Welcome To My Thoughts On Pens And Pencils

I will respect your right to disagree with what I have to say about Pens and Pencils as long as you respect the fact that I am an Old Geezer.

My Obsession

My Obsession
A Beauty Every One... And There's More At Home!

All Jammed Up?

If you need detailed instructions on how to clear a lead jam from a mechanical pencil then click this link, "All Jammed Up?" or the link in the pages header.


Please enjoy your stay at my humble blog. Please feel free to leave a comment about any article that you read
. Also please notice that there are four reactions at the bottom of each article. If you find any article funny, interesting, cool or helpful please so indicate. Thank you for visiting my blog.

The Old Geezer
Please Excuse My Absence

I have not blogged since July of 2015 due to the fact that my Lovely Wife was diagnosed with 2 types of cancer. A new case of breast cancer which has metastasized and gone to her bones, mainly her back. She had a mastectomy of her left breast which showed the type of cancer that was in her bones. She has been taking an oral med. every day and she has a port under her skin to receive a liquid med. She has gone through one round of radiation treatments to stop some pain in her back. That gave her GERD and the med for that was nasty tasting. The bone cancer has caused the vertebra in her lower back to pinch her left sciatic nerve causing her pain, numbness and foot drag. She also has skin cancer that has only been partly addressed.

I have been busy taking care of her as the treatments have left her weak and sickly. She can not drive so I have to drive her to her appointments and treatments. I also have to do all the cooking and most of what cleaning we do. So I do not have a lot of time for blogging. However the installment of the review of the Schaeffer Ultrafine 0.3mm pencil marks what I hope will be a new review every month. However some of my future reviews may seem familiar as they may be a review of a pencil or pen that I have reviewed before just in another size due to my limited collection of writing instruments and the economic state of our nation.

I am grateful to George Fox for wanting me to do a review of another one of his pencils. I think that as a reader of my humble blog, may fine of interest as the Schaeffer Ultra Fine is a very unusual pencil.

So please excuse my absence and as a reader of my humble blog I hope that you enjoy the review of this unique pencil.

Coming Soon...

Thank you,

The Old Geezer.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Pentel GraphGear 1000, "The Hunchback" in 0.3mm

For the longest time I avoided buying this pencil because I did not like the look of the pocket clip. It reminds me of Quasimodo, the hunchback in The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Not that hunchbacks can't be beautiful people. They can. I even have a figment that's a hunchback and he's, eh, bad example. Let's just say that it looked odd to me and let it go at that. (Man! You've got to be "politically correct" about everything now-a-days or you'll offend somebody somewhere!). I thought that it was made as it is so that the user could clip the pencil to a notebook full of paper or onto a jeans pocket, you know, something thick. While it can do this it is not the pocket clips main purpose. More about that later.

One thing I noticed about the Pentel GraphGear 1000 it that the exterior is metal while the interior is mostly plastic. Most pencils that are called "all-metal" are made from brass because brass is easy to machine. It is also strong enough to be used in the making of a drafting pencil. The actual lead sleeve is usually made of stainless steel because a brass tube that small would easily crush and bend. It is also softer thus prone to wear. However the Pentel GraphGear 1000s exterior is made of steel or stainless steel! I'm starting to be impressed.

The advantage of using steel/stainless steel in a drafting pencils construction is that steel is stronger than brass or aluminum. It takes a lot more pressure to bend a small tube of steel/stainless steel than it does of brass or aluminum. You can also make the skin of a pencil thinner. The trade off may be that the pencil is now heavier than one made of brass or aluminum, but not always. The GraphGear 1000 weighs 20.6 grams approximately while a rotring 600, which is made almost entirely of brass, weighs 22.7 grams approximately. The weight savings is achieved by using a plastic inner core for most of the pencil.

Steel and some stainless steels are magnetic. About the only metal parts of the GraphGear 1000 that are not magnetic are the push button, the lead reservoir (interior) and the lead sleeve (interior and exterior). These parts are most likely stainless steel with a low or no carbon content. The pocket clip is high carbon steel chrome plated. All the steel/stainless steel parts have been coated or plated to achieve the desired finish and for durability. I'm even more impressed now.

Now, about that pocket clip... The pencil is designed so that the lead sleeve is retractable. The obvious benefit of this is that the 4.5mm lead sleeve won't be poking you in the chest and/or ruining your good shirts (dried blood is hard to get out of some fabrics). The designers of the GraphGear 1000 decided to spring load the lead reservoir, of which the lead sleeve is attached, wrap a big coil spring around it and use the spring loaded pocket clip as a stop and release button.

There are 2 cutouts in the body of the pencil, near the top. The pocket clip has a leaf spring attached to it which extends down into the top cutout. The end is attached to a short metal tube which is held in place by the stepped ring just above the pocket clip. The other end of the pocket clip rests on a short plastic tube surrounding the metal lead reservoir. As the push button atop the pencil is pressed the entire lead reservoir is moved down pushing the leas sleeve out the tip of the pencil. When the end of the pocket clip slips over the end of the short plastic tube it locks the lead reservoir in place, with the lead sleeve extended. Further presses of the push button simply extend more lead.

Parts of the Pentel GraphGear 1000
To release the lead reservoir and retract the lead sleeve all one does is press the top of the pocket clip towards the pencil.  The plastic tube inside is released and the lead sleeve is retracted with a snap.  Not a bad way to extend and hide the lead sleeve.  It is certainly quicker than the twist/screw system of the Ohto Super Promechas.  The weak point in this design is the leaf spring in the top of the pocket clip.  Heavy usage of the pencil over a long, long, long time could cause the leaf spring to fail.  But I don't think that if I were a young man of 20 again and I used the pencil every day for long periods I think that now that I am a man of advanced years the pencil would still be going strong.

So, what are some of the other features of this nice pencil?  Well, there is a lead grade indicator window in the grip.  To set the desired lead grade (as long as the grade of lead you are using is 2H, H, HB, B or 2B, the full range of available lead grades on the circumference of the pencil) all you have to do is to hold the pencil at the colored band between the grip and the body.  Next loosen the tip just a little.  Now turn the grip until the window is showing the lead grade of choice.  Then hold the pencil as before and tighten the tip.  Simple, no?  The grip features some almost useless knurling, useless because it has very little grip.  The silicone ovals serve a little better of a grip surface.  In my opinion the knurling needs to be a bit sharper and the silicone ovals larger and perhaps protrude a little more.  I'm not so impressed with the grip.

The overall appearance of the pencil is pleasing, except for the pocket clip.  The lettering on the barrel and push button is crisp and clean.  However the lettering on the lead grade indicator is not.  It appears smudged.  The satin tip and grainy barrel are a nice contrast with the light catching knurling being in between.  The pocket clip, stepped collar and the push button are bright chrome.  I would say that it's a pretty pencil except for that hunchback appearance.

One long push of the push button extends the lead sleeve.  Two more presses extend enough lead to use.  The mechanism is noisy, the initial press of the push button and the release of the lead sleeve are especially loud and the pressing of the push button to extend lead is very clanky and mechanical sounding.

The GraphGear 1000 brakes down further than most drafting pencils.  But I do not recommend that the average user strip the pencil as far as it will go as putting it back together could result is breakage.  However in order to clear a lead jam you will have to take off the tip as well as the lead sleeve.  To do this, initially hold the pencil as described in the section on adjusting the lead grade indicator.  Once the tip is loose hold the body only as the grip now turns freely.  Once the tip and grip have been removed remove the lead sleeve by unscrewing it.  Surprisingly Pentel has included a clean out rod attached to the underside of the eraser.  It is accessed by removing the push button.  Remember to replace the push button before tiling up the pencil or you will spill out the lead.  Once the lead jam has been cleared (see the section of my blog on how to clear a lead jam) reassemble the pencil.

Breakdown of the GraphGear 1000 for Claring a Lead Jam
Stats.  Where would we be without the stats?  The pencil is 148.5 mm extended, 149 mm retracted. The balance point is 79 mm from the end of the lead sleeve (I did not measure it retracted as what difference does it make?).  The grip is 43.5 mm in length and the end of the pencil is 20.5 mm extended and 16 mm retracted.  The body is 8.5 mm across and the grip 9.5 mm across.  As stated before the weight is 20.6 grams (all measurements are approximate).  It's a nice medium length, middle weight pencil.

