When I first got into buying and collecting drafting pencils I neglected buying the Faber Castells in favor of the Japanese made pencils. I guess I was thinking that the Faber Castells would be available for longer than they have been. Many of the vintage pencils are selling for $150.00 and up! I guess I had better get the TK-Fine Varlo L 3.5mm soon or I'm not going to get one! All the others are out of my reach, financially.
I am always reluctant to write something bad about a pencil seeing as I am just one lone man in a sea of writers, would be writers, artist and those who wish they could draw and the like, all who would have an opinion on the pencils that I review. You must remember that what I write, though I try to be as objective as possible, is always somewhat subjective. I've only trashed 2 mechanical pencils on this blog, and I believe that they deserved it! I write this in order to say this: I'm a little disappointed in my first Faber Castell drafting Pencil! Why, you ask? Well I'll get to that in a bit. Right now some stats!
The TK-Metal 903 is approximately 144 mm long, 9 mm in diameter at it's widest point and weighs 16.7 grams making it a medium weight in the drafting pencil arena. The balance point is approximately 70 mm from the tip of the pencil which gives it nearly perfect balance! Now for the first disappointment. The body of the pencil is not metal as the name would imply, but plastic! Now being plastic is not a crime by any means! Some high end pencils have plastic bodies. It's just that because of the name, TK-Metal 903, I expected an all metal pencil!
Putting that aside, the green plastic is an attractive color, a British Racing Green I'd call it, even though it's of German make. The body is round and smooth with the manufactures name and logo, the pencils designation and lead size being imprinted in a silver tone on the barrel below the chromed metal removable pocket clip. The push button and ring between it and the pocket clip are also metal as it the chromed ring and chromed grip and pencil tip. The band between the ring and grip is plastic.
The grip is the area of the second disappointment. Being metal does not assure that a grip will have grip, thought it usually does as it is often knurled and not bright chrome! One day mechanical pencil manufactures will learn that slick chrome grips, while they may look pretty, are not a good gripping surface! The TK Metal 903's grip is unique in that it has 18 narrow evenly spaced rings cut into it. It itself not a good gripping surface. The rings need to be wider and a little deeper to provide a better gripping surface. Between the narrow rings are a number of micro cut rings almost to fine to see with the naked eye. (A magnifying lens will reveal them). The idea is that the micro cut rings will provide a sort of micro prickly surface that will act as a good griping surface! If you have baby soft skin it might. but for the average person I do not feel that it does.
The take down. WARNING! The end of the pencil disassembles into 4 parts! None of then except the end cap/lead sleeve are attached in any way! To remove the tip in order to remove a lead jam for instance it is best to grasp the pencil body ABOVE the metal ring with one hand. Then with the other LOOSEN the end cap (it's the smooth bright part below the ringed grip) then STOP! Now grip the grip along with the rest of the pencil in the palm of the hand and continue to remove the end cap. The remaining 3 pieces are now very loose and should be carefully removed and stored in a safe place such as a small container. Once the lead jam has been taken care of reassemble the pencil in reverse order. However don't go looking for the lead clean out rod under the eraser as there is none. You'll have to provide your own. But removing the end cap/push button and eraser will allow you access to the cavernous lead reservoir.
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The writing experience and the rest of the story. The pencil only needs 2 clicks to advance enough lead to write with. The clicks are smooth and not overly loud. The balance of the pencil is off set by the fact that I have to either hold the pencil above the long grip area or grip the pencil overly tight in order for my fingers not to slide down the grip. Over gripping cause my hand to tire easy, so I've never had the opportunity to use the TK-Metal 903 for extended periods.
My conclusion. Well, I am afraid that you, the reader, are on your own on this one. Because of the grip situation and the way the end components are assembled, I can not in all honesty recommend this pencil for the average user. It's a shame for the pencil has some fine qualities, but not enough, for me at least, to overcome the one major flaw, the lack of grip in the grip. If you do buy a Faber Castell TK-Metal 903 ( or any of the other sizes it comes in) or if you have one, please drop me an email, firstname.lastname@example.org and let me know your experiences.
Bottom line is that they all can't be winners.