Sunday, March 23, 2014

Uchida Drawing Sharp S Mechanical Pencil Review

Uchida Drawing Sharp S Mechanical Pencil Review

Several years ago Isu advised me that my mechanical pencil collection was missing a very unique pencil, namely the Uchida Drawing Sharp S. After some thought I decided he was right; the Drawing Sharp S was sufficiently unique that I did need to add it to my collection. Since then I have been umming and ahhing about getting around to reviewing it. Finally I have decided to cast doubt aside, take the plunge and say ‘Yes’.

Uchida are a Japanese company with roots going back to China 1910. They distribute a wide range of office and art equipment and supplies. The Uchida Drawing Sharp S mechanical pencil comes in a nice but simple cardboard package with clear plastic sleeve. A tube of lead refills is also supplied. Note the packaging is marked with Catalogue Number 848-0014.

The Drawing Sharp S has a rather unusual look and a combination plastic and metal body.
Uchida Drawing Sharp S Mechanical Pencil

Weighing in at 17 grams it is much more lightweight in the hand than I anticipated from my first look at it. The plastic pocket clip is removable and it simply slides up off the gently tapering upper body. I wonder how secure it would be over the long term. The grip section is hard plastic cut into a square grid pattern. I found the plastic quite slippery and even with the grid pattern the grip is not particularly positive. For a draughting pencil I think this is a weak point.

There is a lead hardness indicator window for grades 3H to B including F. The tip is a 4mm fixed round lead sleeve. No question, this is a mechanical pencil for draughting work.

Markings on the pencil are Uchida Drawing Sharp printed on the metal upper body just above the lead hardness indicator. A sticker indicates the lead diameter 0.5mm.

The reason Isu said this was a unique pencil is because it is a modern draughting pencil with a screw mechanism. That’s right; to advance or retract the lead you wind the top half of the body around. Just to be clear, you are not twisting the body a half turn to activate a ratchet lead advance and the body then springs back, it is a screw mechanism like the old days. You wind round and round continuously and the lead just keeps coming out. The lead advance is continuous not incremental.

With many screw mechanisms you store spare leads inside the centre of the mechanism just like in a normal modern ratchet mechanism, but they do not self-feed a new lead, you have to take a lead out and feed it in through the tip. I am not sure, particularly because the instruction leaflet is not in English, but the Uchida Drawing Sharp S did not seem to like it when I put a couple of spare leads down inside the centre mechanism, so I think it does not carry any spare leads in the pencil. You need to carry a tube of refills with the pencil.

The screw mechanism took quite a bit of getting used to with a 0.5mm lead. I have used screw mechanisms before, but that was always with thicker leads likes 1.18 or 0.9mm. These thicker leads have strength, and the amount of lead advanced did not really matter too much. The Drawing Sharp S is a 0.5mm lead so if you advance a little too much lead it is likely to break when you start writing. Now to be fair, this a draughting pencil and I was using it for general office work, but I still think my point is valid. You need to pay much more attention to how much lead you advance than normal.

Now for refilling the Drawing Sharp S. That’s where things get a bit difficult. The instructions are in Japanese, and my ability to read Japanese is non-existent.

Luckily though the Japanese retailer Bundoki provided a translation on request, but I think a little something has been lost in translation:
“When you take out the short lead, twist the barrel all the way right and take it out. Make sure the logo “Uchida” on the barrel is right next to the indicator window. Twist the barrel to left twice and refill a lead. Twist the barrel and push lead with your finger a little by little. If the lead breaks, please take out the cap and take the lead out.”

The small emergency use eraser is accessed by pulling the whole top half of the body off.

The Uchida Drawing Sharp S mechanical pencil, a contemporary rarity, a modern draughting pencil with a screw mechanism - only you can decide if it is a pleasure or a pain.

•    Best Points – Novelty value mechanism.
•    Not So Good Points – The grip, the lack of spare leads.
•    Price Range – Low.
•    Does this pencil make it into the Top 5? - No.

Dimensions – Length 141mm, diameter 9mm at grip. Balance point about 65 mm up from the tip.

Saturday, February 01, 2014

2014 Starts With a Rip-Off?

In mid January an auction for a Pilot pen & mechanical pencil set on my local online auction site piqued my interest. The details of the set were minimal and I was a bit suspicious about it all, but I thought I would put in the minimum bid and leave it at that. If I lost then no drama, and if I won and it was a second hand scratched Pilot lemon then it would have only cost me the equivalent of US $10.19 including postage. Well, I won the auction and in due course my Pilot pen & pencil set arrived.

Upon opening the parcel the Pilot hard case had a fair bit of edge wear and tear, so my hopes were not good. I opened the case, to reveal an annoying lemon set. I say annoying because as you can see the case is a Pilot case, but the pen and pencil were unbranded, not Pilots. Clearly I had been trumped and taken for sucker.