My experience writing with the pencil is less than satisfactory.  The reason being is that I could not get a good grip on the thing.  As I wrote my hand actually slipped down the grip!  I only purchased this pencil because I received a gift certificate from JetPens.com, the best Internet store for the purchase of Japanese stationary and art items, including drafting and mechanical pencils.  It is a very rare thing for me to write that while the Pentel GrafGear 1000 has some nice features they do not out weigh, in my opinion, the negatives the pencil has.  So I can not recommend the purchase of this particular pencil.

But hey, it's only my opinion and what do I know?...

This and many other fine Japanese stationary items can be found at jetpens.com.  Why not pay them a visit right now?

Thanks for reading my blog.

Editors note:  I have seen where the style of pocket clip as featured on my pencil has broken.  The new style has a hinge system in its place.  If you purchase one of these in any lead sixe be sure it has the newer hinge style pocket clip.  

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Pentel Orenz

From time to time I look at the Mechanical Pencils at jetpens.com just for fun.  I guess that I should look at them more often because this is where I found the Pentel Orenz mechanical pencil.  I almost missed this on...  Ah who am I kidding!  I did miss this one as it seems to have been around a couple of years.  But better late than never I say.

The Orenz is a very handsome little pencil is Sky Blue.  I'm fond of blue, so I really don't mind that when I went to purchase mine they were all out of black.  But color does not make a pencil good or bad, but it does go a long way towards out perception of a pencil, or any other object for that matter.  If we don't like the color then we may not like the object.  So our perception of an object, based on color, shape, size, what have you, goes a long way towards how we feel or think about an object.  I like the Blue.  A business person probably would like the black one, a doctor might like the white one, a young lady, perhaps the pink one and a monkey might go bananas for the yellow one.  But a pencil by another color will write the same.

An writing is just what the Orenz was designed to do.  Pentel took a page from their PG2 drafting pencil and went one better.  Like the PG2 the Orenz is made in 0.2 mm!  That's right!  0.2 mm!  The PG2 is a partial sliding sleeve design.  The lead sleeve slides about 1/2 way up the length of the sleeve then stops.  The sleeve of the Orenz will slide all the way to the tip of the pencil, though I don't recommend that you do that very often.  While the PG2 uses a more ore less conventional system for the lead sleeve the Orenz incorporates a new, innovative system.  Pentel calls it the "Lead Support System".  It's a very simple system.  So simple I wonder why no one has come out with something like it before!

The heart of the "Lead Support System" is a unique weighted lead sleeve/lead retainer system.  The lead sleeve is attached to a brass cone that holds the lead in place and keeps it from falling straight through the pencil.  This device rides the lead and maintains it's position on the lead inside the pencil.  When the push button atop the pencil is pressed the lead is once more extended.  However because the cone is struck as the clutch is pressed down and opened, the cone pulls the lead down and holds the lead inside it in place so when the lead sleeve is extended the lead stays flush with the tip of the lead sleeve.  As you write the lead is used up and the lead sleeve/cone rides up the lead inside the pencil.  When the pushbutton is pressed the cone maintains the length of lead within the sleeve so no lead protrudes beyond the tip of the lead sleeve.

The pencil comes preloaded with lead and is ready to use with a single push of the button.  As you write the lead sleeve actually rides the edge of the paper and because of this it feels a tiny bit scratchy at certain angles.  As the lead is used up the free floating lead sleeve rides back up into the pencil cone.  A single press of the push button extends the lead sleeve and the lead inside it with out pushing the lead beyond the end of the lead sleeve so writing can continue.  As long as the system is feed a continues stream of lead there is no reason to ever press the push button more than once. When at the end of the writing experience you wish to retire the pencil for the day all you have to do to reset the pencil is to press the push button and hold it then press the tip of the lead sleeve against a hard surface, or use your finger, while simultaneously releasing the bush button.  This will drive the lead sleeve up into the pencil once more and will reset the system.

If you ever have to refill the pencil with lead or when a piece of lead is so short that the system no longer holds onto it or for whatever reason that you have to restart the system you will have to press the bush button enough time to expose lead out the end of the lead sleeve.  Next just follow the above instructions on retracting the lead sleeve.  When you need to use the pencil, simply press the push button once and begin writing.

Figure 1
Figure 1 (above) shows the relationship of the tip, lead sleeve and the clutch (housed in the main body).  Figure 2 (below) shows the lead sleeve extended (top) and retracted bottom).

Figure 2
Now for some of those "boring" stats.  The Orenz weighs 10.1 grams, making it a light weight.  It is 142 mm retracted and 145 mm extended, making it of average length.  The grip length is 43 mm long and the tip is 18 mm long.  The balance point is 71 mm from the tip of the lead sleeve making it almost perfectly balanced. The diameter of the grip area is 9.5 mm at the pencil and 8 mm at the tip. 
The over all look of the pencil is attractive with it's stainless steel tip, chrome pocket clip and push button cap contrasting nicely with the sky blue of the one piece body.  As far as how the Orenz writes, well, my copy feels a little scratchy from time to time, depending on the angle I held the pencil.  The closer I approached the vertical the scratchier it felt.  So I took a bit of 4 zero steel wool to the tip, genteelly, which seems to have helped  However I DO NOT recommend that if your Orenz is scratchy that you put steel wool, or any abrasive, to the delicate tip unless you know exactly what you are doing.
The Pentel Orenz is available in Black, White, Sky Blue, Yellow and Pink and are available from our friends at jetpens.com
The Pentel Orenz used in this review us solely or in part made possible by a gift certificate a from our friends at jetpens.com

Sunday, September 14, 2014

The Pentel Sharp Kerry and the Mad Mathematician

Miss Tussy Pink
Click to enlarge...  On second thought, don't...
Miss Tussy!  Well I haven't seen you in some time!  You sure are looking good, Tussy!, Eh, but where are my manners?  Ladies and gentlemen, Miss Tussy Pink!
"Oh, Geezer!  You sharp tongued fox you!  I've missed you!"
Well, Tussy, I've missed you, and Tommy and Zedragon the Zefoid? 
How are they, by the way? 
"Oh, they are doing just fine, Geezer.  Tommy and I are officially engaged!"
Well this is wonderful news!  When's the wedding?
"Oh, we've not set a date just yet."
Well, will I be invited to the wedding?
"Of course, Geezer!  I couldn't get married if you aren't there!  I want you to give me away!"
Tussy!  I'm honored!  I'd be happy to give you away!
"Thank you, Geezer!  You know how much you mean to me!"
No problem, Tussy.  By the way, to what do I owe the honor of this visit?  Oh!  I see!  You have the Mad Mathematician's gift to me, the Pentel Sharp Kerry!  I guess this means that you want me to give my review of the pencil?
"Geezer, you are so astute."
Tussy, you flatter me.

Miss Tussy Pink and my
Pentel Sharp Kerry
Click to enlarge

"By the way, Geezer, who's this Mad Mathematician you refer to?"
Oh, that would be Tim McLarnan.
He's some crazy pencil-loving math professor form Indiana who read most of my blog in one sitting!  He e-mailed me one day asking if I'd do a review of the Pentel Sharp Kerry.  When I informed him that I didn't own one he was gracious enough to send me one of his!  Nice guy, huh?
"He sounds like a very nice man indeed, Geezer!  I'll bet he and I could crunch some numbers together!"
TUSSY!  This is a G-rated blog,
remember?  Besides, didn't you just tell me that you and Tommy Turquoise just got engaged? 

