Author Archives: Keyserlingk

Review of the Staedtler Triplus Micro Mechanical Pencil

The Triplus line is one of Staedtler’s most prominent. The Triplus Micro is the mechanical pencil of the set. It is available in lead sizes 0.3mm, 0.5mm, and 0.7mm.

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The Triplus Micro is certainly interesting. The barrel is plastic, but feels durable. There are concentric silver rings up and down the body which offer surprisingly good grip. The body itself is triangular with gently rounded corners, hence the name “Triplus”. The large cap accordions when pressed, and can be popped off to access the lead chamber beneath. The clip is on the less-than-sturdy side, especially since it’s attached only to the removable cap. One of the most praised features of this pencil is the long, twist-out eraser. As far as on-pencil erasers go, this one is quite functional and uncommonly long-lasting.

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The Triplus Micro is also interesting in its looks. The pencil is slim, and I like the color and shape of the body. The cap and tip are where things begin to falter: the tip seems hastily connected (as it’s circular while the body is triangular) and the top section is rather bulky. The plastic of the cap isn’t molded perfectly and is somewhat marbled-looking. The Staedtler logo (Mars, god of war), name, and “triplus micro 0.5mm” are printed in silver on one face of the body. Overall, the looks of this pencil are intriguing and modern despite a few minor flaws.

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The Micro writes surprisingly well, better than I expected. It’s light but well balanced. it does have an extending tip, and so there is a solid sense of precision. I actually really like the grip that you get with the plastic, and the triangular body, surprisingly, works well for me. Don’t be deceived by the name; the Triplus Micro may be triangular but it certainly isn’t small. This pencil is rather long and the triangular body makes it wider than average. The pencil’s extending tip is very functional. That retractable tip and the large eraser actually tick several “convenience” boxes for mechanical pencils, pocket safe, drop safe, and all-in-one.

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The interiors of the pencil are not the highest quality, but are perfectly functional. The “click” action isn’t super satisfying but again, it’s solid enough. All in all, for under $10 the Triplus Micro is a very solid choice for an affordable, quality pencil. It is definitely among Staedtler’s top tier non-drafting pencils. It’s very light and remarkably durable (as well as self-erasing!), so if you need a mechanical pencil for outdoor work, it really can’t be beaten.

Goes perfectly with a Field Notes.

Goes perfectly with a Field Notes.

Review of the Rotring 800

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).

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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.

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Like its little brother, the R800 has an all-brass body with plastic internal components. Thisis 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 capat 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.

Look at it, it's pitiful.

Look at it, it’s pitiful.

 

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.

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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.

Fully disassembled, or as far as I was willing.

Fully disassembled, or as far as I was willing.

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.

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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.

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I now have a silver 600 to compare it with.

I now have a silver 600 to compare it with.

Equally attractive.

Equally attractive.

 

A woodcase mechanical?

On the theme of the previous “woodcase” review of the S20, I’ve got another “wooden mechanical”, produced by the rather unknown Japanese stationary company Delfonics.

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It’s called the Delfonics Mechanical Wood Pencil, and it comes in an impressive array of vibrant colors: purple, blue, green, yellow, red, orange, pink, silver, white, black, bronze, and a sort of classic marbled wood. The pencil seems to have been made from a bored-out wooden pencil body, and as such it’s a good bit longer than the average mechanical. Beneath the top cap is a plastic tube for lead; there is no eraser. It’s got a solid, functional clip.

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Because of its wooden construction, there are a few peculiarities with this pencil. The weight is low, as low as a regular woodcase. The wood it’s made of is quite soft, and in fact it dents quite easily. The lacquer is nice and thick, however, and the grip is good on the hexagonal body.

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The looks are interesting. I like the plunger-like top cap and the machined lettering on the body, but the tip isn’t so sleek. Compare it to a normal woodcase, and you’ll find it’s sort of stubby. Especially considering the length of the pencil, this stands out as a major weak point.

 

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Writing with it, I can say it definitely feels like a woodcase in 0.5mm. If you’re a big fan of wooden pencils but can’t be bothered to sharpen, the Delfonics is definitely something to consider. For the fairly low price of $9, it’s certainly worth trying something unique from Japan.

Review of the Pilot S20

As mechanical pencils become more commonplace, wood pencils are coming to be a rarity. This is partly because once acquainted with the forever-sharp mechanical, few ever return to a standard woodcase.

Until now. Sort of. The Pilot S20 is, technically, a woodcase pencil. It is, after all, cased in wood. It’s a mechanical pencil by every other measure, but a bit of lumber nods to its pencil forebears.

