Here is an old review of the Rotring 800 I wrote a few years ago.
The other day arrived the newest addition to my collection: a Rotring 800 drafting pencil in silver (0.5mm).
First off, the thing is carnally arousing . I have no silver R600 to compare it with, but in my opinion it mops the floor with the black 600. Just soak in the animal magnitude. The thing’s mighty fine, at least when it’s new and the brass isn’t showing.
Like its little brother, the R800 has an all-brass body with plastic internal components. This is the furthest I was willing to break it down, because I don’t entirely understand the retraction mechanism and I’m not about to spend $50 for a test pencil. The body is by some means silver, but over time it wears away in vulnerable areas. There is a similarly colored cap at the end, hiding what is among the smallest erasers I’ve ever seen. Even dwarfed by the notoriously small Pentel “Z” style eraser. The rubber doesn’t continue past the knurled section of the housing, either. Jetpens sells refills of three for the hefty sum of $5.00.
One of the finest features of the Rotring 600 is the knurled grip. As I have said, it feels on the 600 like a nail file. I can’t get enough of it. No matter how sweaty my hand or how hard I push, the connection is unmovable. While the knurling on the R800 looks similar to that of the 600 and is of the same scale, the difference is noticed immediately. It seems that the cuts on the 600 are deeper than those on the 800, and so one’s fingers are more apt to slide on the 800. When the profile of both grips is examined in front of a light source, this can be seen (I was unable to photograph it effectively). The difference is severe. Compared to the 600, the Rotring 800 feels like an ice rink.
The biggest difference between the R600 and its predecessor is, of course, the retracting tip. A spin of the knurled section near the top extends the lead sleeve and golden cylinder and snaps at 180 degrees, locking the tip in the extended position. Turning the knurling in the opposite direction (toward the user with tip to the left) breaks the lock and sends the tip flying back in. This feature partially eliminates one of the main issues with the Rotring 600, as well as with other drafting pencils: the notorious bent tip. When the tip is extended, the 800 is as easily bowed as any other, and so there is still plenty of risk while writing. If the pencil is dropped while the tip is retracted, though, it is entirely safe. When the sleeve of a 600 is bent, one can purchase a fairly cheap tip replacement, but this is not available for the R800. While the Rotring 600 feels like a solid block of metal, an extension of the hand, the extending tip mechanism of the 800 rehabituates one with plastic pressure fits and grinding joints. Spinning the retraction mechanism makes a weird noise, there is a tiny but noticeable play in the tip, the satisfying click-click of the 600 is replaced by a squishy springy thing, and for some frustrating reason there emerges a massive issue with lead breakage. I was taking some notes the other day, using a Uni Nano-Dia 3B 0.5mm lead, when I begin to find that every time I had to extend the lead, it had broken about a cm up the barrel. Every. Single. Time. I tried all different lead hardnesses and brands, but it keeps. On. Happening. I have wasted probably 15 pieces of nice lead experimenting but insofar nothing. If anyone else has this problem, I beg that you tell me. Hopefully this is a singular defect, because I couldn’t find anything online about it. Perhaps I’ll order some 4H and see if that works. Anyway, the retraction mechanism is also nice because now the Rotring doesn’t always behave like a shiv and bloody your leg or poke holes in your shirt. I have a scar from once scratching my hand with my R600.
Like the 600, the 800 has an effective and attractive pocket clip which I have yet to take off because it is so tight that I fear I won’t get it back on again. Unlike the 600, “JAPAN” is listed near the top. There are gold rings surrounding the “rotring” (“red ring” in German) at the top. The lead hardness indicator is scrapped in favor of the retraction mechanism. The 800, extended, is about a mm longer than the 600. It weighs a lot, even more than its sibling.
Overall, the decision between the Rotring 600 and the Rotring 800 was not a difficult one for me. Although prices vary, the 800 costs about $15-$20 more than the 600, and when the tip of the 800 cannot be repaired a new pencil must be bought. Although the retracting tip is an attractive prospect, I feel that implementation was poor. The lead breakage is making me psychotic. The grip is more slippery than the 600. The tip on my 600 has broken twice, and badly, but I managed to fix it with needlenose pliers and a magnifying glass, no worse for the wear. This pencil had a lot of potential, but for $50 I expected something better than the Rotring 600, not overshadowed by it.
Recommended for the collector, and if you have the cash to throw around. It certainly isn’t a bad pencil, especially if this lead breakage issue is limited to me, but once you own the 600 and the 800 you’ll see what I mean. The Rotring 600 is a work of art, and the 800 is an afterthought.
Edit (about a month later): After leaving the pencil floating in my case, the lettering has become worn. A little disappointing.