"I'm so sorry, Geezer!  I don't know what came over me!...  I... I feel a little woozy!" 
Are you alright, Tussy?
"Yes, yes!...  Perhaps I'll go and lie down in my room."
Well, alright, Tussy.  I'll check in on you later.
"Thank you, Geezer, but there's really no need.  Tommy will be by shortly."
Alright, Tussy.  Take care.
"Thank you, Geezer.  I surely will.  Bye, for now."
Goodbye, Tussy.
Boy, she can be a handful sometime!  But at least she did bring me the Pentel Sharp Kerry that MathProfMan sent me, (don't ask).  So, I guess it's about time that I did my review...
It's rare that I get a request to review a certain item but when I do it is always to do a review of an item the requester already has!  Such is the case with the Pentel Sharp Kerry.  I get an e-mail form this guy who has a couple of requests concerning the stats that I provide.  Then he proceeds to school me in a grammar lesson!  And yes, I did need it!  By the professional tone of his e-mail I figured him for at the least an English teacher.  Nope.  He's a Math Professor from Indiana.  He must be a speed reader because at the very beginning of his e-mail he confesses to reading most of my entire blog in one night!  Wow!  Now that's a compliment!
He had several requests the most significant being that he wanted me to do a review of the Pentel Sharp Kerry.  As I told Tussy I told him that I didn't have one so he graciously decided to send me one of his!  But not just any Sharp Kerry, but one that has historical significance.  According to Tim, "...I read somewhere that they’re called Sharp Kerry because (a) “sharp” just means mechanical pencil in Japanese, and (b) the black ones were the original design, and they reminded the designer of the black Kerry cattle he had seen in Ireland.  So I’m sending you the most historically significant kind".  Cool!  So for all you Pentel Sharp Kerry fans, especially the Mad Mathematician, her is my review of the Pentel Sharp Kerry, finally.
I am a fan of the slender drafting pencils in 0.3 mm and 0.4 mm.  They are a bit scratchy when used, but that's the price one pays for super fine lines.  So normally I shy away from the "mechanical" pencil with few exceptions, the Mitsubishi/Uni Kuru Toga line of autorotation mechanical pencils being the most outstanding.  So under normal circumstances I would never would have considered  a Pentel Sharp Kerry as one that I would enjoy using.  That was a mistake.
Pentel Sharp Kerry
Click to enlarge

The Pentel Sharp Kerry is a very unique pencil with unique features.  At first one might easily mistake the Sharp Kerry for an elegant fountain pen or other fine pen because of it's design.  It is one of only 2 pencils, that I am aware of (which doesn't say much), that has to be "posted" in order to work properly!  That is the cap is removed from the pencil and posted on the back in order for the pencil's ratchet mechanism to function properly and for the pencil to be balanced and fit comfortably in the hand.
The pencil has 2 push buttons.  An inner and an outie, eh, outer.  The inner push button connects directly to the lead reservoir/clutch system.  When the pencil is not posted you can push the button to advance lead but it's sort of clumsy due to the pencils short length.  When posted, as intended by the designers, the outer, self contained, push button activates the inner push button.  This is quite the innovation, considering.  But apparently either not a very popular one, like the Shaker, or Pentel holds the patented on this and almost all variations.  Either way the Pentel Kerry stands out as a misunderstood and under appreciated mechanical pencil.  For the design lends itself to one very unique characteristic.  It can easily help prevent ovaling. 
Ovaling is where the lead from any pencil (except the Kuru Toga) goes from making a sharp, rounded mark to a wide oval one.  This is due to how we, as humans, write (chimps may write differently, but I don't know any chips so I can't ask).  We hold out writing instruments at an angle to the paper as opposed to perpendicular.  We don't normally twist the pencil in our hand, as some in the drafting/architectural  field are taught, but rather grasp it firmly in hand in a static position and grind away until our writing is illegible due to the fact that we write very small and our pencil now writes very big! 
By turning the pencil a quarter turn every few line of text we can keep the lead from a mechanical pencil from ovaling-out.  But turning a normal mechanical/drafting pencil a quarter turn means that at least one in 4 turns the pocket clip is in an awkward, even painful position pressed up against the web of the hand.  But what I have discovered with the Sharp Kerry is that in order to turn it one quarter turn is to turn the pencil down into my fist and turn the cap in either direction (hopefully the same direction every time) before returning it to a writing position.  With use this can become almost automatic.
I'll bet you didn't know that, MathProfMan!
Well, I've managed to fill up more space than my usual post and given you all very little useful information.  So with out further ado...  The Stats!
The Pentel Sharp Kerry is 123 mm long, closed, 131 mm long posted.  The diameter at the center is 11 mm tapering to 9.5 mm at the end of the grip.  The grip is 24 mm long and the tip, including lead sleeve, is 19 mm long.  The main body of the pencil is 104.5 mm long.  The diameter of the cap is 11.5 mm at the widest tapering to 7mm at the push button and is 64 mm long.  The pencil weighs 21.6 grams and the balance point, posted, is 63.5 mm from the pencil tip, making the balance of the pencil a scooch.bottom heavy, but hey, can you feel a scooch?
I was quite pleasantly surprised at the Sharp Kerry.  It is well balanced, making it easy to maneuver, the plastic grip, which is unadorned, is a good grip surface and the width of the 0.5 mm led make the pencil very smooth writer.  It's a little on the short side for my personal tastes but that doesn't seem to be a problem, the length of the pencil, bot my personal taste.  The pencil nestles in my hand well and is a genuine pleasure to write with.  Because the lead sleeve is only 2 mm long it would be hard pressed to use as a drafting pencil, but well suited for freehand drawing.
The pencil is not at all unattractive, except maybe the inner push button.  The indented rings make the inner push button look odd, but they serve a very good purpose.  They are needed as grips in order to get the push button off in order to fill the lead reservoir with lead.  Under the outer push button is the obligatory eraser, no clean out rod though (so what else is new?).  The glass black finish of the
Pentel Sharp Kerry Disassembled
Click to enlarge
plastic parts contrast well with the bright chrome of the metal parts for a very pleasing appearance.  The only slight mar to this is the satin finish on the tip of the pencil,  Why did they not just keep the look going with a bright finish on the tip is a question to ask Pentel (if you could actually contact someone who knew).  To me it would have made for a nice looking pencil...  Yes, Tussy, it would
have been prettier.
The Sharp Kerry is unusual in another way.  It easily, with minimal effort, breaks down into 9 separate components.  From left to right, back row, of the pic above they are the: tip with 4 mm lead sleeve; grip; connector; upper body; cap with attached pocket clip; eraser, which resides under the outer cap in the cap; outer push button cap; inner push button cap; and in the front row the all metal lead reservoir and ratcheting clutch system.  The Sharp Kerry follows the Sharp Series (P203 - P209) in that the reservoir and clutch are one unit with a captive spring.  An over sized hex just above the clutch aligns and keeps the clutch system spinning so that the tip can be screwed onto the clutch thus holding the system together..  However there is no interchangeability of this unit between the 2 pencils.
Unlike a lot of mechanical pencils of it's price range, and some above it, the reservoir and mechanism are made entirely (as far as I could see) of metal.  The lead reservoir is a bright chrome and substantial enough to withstand the rigors of years and years of lead advancement.  It's also big enough to hold a dozen leads.  However don't put any more than 1/2 a dozen leads in the pencil, this pencil, or any other mechanical pencil.  The reason being that to many leads can prevent one from aligning with the mouth of the feed tube inside the reservoir.  To access the reservoir the pencil must be un-posted.  The rings in the cap allow you to use a fingernail to pull up on it thus removing it.  To access the eraser (Please don't!  Buy a good stick style eraser like the Uni E-Knock, from jetpens.com), the pencil has to be posted so the inner push button can push the outer one up enough to grasp.  The fake here is that since eraser does not fit in the reservoir, the pencil can be turned upside down without lead spilling out!
To advance enough lead to write with, once the clutch has been fed, simply push down on the push button twice.  Now you're ready to write (or draw, or doodle, or whatever you do with a mechanical pencil)....  What I mean by, "once the clutch has been fed...", is once lead has been advanced to the point of exiting the pencil it is pushed back flush with the end of the lead sleeve with the finger tip or table top or the back of your little brother's head.  The clutch has now been fed and the end of the lead rests at the tip of the lead sleeve.  From this position each press of the push button to advance the lead should advance an equal amount,  So now you can tell how many "clicks" it will take to produce enough lead to write with from a cold start.
The Pentel Sharp Kerry comes in only 2 lead sizes, 0,7 mm and 0.5 mm, two of the most popular lead sizes for general use.  I would prefer to have had one in 0.3 mm but they don't make them in 0.3 mm.  In a way that's a good thing.  0.3 mm pencils tend to be scratchy due to the fine lead.  The lead also breaks easily.  But the 0.5 mm and 0.7 mm diameter leads are the most popular sizes for general writing and freehand drawing.  When I wrote with the pencil I found it to be a very smooth and well behaved pencil.  By well behaved I mean I did not have to push or drag it across the paper.  It is so well balanced and light it is a down right pleasure to write with!  If it came in any finer a lead it would not perform quite as well.  The sharp pointed 0.3 mm lead would drag and scratch, unless a soft grade of lead was used.  But anything softer than grade HB (closest to a #2 pencil lead) would smudge easily.
Bottom line?  Well I'll have to eat crow and admit that I really like the Pentel Sharp Kerry in 0.5 mm HB.  It feels good in the hand, it's easy to write with, delivering a smooth performance.  I especially like the way that I can turn it a quarter turn with one hand in order to keep the lead sharp.  It's an elegant looking pencil as well as being a solidly, well built and designed.  Believe it or not, the pencil has been around for 43 years!  Amazing, isn't it?