Timber!

The Pilot S20 comes in two colors of wood, red and brown. Interestingly, the only lead size options are 0.3 and 0.5mm. The pencil featured here is red and 0.5mm.

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Though I’m not sure what type of wood the S20 is made of, I can say for certain it’s exceptional. The color is deep and it’s got a nice sheen, even a sparkle, in sunlight. The wood is light and has a nice, grippy texture, developing a patina with time. The tip end of the grip has a bit of a flare, which means a nice niche for the fingers.

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A steampunk mechanical pencil!?

Stylistically, the S20 really nailed it. The aluminum insets contrast sharply with the wood. Two concentric rings at the top and bottom, especially around the lead-hardness indicator on the cap, lend the S20 a steampunk look. On top of the cap is printed “.5”. My one main complaint with this pencil would be that the cap, although it does attempt to match the rest of the body, is instead made of red and silver-painted plastic. The silver is a pretty good match, but the red doesn’t impress me. I’d greatly prefer if the cap were made of the same material as the body, but so it goes.

Flow lines!

The S20, for the most part, is very durable. It does have decent weight to it, so the lead sleeve may bend if dropped. I have noticed some minor issues; for example, the “S20” and “JAPAN” on the aluminum wear off rather quickly. The pencil’s internal mechanism is excellent, a metal three-pronged ratchet. It produces a solid “click” and sturdy sensation when activated. The pencil’s clip can be removed, but it isn’t bothersome when writing and the S20 looks quite odd and unbalanced without it.

S20 Clincher

The S20 is definitely one of my favorite pencils. This one rarely leaves my pencil bag.

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Review of the Pentel Graphgear 1000

I’m not sure what it is that makes people so drawn to the Graphgear 1000. The brushed-metal utilitarian looks, the retracting tip mechanism, the size and weight? Whatever it is, it’s undeniable. Everyone who has ever dug through my pencil case, without exception, first arrives at the Graphgear. Their eyes light up when they start to write with it. More than a few have tried to sneak off with it. As I hide it back away, I never neglect to mention: “It’s only $12 on Amazon…” This pencil is very popular with newer graphite enthusiasts, and for good reason. Its low price combined with professional quality makes it ideal for a first purchase. It was the pencil that I myself started out on.

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The Graphgear 1000 is on the larger side, slightly thicker and longer than average. It has decent heft to it, weighing in at around 22.5 grams (mostly centered toward the tip). These factors combine to produce a very refined writing experience, requiring little effort from the user. The wide grip tapers down all the way to a 4mm fixed sleeve, lending the pencil a feeling of great precision.

The pencil’s greatest advantage is of course its retractable tip. The tip is extended upon the first (hard) press on the top button, and to retract it one simply presses the upper part of the spring-loaded pocket clip and the tip fires back inside. One can write with a quality drafting pencil on the go, and put it in a pocket without risking being stabbed. And unlike other retractable-tip pencils in which quality goes out the window for the sake of the mechanism, the GG1000 feels as solid as any other pencil, maybe even more so. There is slight play in the tip, but it isn’t noticeable in writing for the most part. There is no sort of mechanical issue which so often arises with pencils made to retract, though I have seen the clips break after extended use.

The Graphgear 1000 fully disassembled. The retraction mechanism is not too complex.

The Graphgear 1000 fully disassembled. The retraction mechanism isn’t too complex.

But it isn’t the pencil’s mechanical prowess that people are immediately attracted to, that’s just an added bonus. Some of the most impassioned praise I have heard for the Graphgear 1000 is its appearance. The pencil looks very technical, with straight lines and that angular clip. The knurled grip is often foreign to pencil laymen, as are its striking rubber inlets. The entirety of the pencil connotes a professional, technical setting. I know many use it for work on mathematics or science in particular. It is also a solid general writing pencil, for note-taking and the likes.

With tip extended.

With tip extended.

The pencil writes very well for its price range, and it’s solid even when pitted against higher-end pencils. It really is a good economic investment, paying $12 for a pencil that feels like quite a bit more. My only gripes with the pencil are that the clip sometimes gets stuck on the body, preventing the tip from retracting (though this infrequent) and that something about this pencil’s grip is uncomfortable for me. Most people I have conferred with don’t seem to share this issue, so I am likely the problem.

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Though the Graphgear is not one of my main pencils, it is a primary feature of many a new pencil bag. With modern looks, solid technology, and a pleasant writing experience, this pencil is hard to outdo.

So what is it that people instantly like so much about the Graphgear? It’s hard to say. Perhaps it’s everything?