, which retains much the same shape as the original Kuru Toga. Only the clear grip is now opaque, being a sliver/white silken plastic with a small "port hole" window with which to view the rotation Kuru Toga Symbol. The tip cap was also redesigned, being slightly longer with a tighter fitting rubber grip ring.
|High Grade version|
This was a major improvement over the original Kuru Toga as far as athletics goes. The auto rotation engine was unchanged in the High Grade. There was no real reason to change it. It works so why mess with it in order to make it slightly slimmer? Or perhaps the design had reached it'd limits miniaturization wise while being made from plastic and using other materials may have not been cost effective! Who knows? This design may have been the final version had it not been for, in my opinion, the grip!
The grip retained the original shape and size as the original Kuru Toga, which in itself is not a bad thing. The bad thing is the material it is made of and it's lack of any knurled surfaces makes the High Grades grip less effective than the original! I personally find the grip hard to hold. The pencil has a tendency to ride up in my hand making it hard to write with. I have little idea as to why they chose the material they did to make the grip from. It almost feels like a hard silicon grip! Had they made the grip from a less slick material or had they put some type of knurling on the grip then the design may have reached it's peak.
Enter the Roulette. This is what the High Grade should have been. The upper body of the Roulette is the same as the High Grade, but in silver, and so is the tip cover. The big difference between the two pencils is the grip. Here they finally got it right. The grip of the Roulette is made from aluminum and is a straight barrel with 3 wide knurled rings at the bottom of the grip where it meets the tip cover.
The knurled rings add a considerable amount of gripping surface to the pencil. I find the Roulette by far the easiest Kuru Toga to grip and write with. I really like mine and I use it all he time. Up until the Roulette my "go to" pencil had been a Pentel P203 0.3 mm pencil. But like all 0.3 mm pencils, the lead still breaks too often. I really can not recall the 0.5 mm lead breaking on me while using the Roulette with the proper amount of lead extended. So the Kuru Toga Roulette has now become my "go to" pencil.
Other than athletics the Kuru Toga family of mechanical pencils all share the same auto rotation engine. The also share the same low capacity, hard to feed lead into lead reservoir! Lead has to be fed into the reservoir one-piece-at-a-time and the reservoir fills up fast (well as fast as it can being fed one lead at time). They also share the same basic take down.
The push button comes off, the eraser pulls out, the tip cover unscrews and the lead sleeve/tip pops off. The lead sleeve/tips and tip covers are different between the two basic pencil designs and so is the end of the pencils where the tips/lead sleeves and tip covers fit. The erasers and push button/eraser covers also are completely different. So of the 4 removable parts none are interchangeable between the 2 designs.
Bottom line is that while all the Kuru Togas have their fine points, my favorite by far is the Roulette, for reasons already stated. However the roulette may not be, and I'm sure that it isn't, every ones favorite Kuru Toga. The best way to find out which one is best suited to you, the reader, try each one out and see which one fits you best.
The Old Geezer