Well, if you want one of your own you'll have to find your own crazy pencil-loving Math Professor to con one out of, eh, I mean to manipulate into giving you one.... NO!  No!  That's not what I meant at all, eh, gee whiz, I've really gone and put my foot in it now...

Seriously, you can find plenty of Pentel Sharp Kerry's at our friends at jetpens.com in 6 different colors and 2 lead sizes (not all colors available in both lead sizes).

Well, I hope that you, the reader, has enjoyed my "review" of the Mad Mathematician's (now my) Pentel Sharp Kerry.  Please feel free to leave a comment, check a box and/or e-mail me and tell me what you thought of both the pencil and my review.

To the left shows the Sharp Kerry about to be posted and then posted.
This additional information is at the request of one of my readers.  It shows the relationship of the 2 pushbuttons.  As you can see the outer pushbutton is not fully extended until the cap is posted, making firm contact with the inner pushbutton.  I hope that this clarifies the relationship between the 2 pushbuttons.

Thank you for reading my humble blog.


Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Misubishi Uni M3-552 Drafting Pencil

In 1887 the Masaki Pencil company was born. They made some of the finest wooden pencils in the world. After WW II they became the Mitsubishi Pencil Company, Ltd.  They company now makes some of the worlds finest mechanical pencils under the Uni brand.  The most famous of these is undoubtedly the Kuru Toga line of auto rotating pencils.  To learn more about these pencils see my reviews "uni Kuru Toga Family of Mechanicals pencils" and "The Kuru Toga Roulette".  But The Mitsubishi Pencil Co., Ltd. makes other mechanical pencils as well.  Among them is the Uni 552 series of pencils.  These simple, sturdy entry level drafting pencils are often overlooked and neglected because of the overshadowing of the better known Uni Kuru Toga line of pencils.

This review will be about the M3-552, the 0.3 mm version.  However the pencil also comes in 0.4 mm,0.5 mm, 0.7mm and 0.9 mm lead sizes.  So let's start with every bodies favorite, the stats!  The M3-552 measures 141 mm long from the end of the lead sleeve to the tip of the push button.  It's round body and grip measure 8 mm and 8.5 mm respectively.  The nicely knurled metal grip measures 27 mm.  From the end of the lead sleeve to the beginning of the grip measures 17 mm, for those of you who like to grip there pencils very low.  The balance point is 61 mm, measured to the tip of the pencil.  Last, but not least, the pencil weighs 12.7 grams.  How's that for stat lovers.  Gee, you guys need a hobby...

...  Sorry boys and girls, but the Old Geezer is feeling pretty old tonight.  I wish it were more like the early days with Tommy Turquoise and Tussy Pink and that green guy from Zetta 1, Zedragon the Zephoid.  (Sigh) I sure miss them.  I wonder where they all got off to...
"We're right here, Geezer.  Well at least I am.  I think Tussy and Zedragon are around someplace..."  TOMMY!  Tommy Turquoise!  Man, I'm so glad to see you!  Where have you guys been, Tommy?  "Right here, Geezer.  We've all been right here in your imagination.  All you've had to do was call upon us and we'd have been right here to help you out."  Gosh.  You sure are a good friend, Tommy.  I'm, I'm sorry that I haven't called upon you guys lately.  I guess that I sort of, eh, well,...  "You thought that we were not as sophisticated and as elegant as other peoples blog assistants?"  Well, yeah.  I'm sorry for not believing in you guys so much any more.  I...  I don't know how to make it up to you guys!  I...  "Relax, Geezer.  Why don't you sit back and let me take it from here?"  Man, you are a life saver, Tommy.  Take it away.

"Thanks, Geezer.  The Mitsubishi Uni M3-552 is an entry level drafting pencil, but it has a feature or two that make it stand out among starter pencils.  It's body is plastic which helps make it light weight, but the grip is made of a lightweight metal, probably aluminum.  The grip screws onto the body just below the lead grade indicator.  It is nicely knurled and has a very good gripping surface.  The tip is probably non-magnetic stainless steel while the lead sleeve has a ting magnetic attraction.  Both are chromed and highly polished.  So are the end cap and the spring steel pocket clip.  With the black body the pencil has a classic look."

"Now one of the nice features of the M3-552 is the lead grade indicator.  It is made of a colored plastic, in this case, yellow, indicating the lead size*.  The ring is made with a gap. like a split ring, where the window is. The exterior of the ring is round but the interior is octagonal with a series of de-tents near the edge of the lower end of the ring.  A set of corresponding circular raised bumps are on the pencils' body.  The lead sizes, from 2B to 4H, are  imprinted in a silver color on a black self sticking band and placed on the pencils' body.  When the ring is placed on the pencil the LGI turns a set distance set by the de-tent system exposing one of the lead grades.  Unlike the LGI on some more expensive pencils the ring stays put once it is set, yet it is easily reset when desired.  This is the very best LGI that I have encountered to date."

"The grip is easily removed without removing the tip of the pencil.  Just why the pencil was made with this feature is unclear.  However the design leaves the possibility of different grips wide open.  I can see how easily a variety of different grips being available for the pencil, like a rubber grip, a silicone grip, a plastic grip, a fatter metal grip, etc.  Just why this potential has not been exploited  is beyond me.  While loosening the grip will make turning the LGI it is not necessary to do so as the LGI will turn without loosening the grip albeit with a little more effort.  The reason that the grip can be removed over the tip is because the tip is the same diameter as the pencils' body beneath the grip.  Now that I think about it the reason that the grip is designed in this way is so that it can be loosened when setting the LGI!  Now what is it they say, something about learning something new..."

"The M3-522 is so light that despite its' being a little nose heavy it hardly feels like it. The pencil feels light in the hand and writes almost effortlessly.  The unusual knurling on the grip, broken by 10 horizontal lines, is not only aesthetically pleasing but is quite functional as well.  It provides a nice gripping surface without being overly rough.  The lead reservoir is large enough to hold enough lead for days and even weeks of writing.  The bright chromed push button is adorned with the lead size impressed into the top of it.  Pressing it is almost as effortlessly as writing with the pencil itself and just two presses of the bush button exposes enough lead to start writing.  There is an eraser under the push button, but as geezer says, such erasers are useless and should only serve to hold a clean out rod, which the pencil does not come with.  You'll need to supply your own."

"A good way to get 2 stand alone clean out rods, one for .4 mm and below as well as one for .05 mm and above and get a set of 5 erasers that will fit the M3-552 pencil (I knew you would be using the eraser that come with the pencil) you can buy, from, jetpens.com, a set for one of the Pilot pencils.  Its' the MS-10 box set.  It comes with 5 erasers clad in a plastic holder that just fits the reservoir tube of the M6-552 plus 2 wire clean out rods.  The green box that they come in is a handy storage case as well.  This way, for under 2 bucks US you can get both clean out rods and erasers.  Every time that you have to buy easers you'll get a new set of clean out rods.  Believe me, for 0.4 mm and 0.3 mm lead sizes these rods are a must."