After a few seconds my annoyance and disappointment subsided and said to myself just calm down, relax, be cool. I had a good shot at returning them and getting my money back. Anyway, may as well investigate the lemons and see how bad they are.

Firstly I said before the pen and mechanical pencil were themselves unbranded. That's not strictly correct. Around the centre band of each is printed in black the word KICPA. KICPA? Never heard of that brand. Also it wasn't engraved or anything, rather printed on. A bit strange really. So, I googled KICPA pens and pencils and got next to nothing, except links to a couple of old eBay auctions, for pen and pencil sets with KICPA printed on them, in Pilot cases! So, maybe there was a little more to this than first thought.
Right, time to start pulling things apart to have a look at the entrails.
Hmmm... definitely not an el-cheapo mechanical pencil insert mechanism.
There's a lead clearance needle on the eraser. Again, not the mark of a cheap generic set.
Things are even clearer with the ballpoint pen. It again has a good quality insert mechanism, and a Pilot brand R-3 refill.
So, despite my initial reaction, this is obviously a genuine Pilot pen and mechanical pencil set. What then is this KICPA? First thought is this set is part of Pilots corporate gift programme and KICPA are a company who have bought them as gifts. Back to googling KICPA.
Ahhhh.... KICPA... The Korean Institute of Certified Public Accountants. Pen and pencil users! Well, that's my best guess anyway.

The mechanical pencil is 0.5mm push top ratchet mechanism. As you can see, the metal body is a gold colour with a pattern of long rectangularish flat sections. There's probably a name for that sort of pattern but I don't know what it is. Please enlighten me if you do happen to know.

The set is in very good condition, basically "as new" despite the condition of the case. Man, those Pilot cases. They really are spring loaded. You could lose a finger closing them.

There is a reasonably large community of Korean immigrants down here, so I can only assume a KICPA member has emigrated and tired of his/her set.

Right then, moving on. Whilst browsing my Korean backgrounds I came across this.

Hmmmm, Little Miss Bo-Peep Korea and her sheep and a "Beat This Caption"? Hey, are they poking fun at us down here? I used to get a decent number of hits from Korea... translation please... whats it say?

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013 - It's A Wrap

Well 2013 is almost over, just time for a final quick post.

My recent use of a Montblanc Meisterstück mechanical pencil inspired me to go right back to the beginning and so I have spent the last two months using my Yard-O-Led Deco 34 as my everday mechanical pencil. My original review was very short and basic by later standards, but what would I add now? Actually rather than adding anything I would re-emphaise two points. "The all silver square body and uncommon looks of this mechanical pencil make it stand out from your everyday office pens and pencils" and "...but I would prefer a thinner lead." Yes, 1.18mm really is just bit too thick for me. Still, I actually quite liked having to take a little time out to twist the top to advance the lead, and putting a new lead in is certainly something different. Overall an enjoyable change, and I think I will start 2014 with some other luxury writing instruement.

Anyway, moving on, here's a final post to wrap up 2013.

Pencil Rolls

First off, a very nice present from my pencil buddy in Korea. The Cplay Sevenroll Pencil Case in colourway "rich espresso".

There is a single loop on the outside of the wrap so you can have a 'quick access pencil' always at the ready.
The wrap is made in Korea, from what seems to be very good quality leather and materials... with a price tag to match. There are four pencil slots in the sevenroll wrap. For me personally the storage pocket is a bit on the small side. I would like to get an extra eraser and lead refill tube in there, but hey, beggars can't be choosers.
 My friend commented that normally this Cplay brand stationery is aimed at teenage girls... but he thought it was ok for me!?
Product branding details are embossed into the top flap. This wrap is a class act.

There is of course a much cheaper and in some ways better option to buying a fancy pencil wrap. Make your own! All you need is some material, needle and thread and time. Or, if like me, and the needle and thread bit sounds a bit too daunting you could do what I did, and find someone else to sew it for you. So, I made a mock up of my pencil wrap out of paper, bought some marine canvas, stuck it all in an envelope and posted it to a young relative who knows how to sew. Surprise, surprise, guess what I got for my next birthday? The Dave Design Pencil Wrap!

The various pockets and slots are sized for erasers, sharpeners, lead refill tubes, thin and fat pencils, etc.
Sorry, something about the blue colour caused lots of photographic problems. This was the best I could do.

So there we have it, from one end of the wrap spectrum to the other.

Wishing you all the best for 2014.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Three New Mechanical Pencils

If anyone out there is still holding their breath waiting for a new blog post… well here you are.