So for a good entry level drafting pencil, or just a good all around writing instrument (especially in the larger diameter lead sizes) do not over look the 522 series of Drafting pencils from Mitsubishi/uni.  These and many other fine drawing and writing instruments can be found at our friends at jetpens.com.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

GoPens.com Pen/Pencil Trays

Regular readers of my little blog know that over the years I have come up with various ways of securing my precious (and expensive) drafting & mechanical pencils in converted boxes.  I've converted over a dozen boxes of various types into pencil boxes using foam board, fabric, vinyl,, string, clear vinyl sheeting, and wood.  I've glued, stitched and used every method I know of to secure my pencils so that they can be displayed yet not move.  My last method was no better than my first.  In general I would always use some sort of material to secure the pencils to a fabric covered foam board.  No matter how I tried I could never get the loops so that they held the pencils in place without them moving and touching one another without getting them too tight on some pencils and too loose on others.  Part of the problem is that pencils vary in diameter from pencil to pencil and even along the length of most pencils.  And mechanical pencils, especially drafting pencils, being constructed with lots of 90 degree angles instead of nice smooth rounded edges, getting the pencils in and out of restraints always caused problems!  In at least one case, the fabric I had chosen as a base material was so abrasive and the loops so restrictive that it wore a flat spot on the rubber grip!  And in my last such box I had to make two differently sized loops for differently sized pencils.  But still the rubber grip from one pencil stretched out so much that it was ruined!  It just seamed that I just could not build a box that would secure my pencils and let me have instant access to them at the same time.

But the answer was really simple!  A pen/pencil box made just for such devices.  And they make them.  They make lots of different ones.  Small ones.  Big ones.  Plain ones.  Fancy ones.  Some with a single try.  Some with multiple trays.  All are expensive!  All out of my price range.  But  for sometime now, I mean for several years, I have been admiring the pen trays available form gopens.com.  These trays are made from plastic and coated with a fine layer of some sort of material resembling suede.  It reminds me of the stuff one model car maker included in one of their car models.  It was a small packet of fabric shavings that, when applied to the interior of the model, made the seats and dash look like it was covered with lush fabric.  It is meant to cushion the pens/pencils as well as help keep them from sliding all over the place like they would on slick plastic.  The trays are advertised as being 12-1/8" by 16-3/8", with 24 slots.  That meant to me that each tray could hold 2 pencils per slot for a total of 48 pencils per tray.  So I would need at least 2 trays.  They come in Black, Red, Green, Burgundy, Blue and Gray.  Well recently we had a bit of "spare" cash so I ordered 4 in gray, the most neutral color.  They arrived in just 3 business days!
When they arrived I measured them to discover that they measure in actuality 12" by 16-3/8"!  I was counting on that 1/8" as a cushion so that I could place the pencils 2 to a slot!.  But I worried in vain as with even the longest of my pencils there was enough of a cushion, barely enough, but enough.

Now I had some very nice trays in which to lay my pencils but no box to put the trays in!  What a quandary!  Not really.  I knew when I purchased them that I was probably going to make some boxes out of foam board.  So, with hobby knife in one hand and a straight edge in another I beset the poor unsuspecting foam board and cut out a top, bottom and 4 sides from a single sheet of foam board.  Little did I know that sheets of foam board would give up their shapes as I experimented with design, form and function!  At one point I even laminated sheets of corrugated cardboard together in order to construct a box when I ran out of foam board and could not run to Wal-Mart  to get more!  Such was my frenzy!  I was a madman possessed with a single purpose!  To make the perfect pencil box!...  To bad I was working with foam board and not wood!  Oh well!  We make do when we have to!

The final 2 boxes ended up being constructed the same way.  One was a retrofit.  Basically they are just a simple box with a removable top secured with small super strong magnets in top and bottom edges with the addition of 4 straps of felt using the same magnets and strips of mild steel.  I didn't want the tops growing wings, or feet and moving off on their own.  The trays fit into the boxes with a snug fit but with enough wiggle room for me to remove them should I have too.  And I had to!  About that later.  Once I had felt that I had the interior finished I set about decorating the exterior of the boxes while I contemplated how to keep the pencils inside from sliding into one another.  You see, I did not want to cut the tray inserts in half!  Why, you ask?  Well...  They were just to darn pretty as a whole unit!  Anyway, I spent the next several days letting my artistic spirit loose on the boxes I had made.  Poor boxes...
What I used to decorate the boxes was a mixture of colored card stock, various stickers and florescent and phosphorescent paints!  I've never outgrown my likeness of florescent/black light colors and decorations.  My computer room/workroom at one time had as many as 7 working black lights.  Alas in all but one the bulbs have burnt out.  Never fear, though I have plans for a really nice black light/white light set up.  But I digress.  I had a lot of fun squeezing out the dimensional paint.  Even more fun looking at it under my remaining black light.  in the photo above the box on the left is shown in regular light.  The box on the right is shown in black light (ultraviolet).  While the phosphorescent paint does glow a bit in UV light, the UV light charges the paint better than regular fluorescent light.

 So much for the outside.  I'll bet all of you want to see the inside, don't 'cha?  Before I show you the inside, remember earlier that I wrote that I built the boxes so that I wouldn't have to cut the trays?...  Well, try as I did there just seemed like there was no other elegant way to keep the pencils from hitting each than to halve the trays at the 6" mark and insert a divider between the opposing pencils. It almost hurt to cut those beautiful trays in half!  On the website the owner, Gary, recommends the use of clear plastic edge protectors, the kind used on the edges of walls to protect wallpaper from being scuffed up.  But these are approximately 1” by 1”, which makes them far to tall to use in my homemade pencil box.  So I cut strips of gray card stock and folded it over to form a more ridged boarder.   I cut it the correct height and joined the too short pieces together then inserted them between the halves of the trays. The fit was a tight one for the OHTO Super Promechas as they are the longest pencils that I have, to date.  They measure just a 1/16th of an inch shy of 6”!  But as long as they don’t move very much and are not restrained in any other way, I’m happy!  In fact I have to admit that now that the deed is done, it doesn’t look as bad as I had feared.  The card stock is quite a close match in color to the trays and it acts as an effective barrier between pencils in the same column.  

All in all I am quite pleased with the trays that I bought form GoPens.com.  They were easy to cut, as advertised and they look great!  I just wish that I had had some nice ¼” cedar with which to make a nice pencil box with four drawers.  I’d bisect each tray with a ¼” piece of cedar.  That would be so sweet.
But even if you can only make boxes the way I do, it’s well worth the money to purchase the pen/pencil trays from GoPens.com.  Short of routing out custom grooves from a piece of  ½” cedar they are about as good as you’re going to get.

Monday, July 28, 2014

OHTO Super Promecha PM-1500S vs OHTO Super Promecha PM-1500P

In 1929 The OHTO CO., LTD was born in Japan. The world of pens and pencils would be transformed with the inventions and innovations that the OHTO company would come up with over the years. Unfortunately all I can find out about the company is on their website. And almost all of the info is about pens! So the history lesson that I was going to give about the company has run a rye. Fortunately all I really need to know about the 2 pencils in this review is information that I can glean from the pencils themselves! Such is the nature of a review. So I hauled out my trusty instruments and did a few measurements (including a new one, by request, that will become a standard part of my stats from here on) and manipulated the pencils a bit, tearing them down as gar as I dare, chasing springs and small parts as they succumb to the force of gravity! Finding them on the floor of my computer room I retrieve them and proceed to photograph them, in part and as an entire, fully assembled pencil. Once happy with the photos that I have taken, I put the pencils back, safe and sound. into their place in my Pencil Box, and breath a sigh of relief! My babies are now snuggled safe along with all their brothers and sisters... Whoa! I need a more manly hobby!

Anyway...  At some unknown point in time, unknown to me that is, the OHTO company decided to make mechanical pencils.  Then one proud day for the OHTO company their first drafting pencil is born.  And the rest is history...  I just don't know exactly what that history is!  It's a good thing that the history of the OHTO company is not the subject of this post!...  Getting on with it...  In this post I will look, objectively, at both the old and the new Super Promechas form OHTO, comparing the two in order to see witch is the better pencil.  Just because it's the newest doesn't mean it's the best.  Sometimes great features are dropped from a product in the newer version making it, in my mind, a less useful product.

Let's see, where to start?  STATS! That's a good place to start from.  Stats have pulled my sorry typing fingers out of more than one blog...  Not really.  Stats are stats and are pretty dry.  But I can try to throw some water on them to see if I can make them a bit more palatable.  The PM-1500S measures 150 mm over all, from top of the push button to the tip of the lead sleeve (fully extended).  The PM-1500P beats that my a silly little millimeter at 151 mm long.  Hum...  interesting, but not earth shaking.  The grip of the PM-1500S measures 11 mm in diameter while the grip on the PM-1500P comes in at 10.5 mm.  That doesn't seem like much, but it looks and feels slimmer. Because of the beefier construction and materials used the PM-1500S it is the heavier of the two, weighing in at whopping 28.4 grans compared to the PM-1500Ps' 18.6 grams!  And it's balancing point (measured for the pencils' tip) is only 55 mm while the PM-1500Ps' balance point is 68.5 mm.  Now a new measurement that I am introducing with this comparison is the length from where the grip/tip join/meet to the tip of the pencil.  This is by request.  The info may help some people who write with a very low grip make a more informed decision when buying a pencil.  For the PM-1500S this distance is 19 mm and for the new kid on the block, 18.5 mm. 

Now, what in the world are you going to do with all this raw data?  Beats me!  But for me I'll try and use some of it to show how each pencil not only looks different form the other, but how it makes them perform.  With it's larger diameter grip, it's heavier weight and it's far forward balance, the PM-1500S feels like writing with a Mac truck Talk about throwing your weight around!  Now, for some people this is not only not a disadvantage, but an advantage.  There are those who like the feel of the weight in their hand.  They can and have mastered controlling the weight that this pencil has.  But if you have or want to write with a light touch, then this pencil will give you a work out over time.  The majority of it's weight being so close to the paper it tends to want to bury it's nose into it.  On the other had, the slimmer grip, lighter weight and better balance means that the PM-1500P is far easier to control and less tiring on the hand.  The pencil wants to glide across the paper with a lot less effort than its' elder brother.  In my opinion the PM-1500P is an easier pencil to use.

Now let us examine the physical differences between the two pencils.  The most noticeable difference is the 4 black "O"-rings around the PM-1500Ps' body above the lead increment adjustment wheel.  These appear to be there to aid in gripping the body when adjustments have to be maid in either the lead increment settings and the length of the lead sleeve exposure. The second most blatant difference is the tip of the PM-1500S has an adjustment wheel inside it!  This is used to set the amount of lead sleeve exposure!  Huh?  But that can be set simply by turning the grip until the desired amount of lead sleeve has been exposed!  This is probably why this unneeded feature was dropped on the next generation Super Promecha, the PM-1500P.

 The spring set up in the tip of the 2 pencils are different, of course.  The PM-1500S front end  has the tip with a spring loaded wheel that controls the amount of lead sleeve that is exposed.  right behind the small diameter spring that sets the tension for the wheel is the spring that sets the tension for the grip and it's setting of the amount of lead sleeve that is exposed.  So caution is needed if you ever have to remove the tip of the PM-1500S in order to clear a lead jam.  Remove the tip slowly and set the tip and springs aside as a unit as that is how they will come.  The lead exposure wheel and spring are a captive unit inside the body of the pencil and is not user serviceable. 

The Springs in the front end of the PM-1500P are one less that in the PM-1500S yet both are user accessible.  The first spring, the larger of the two, sets the tension for the amount of lead sleeve exposure and is in the same place as the on PM-1500S.  The second spring sets the tension for the amount of lead that is exposed and can be found under the lead sleeve and is slim enough to fit snuggly against the clutch assembly.

When removing the tips of the pencils, as you will have to do when removing a lead jam, first run the grip all the way down so that the leaf sleeve is folly hidden.  Then slowly unscrew the tip, minding the springs, and set the tip/springs aside in a safe place.  Then run the grip back up the pencil , exposing the lead sleeve.  Carefully unscrew the lead sleeve, minding any springs, setting the spring(s) aside in a safe place. 

To remove a lead jam, remove the push button, then remove the eraser with the clean out rod attached to it, replace the push button, (don't want the lead escaping) then lay the pencil aside.  Next, place the bottom of the lead sleeve on a solid surface and while holding it there with one hand use the COL attached to the eraser to  remove the lead jam by passing the COL all the way through the lead sleeve by inserting it into the lead sleeve at the tip.  Once the jam is clear replace the lead sleeve and tip, along with any associated springs.

All in all I is the bloggers opinion, based on the stats and facts, that the PM-1500P is a superior  pencil to the PM-1500S in every way, except one, the lead grade indicator. 

While they may look exactly alike the are not.  The PM-1500S, to me, has a much easier LGI to set than the PM-1500P.  Simply hold the knurled "ring" and loosen the push button top, set the lead designation, then tighten.  To set the LGI on the PM-1500S, You have to unscrew the PB top, rotate the LGI window to the correct setting, then hold the Push button to the window while screwing it in place w/out changing the setting!  

Bottom line? With the one minor exception the OHTO PM-15ooP Super Promecha is the superior over the OHTO PM-1500S Super Promecha.  It's a good thing as this is the current line of OHTO Super Promecha Drafting pencils!  Both old and new Super Promecha comes in 5 different led grade/sizes, 0.3 mm, 0.4 mm, 0.5 mm, o.7 mm and 0.9 mm sizes.

Many thanks for JetPen,com for the provision, over several years, of most of the PM-1500P series pencils in this post.  All the current PM-1500P series pencils are available as well as the entire line of OHTO Promecha and Super Promecha drafting pencils are currently available from our friends at Jetpens. com.  Please visit jetpens.com. for all your hard to find Japanese stationary items as well as many other fine Japanese items.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

rotring rapid PRO: Black vs Silver

Click to see scalable pic 
Everyone has their favorite.  I know that I do.  I'm sure that you do, too!  And everyone thinks that their choice is the best.  And they are right.  From their point of view that is.  We all have our reasons for choosing our favorite and each has it's own merit.  Sometimes our choice is not so much wrong as inappropriate.  Maybe it's the occasion, maybe it's the season, maybe simply it's just all wrong at the moment for whatever reason.  But when it comes to which rotring rapid Pro to choose, well there just isn't a "right" or "wrong" or a "good" or "bad" choice!  Whichever one you might choose you have made the "perfect" choice for you.

When it comes to elegance there are few colors (or lack thereof) that can top black. There is just something mysterious and alluring about the color black that always makes us look twice!  Especially something satin black, like the rotring rapid PRO in satin black. Pure black does not reflect light, it absorbs it.  But few things are pure black, like space.  Even so it's hard to see details of something black.  This is what makes a black object so alluring and mysterious.

Now when you want to be noticed right away, if you want to show some bling, then the metallic colors is the way to go and silver, white gold and platinum are very hard to beat when it comes to flash, sparkle and bling!  An object in a bright metal color stands out like nothing else can!  You can see it and make out details clean across the room!  Such a color is in-your-face and makes the bold statement, "I am here!  Deal with it!"  Unlike black, which sets in the background, awaiting to lure you in, Silver tones announce their intentions!

OK, so much for the romantic verbiage.  Lets get down to some hard facts about the rotring rapid PRO, shall we?  In either satin black of two tone silver this is a pencil that demands respect.   Made of solid brass then coated in either a black or silver finish (just what process is used I have been unable to discover nor can I find out just what the coating is.  Often metals are plated with another metal so the surface can be treated with a process that the underlying metal can not be treated with.  Often the coating is aluminum which can be anodized or heavy anodized a variety of different colors or treated in another fashion).  The satin black finish has an ever so slightly rougher texture to it than does the satin finish of the silver model.