Whilst I haven’t been blogging for ages, and haven’t made a lot of additions to the collection, I have still been pencilling away, in one form or another. Three mechanical pencils were recently added to the collection, and here’s a little something about them. All three were a gift from a long time pencil friend. They were from the estate of a relative, and he thought I might get some enjoyment from them, which I certainly have. So here we have them.
Pelikan, Parker and Montblanc

Parker Vacumatic Mechanical Pencil

The one that initially attracted my attention was the oldest of them, the Parker Vacumatic pencil. Definitely old school, from the good old days.

The barrel imprint reads “PARKER VACUMATIC REG” and “MADE IN CANADA T.M.” I am no expert on Parkers but a quick bit of internet searching indicates Vacumatics were made from 1933 – 1948, although I believe that is USA production. Presumably Canadian manufacturing would have been similar dates. The exact details of the arrow clip and the central body band can be used to date it more precisely and it seems mine is post 1942. My pencil-friend has a family photo from 1949 showing this pencil. If anyone can date it more precisely then please yell out. The colour is apparently called Silver Pearl, one of the mainstay colours of this classic. I quite like the colour scheme; the pearl sections reflect light and give the pencil an ever changing appearance depending on the angle of view. Lead diameter is 0.9mm and lead advance is a screw mechanism. All exactly as expected for this period.

Trying out the B&W setting on Picasa photo editor. Note the detailing on the arrow pocket clip and the barrel band.

Pull the barrel apart to reveal the eraser, which has seen better days.
The Vacumatic is a nice pencil to write with, although I would prefer a 0.7mm lead version.

Pelikan Celebry Mechanical Pencil

Next we have the Pelikan Celebry.

This thing weighs a ton! It should be the Pelikan Clubby or Pelikan Basher, not Celebry. Some sort of cross between a mechanical pencil and a length of lead piping... handy in a dark-back alley brawl. Despite the colour, to me the weight makes it a "mans" pencil. (Sorry ladies, please don't take offence). One for the man cave downstairs.

Some more internet searching tells me mine is a Pelikan Celebry D565 Mechanical Pencil, Poppy Red with Black Chrome Trims (PEL 906487). Celebry was produced between 1995 and 2007.

0.7mm lead, twist advance mechanism. The top half of the barrel pulls off to reveal eraser and access to the lead storage magazine. The only wording on the pencil is CELEBRY just above the middle band.

Pelikan logo on end cap
A fine mechanical pencil, classic German quality, built to last.

Montblanc Meisterstück Mechanical Pencil

It's finally happened. Dave has a Montblanc. A Montblanc Meisterstück, the timeless classic.

At a current retail of US $415 (USA Montblanc website) this is not something I would ever buy myself, but I am very happy to have received this near new one as a gift.

For the past week I have been Montblancing it, or perhaps Ich Montblance? My trusty Lamy 2000 has been left in the drawer, and my new Meisterstück has been my daily use mechanical pencil.

To start with I have always considered the price of Montblanc to just be ridiculous. I am no stranger to paying one or even two hundred for a luxury brand mechanical pencil, but four hundred? When you are buying high end writing implements you are really buying jewellery, jewellery that just happens to also write, but even jewellery has price limits. The Meisterstück is just a plain black resin body with gold plated trims. Sure, it's a superior quality body, trims and mechanism, but to me there's just no way the price can be justified. If the body was made of exotic materials or uncommon design features then that's some justification for pricing, but the Meisterstück is not. The price simply cannot be justified. Still, Montblanc have been around a very long time and are still going strong, so clearly a lot of people disagree with me.

Having said all of that, a week of Montblancing has tempered my indignation to a degree. Its plain classic styling really is classic. Using it really did begin to give me delusions of grandeur.

The engraved centre band.
You will have to excuse my photography. I just couldn't get the engraving to show clearly.
The famous snow capped mountain.

My Meisterstück is a 0.5mm lead twist advance ratchet mechanism which my friend believes dates from sometime around the 1980's. The Montblanc website has its current description and code as Meisterstück Classique Mechanical Pencil, Ident. Nr. 12746. There is also a 0.7mm version available.
You pull the cap off to use the eraser or refill the lead chamber.

So, there we have it. Three new pencils. I started out placing them in the order Parker, Pelikan, Montblanc but finished up the reverse - Montblanc, Pelikan, Parker.

Once again, thanks to my friend for this most generous gift.

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Novelty Stocking Stuffer

Santa usually leaves a few novelty item stocking stuffers for me, and this recent Christmas was no exception. Included this time was a pencil sharpener - Geppetto's Pencil Sharpener - Made in China but the brainchild of Israeli design studio Monkey Business.
Package, pencil + point protector, and Geppetto.

The weighted base keeps Geppetto smily face up, even with a long nose.

The sharpener works well, although the blade does not appear to be replaceable.

Also in the stocking, not pencil related.... but then again, perhaps it's a little something to help contemplation on future pencil acquisitions?