However, to my delicate and sensitive finger tips, (stop laughing), the teeth on the grip of the silver model feel just a tad sharper than those on it's ebony brother.  This is probably due to the heavier coating on the black pencil.  Personally I prefer the sharper teeth as they afford me a better grip.  My finger tips may not be delicate but they are certainly not grizzled with calluses and they are still sensitive enough to feel the difference between the two grip surfaces.  This is one reason that I prefer the silver finish over the black.  Some of the others are it's over all look and the fact that minor scratches tend not to show up as well as they do on the black pencil.

One thing that I have noticed regardless of the color of the pencil and that's dirt in the grip's teeth.  I happen to think that knurling, also called cross hatching, is a very effective way to achieve a good gripping surface on the grip of a mechanical pencil.  But (there's always a but), it's also the worst surface to keep clean. 

The points, a natural product of the cross hatching, scrape the surface of the skin, pulling off dead skin every time the grip is touched.  This dead skin lodges in the grooves created by the Knurling process and build up.  The result is an ugly discolored grip!  While it's bad on a silver or gold tone grip, it's worse on a black or dark grey colored grip.  On the lighter pencils the discoloration dulls the luster of the metal and on the darker colors it lightens them up and makes the points look worn.

There are ways of cleaning this disgusting stuff out of the grooves of the grip.  One effective way is to brush it away using a short, stiff bristled brush and some alcohol.  From a hardware store purchase a good quality "acid" brush.  This is a natural fiber brush with bristles 1-1/2" long and has a sheet steel handle rolled into a tube.  A good quality brush can cost $1.00 or more.  The bristles are thin enough to get into the grooves of the grip but they are too long!  Carefully, using a good pair of fabric shears, cut the bristles down to 1/2" long.  A good straight cut is what you want.  From a drug store or department store purchase a bottle of 91% isopropyl  alcohol (rubbing alcohol).  70% is the most common strength for isopropyl alcohol is 71% so you may have to 91% it at a drug store. The higher the percentage the more alcohol and less water in the solution.  More is better!  You will also need a lint free cloth, like a man's cotton bandanna, washed several times to remove the sizing.  DO NOT use fabric softener when cleaning and drying the bandanna as the chemicals in the softener retard the bandanna's ability to absorb liquids.

Make sure that the newly made cleaning brush is clean and has not been used for anything else.  Pour a small amount of 91% isopropyl alcohol into a small disposable container.  Dip the cleaning brush in the alcohol and clean the brush using a paper towel.  Remove the grip from the pencil and set the rest of the pencil aside.  Hold the grip in a fold of the bandanna between thumb and forefinger of your opposite hand then dip the brush in the alcohol.  With a sweeping motion and traveling along one set of grooves, using medium pressure and turning the grip in the opposite direction, brush the alcohol into the grooves of the grip.   Be sure not to touch the metal of the pencil with the metal of the brush or you could scratch the finish!  You may have to use a light scrubbing  action to remove old, stubborn crud from the grip.  Use the bandanna to dry the grip.  Then check it to see if the grip is clean.  If not, repeat the procedure in the stubborn area until it's clean.  Be very careful not to over clean as this can damage the finish.

Cleaning my leave the finish on the grip clean, but dull.  To shine it up a tad, apply a liberal coating of Armor All on a cotton swab until the entire grip is coated in the milky white stuff.  Then use the bandanna to dry the grip by simply rolling it in the folds of the bandanna.  Do Not dry all the Armor All off the grip.  Allow some to dry.  This will give the metal a shine of satin look in some cases. Do not clean the grip too often as this will help erode the finish more quickly!

So, the choice is yours.  Elegant Black or Stunning Silver.  Either way you can't go wrong when picking a rotring rapid Pro as your instrument of expression!

Thanks ever so much to our friends at JetPens.com.com for the pencils used in this post.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Entry Level Pencil: The rotring 300, 0.3 mm Drafting Pencil

Every mechanical pencil maker has at least one entry level pencil.  Some may have more if they have different lines of pencils.  Most entry level pencils are much lower in cost than the next pencil in the series.  They are usually made of plastic with a metal tip and lead sleeve.  The pocket clip can be integral with the body or removable.  They most often lack features like a metal grip and a lead grade indicator.  Their internal mechanism is generally simple in design and made of plastic or polymers except for the clutch mechanism which is almost exclusively made of brass.  Construction can be a little less than desirable but generally they are well made as they represent the company and are often the only item from the company the user ever sees.

The rotring 300 is rotring's entry level pencil in the numbered series of pencils.  The next up is the 500, then the best known of the series, the 600 followed by the rapid PRO and then the top of the line 800.  At one time, when the pencils were made in Germany there was a 400 and a 700 in the series.  However these are no longer produced and fetch a pretty penny when found.  The rapid PRO, cost wise, fits in between the 600 and the 800.  This sort of fills the gap left by the out of production 700.  There does not appear that there is a replacement for the 400.

As far as entry level pencils (ELP) go the rotring 300 is a slightly above average pencil.  It features a design that is reminiscent of the 500 and 600 pencils.  While the later mentioned 500 and 600 pencils have removable metal grip areas the 300 does not.  The body is a single piece made of plastic, only the tip is removable and made of chromed brass and stainless steel.  The push button cap is also made of plastic while the removable pocket clip is made of chromed metal.  The pencil features a lead grade indicator which is something usually found on higher end pencils.  Unlike the 500, 3600 and 800 the lead grade indicator on the 300 is made of plastic, not metal.  There is no detent, but there is enough friction to hold the indicator on station during use.

The 300 breaks down into 4 major components: The main body which includes the pocket clip and the internal mechanism; the tip; the eraser and the cap or push button.  The internal mechanism at first appears to come out of the body tube but is stopped part way out.  The lead reservoir is transparent plastic while the clutch assembly is wrapped in white plastic and adhered to the lead reservoir.  There is no clean out rod stuck to the eraser.  The plastic cap fits snugly onto the lead reservoir covering the eraser.  The lead reservoir has a plug in the top of it with a small hole restricting the flow of lead into the reservoir to a single piece at a time. The eraser is a standard size white vinyl eraser available just about anywhere.  It is surrounded by a thin silver tone piece of sheet metal.

The exterior of the 300 is a semi gloss black with red figures on one of the six sides of the body, just under the pocket clip.  The grip area is cylindrical and molded to simulate knurling.  It is not very sharp but it works because of the pencils very light.  The pocket clip is removable, but I would never do so as it has to be pulled over the plastic LGI which is also molded to simulate knurling.  The pocket clip would, I'm afraid, ruin the LGI by scratching it or gouging it.  The tip is small with not a lot of gripping area.  Removing it the first time or later if it had been replaces to tightly, will require the assistance of a rubber jar opener.  When replacing it tighten it only enough to keep it on.

Now for some of that dry stuff, the stats.  The pencil weighs a mere 8.4 grams, making it a light weight indeed.  It is 141 mm long, has a diameter of 9 mm across the flats and has a balance point 72 mm from the tip of the pencil which gives it practically perfect balance.  2 strong presses of the cap expels enough lead to write with.  The lead reservoir has room for a full container of lead (12 pieces) but it will have to be fed in one piece at a time.  The mechanism  is fairly quite due in part to it's almost complete plastic construction.  Should you have a lead jam, common with 0.3 mm pencils, you'll have to supply your own clean out rod as the 400 does not come with one.

Being such a light pencil, many will find it an enjoyable experience to write with the 400.  I however find it a bit light for my taste.  I have to hold the pencil too tightly for extended use which hurts my hand.  Holding the pencil higher up at the point where the body meets the grip area helps but when using HB lead the print seems too light.  The use of grade B lead will help out also by making a darker impression with less pressure.

Overall I like the look of the 300 as it has the appearance of the beloved 600.  The pencil still come in 0.3 mm but for how long as the 600 comes only in 0.5 and 0.7 mm lead sizes.  While the extremely light weight of the 300 may be heaven for some users, but not for me.  I prefer the feel of the 600 because it has some heft to it..  That said, I think the rotring 300 is a dandy little entry level pencil that offers the user features found in some higher cost pencils without the higher price tag.  It's light weight makes it easy to carry in the breast pocket of a shirt without the need of a pocket protector.  So if you are in the market for a lightweight 0.3 mm drafting pencil that offers nice features then seriously consider the roting 300.

The rotring 300 and the entire numbered series of rotring drafting pencils can be seen and purchased from our friends at Jetpens.com.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

roting rapid PRO 0.5 mm Drafting Pencil in Black

Click on any photo to see a full sized image
Grace, elegance, sophistication, beauty, no, I am not talking about my lovey wife, this time, although she is all these things, I'm talking about a drafting pencil.  Namely the rotring rapid PRO 0.5 mm in Black.  Like my lovely wife, the rotring rapid Pro is all these things and more.

First introduced in 2010 it's price range puts it in between the rotring 600 and the rotring 800 drafting pencils, the spot once held by the now discontinued and rare rotring 700 drafting pencil.  So I am going to take a wild guess here, mind you it just that, and say that the rotring rapid PRO was designed to fill the gap between the rotring 600 and the rotring 800.  But I could be wrong.  At any rate it fits the gap well.

Now, why would I apply such words like grace, elegance, sophistication and beauty to a drafting pencil?  Because they fit.  The rotring rapid PRO is everything one would expect from the International known and loved rotring family of pencils and pens.  It has graceful lines, is n elegant design, has a sophisticated look and is a beauty to look at and use.

Yeah, I know what you're thinking!  You're thinking that because he likes drafting pencils and rotrings that he's going to give this one a glossy review!  Well, I could see why you would think that way, but you'd be wrong!  I'm going to give it a satiny review.  Get it?  Satiny review!  The pencil's a satin black...  (Sigh)  Why do I even bother?

OK, enough dry humor.  Lets get down to some hard facts....

 The Construction..  The rotring rapid PRO is of all metal construction on the exterior and a combination of metal and plastic on the interior.  The metals are aluminum plate over brass (my best guess) which is anodized a satin black.  The barrel is hexagonal while the grip assembly is round.  The top of the pencil where the pocket clip resides is round as is the push button.

The Look.  The finish is a satin black with a smooth texture on the barrel and a rough texture on the grip portion of the grip assembly.  This is due to tiny spiral cross hatching intended to provide the surface a good grip. A red plastic ring separates the grip assembly from the barrel.  This is part of the interior assembly. On the left side of the pencil, in gloss gray paint, are the rotring logo and the name of the pencil, "rapid PRO" and the lead, size, "0.5" (mm).  Embossed on the pocket clip is the company logo.  All in all a rather attractive pencil.

Point of Interest.  The "red ring" around the pencil is the companies trademark.  It literally means "red ring".  The original manufacturing company, based in Germany, changed the company name to "rotring" in the early stages of the company's life.  The company is now part of Newell Rubbermaid and the pencils are made in Japan.  To the best of my knowledge the quality of the German pencil has been upheld by the Japanese version.  As far as interchangeability is concerned, I haven't a clue.  If you know of anything different please write me and let me know.

 The stats.  The rotring rapid PRO is a solid, high end pencil worthy of the rotring name.  It is made of metal, probably a combination of brass and steel.  I'm certainly NOT going to take a carbide scribe to it to find out for sure, but most metal pencils have brass bodies as well as other parts made of brass while things like the pocket clip, lead sleeve and push button are made of steel.  Generally the interior is a combination of metal (brass and steel) and plastic of some type.  Such is the case with the rapid PRO.  Don't disdain plastic in a high end pencil as plastic can dampen sound and it makes far less noise than metal when surfaces contact one another, thus making for a quitter pencil.

The rotring rapid PRO is a heavyweight weighing in at 24.5 grams.  It's 144 mm with the sliding sleeve retracted and 148 mm long extended.  That gives the rapid PRO a 4 mm lead sleeve. the diameter is 8.5 mm across the flats and has a balance point of 73 mm from the extended point.  This means that the Rapid Pro's balance point is almost in the exact center of the pencil.  This makes for a better writing experience. 

The black satin color is probably the result of the brass being plated with a thin coating of Aluminum and then hard anodized.  Brass itself cannot be anodized.  Anodize is a process where Aluminum is oxidized.  Anodize is applied in layers and is harder than the under lying Aluminum.  During the process the anodize can be dyed or colored, thus a black pencil!

The push button on the rapid PRO is a bit unusual and there is no explanation, that I can read (I don't read Japanese) in the pamphlet that accompanies the pencil, in that the push button is a tube, not a cap!  The top is open.  What's up with that!?  I don't see the purpose in the open top, but the metal is rolled down towards the inside so there is no sharp edge, but a nice smooth edge to press against.  Under the push button is a tiny eraser (useless in my book, then any follower of this blog knows how I feel about such erasers).  The eraser hides the fact that instead of a wide mouth for the reservoir there is a metal cap with a small hole in it so that the lead has to be delivered one-at-a-time!  Much like the Mitsubishi Kuru Togas.  Again, what's up with that!?  If anybody knows the reasoning behind this, please let me know!

Now if you go pressing on the push button, and I know that you will, then you will get a surprise. The first depression lets down the hidden sliding sleeve (Ha!  Told you there was a surprise!) along with a small amount of lead.  A second depression releases enough lead to write/draw with.  The mechanism is not loud, while not being silent either.  Shall we say it's on the quiet side, but audible. The sliding sleeve is a true sliding sleeve, not just a hide-a-way sleeve.  This means as you write, the lead wears away but when it reaches the sleeve the sleeve moves back up into the pencil allowing the lead to still make a mark.  However this is more use when drawing with a straight edge than anything else for the pencil is held almost perpendicular to the paper when drafting or doing mechanical drawings.

4 mm sliding sleeve
Now You See Me, Now You Don't!

The rotring rapid PRO breaks down into 4 major components.  The grip/end cap/lead sleeve, the push button, the eraser (without a clean out rod) and the main body.  The pocket clip is removable, but should one do so I am afraid that the finish would be scratched.  To disassemble the pencil in order to remove a lead jam, simply remove the grip assembly, then using a suitable clean out rod, remove the jam and reassemble the pencil.  No need to remove the push button and eraser to gain access to the clean out rod because there is none (did I mention that the pencil doesn't come with a clean out rod already?).

Top: Grip/End Cap/Lead Sleeve
Bottom from left to right: Front Row, Push Button, Eraser.  Back Row:  The Main Body And Internal Works
Now besides the obvious grudge I have against pencil makers no longer putting clean out rods in thin lead pencils I have one other complaint about the pencil  But first a word from our sponsors... Please visit jetpens.com often and when you do you can mention my name, The Old Geezer!  And the name of my blog, Pens and Pencils!  It won't get you any discounts or anything but it might get and my blog some attention! (Just kidding,...).  The second, and more importantly is the grip part of the grip assembly.  The knurling is very fine and was intended to provide the end user with a good griping surface.  But for me the knurling is almost to fine.  Almost but not quite.  It's not that the pencil slips in my hand when I use it, it's just that I prefer the feel of a courser knurling!  To each his own. 
However, there is one thing that I have discovered.  With use the grooves tend to fill with exfoliated skin!  This turns the black to gray!  An"acid" brush, form a hardware store, with it's natural bristles shortened considerably, is good for cleaning this out of the grooves of the grip. A little bit of tap water used with the brush helps remove the dead skin and wash it away. The natural bristles are easy on the finish.  NEVER use any type of metal brush to do this as this would ruin the pencils finish!
Bottom line.  The rotring rapid Pro make a good writing pencil.  it's well balanced, has some heft to it which helps keep in in the hand and in the correct writing position..  The grip issue aside the pencil is a keeper.  It's a very well made pencil, made from quality materials with an attention to details.  The pencil is also suited for mechanical drawing but I personally feel that the rotring rapid Pro is worth the money.  One day I'll buy one in silver and I'll have a side by side comparison.
I hope that this review has been helpful, interesting, informative and that you, the reader, liked my since of humor.  If you didn't, then by all means don't email me a bout it!
Many thanks to our friends at jetpens.com for the pencil used in this review.  Please visit them for some of the finest pens, pencils and stationary items that Japan makes. 
Thank you.