Thursday, May 11, 2006

Staedtler Mars Micro 775 Mechanical Pencil Review

A while ago I said that after my course of “rubber grip re-alignment therapy” was completed I would start to review some mechanical pencils with rubber grips. Well, here is the first one, the Staedtler Mars Micro 775 mechanical pencil.

The Mars Micro comes in 4 different lead diameters, 0.3, 0.5, 0.7 and 0.9mm and the shaft at the top of the pencil is colour coded for each different thickness. Mine is a 0.5mm pencil so the shaft is a burnt orange sort of colour. There is also a small window section at the top of the body that you can see this colour through. To be honest I don’t find the look of this pencil particularly attractive. There are four distinct colours on this pencil - silvery metal tip, pocket clip and cap, orange top shaft, black rubber grip and blue plastic body – and they combine to give a rather uncoordinated look.

The lead holding sleeve is 3mm long, intended for draughting work as well as general writing. It is retractable, but unlike most other pencils you sort of have to force it, to make it retract. Mine was sold as loose stock without instructions and I felt it necessary to check on the Staedtler website to see if it really was retractable. Also when the sleeve has been retracted and you first activate the push top ratchet mechanism to advance the sleeve out of the body you again have to be forceful. It’s easy to push the top button not quite hard enough so that the tip only advances three-quarters of the way out of the body. But having got it correctly out, I will say that the push top ratchet lead advancing mechanism is extremely smooth, one of the smoothest mechanisms around.

My pencil has one really annoying feature. It squeaks when you write. It sounds like the lead holding sleeve is squeaking against the plastic bushing that centres it in the tip section. A very annoying noise, but I suppose a tiny drop of silicon oil would put a stop to it.

The pocket clip is a good strong spring loaded functional piece of apparatus. There is a small eraser under the top cap. It is a rather sticky compound and the waste tends to form little balls and stick to the eraser.

So what about the rubber grip? It is a hard black compound with slightly raised rectangular dots to enhance the grip. The compound is quite hard so I don’t think there is any real cushioning effect, and I don’t think it’s a “grippy” compound that makes you feel like your fingers won’t be sliding around it. In fact I think the plastic barrel has just as much, if not more, friction with your fingers. Also the rubber gets a slightly damp feel to it after a short use. So basically I don’t like this rubber grip. I feel that it’s a gimmick, something to provide the illusion of comfort and improved grip, but it’s just an illusion. Overall I find this mechanical pencil a bit disappointing.

  • Best Points – Very smooth lead advance mechanism.
  • Not So Good Points – The squeaking when you write, and very stiff retract / extend action.
  • Price Range – Low.
  • Dimensions – Length 149mm, diameter 9mm at widest point. Balance point about 70mm up from the tip.

So, who is the sailor with cap and pipe? Well, since the German pencil companies are important players in the New Zealand market, I thought I would take the opportunity to mix pencils and history, with some notable Germans from NZ history. First up is the “Sea-Devil”, Count Felix von Luckner (1881 – 1966), who captained the German commerce raider “Seeadler” during World War One. After raiding through the Atlantic and on into the Pacific Ocean, his luck finally ran out and his war came to an end as a POW in NZ, on Motuihe Island, just a 20 minute ferry ride from where I am typing this posting. Even though he was the enemy, his daring deeds and chivalrous, humane wartime conduct made him a popular figure. Many years after the war, he returned to New Zealand and toured the country to great public acclaim. He also toured the USA, and despite his having sunk several American vessels he was also warmly received, and made an honorary citizen of many cities that he visited.

34 comments:

Anonymous said...

I don't know if this is the same problem you are talking about, but the Staedtler lead is very squeaky. If you put pentel lead in a mars micro 775, I think it writes great.

AJ said...

Dave.

I've had my Mars Micro 775 now for about three years as my only propelling pencil & the one that gets used pretty much every day.
I have not had any squeaking experiences, but mine does have a slightly annoying rattle to it caused by the burnt orange shaft being loose enough to touch the inside of the blue body piece. Thankfully, this doesn't happen during use - only when twiddling between my fingers.

The rubber grip has worked pretty well for me, but after extended use it is looking slightly warped, suggesting that it will need replacing in the future or simply render the pen unusable unless it is removed. Maybe it's a matter of extended use roughing up the rubber's texture, but mine IS providing decent grip - much more than the plastic barrel.

As I brought is a loose stock, I had no idea that the barrel was retractable until read yr review, so I have never used it. That said, I tend to agree with you - it's a bit clunky.

As for the lead advance, I have found that mine sometimes will do a "double" advance so that I get way too much lead coming out and then have to manually adjust the length before I can start writing. This is nnoying but thankfully infrequent. I'd also have to say that it's a bit wasteful with it's lead - the "end" piece that it refuses to grasp is about 20mm long...

kiwi-d said...

Thanks for your comments AJ. Glad you now know the sleeve is retractable, but for some strange reason I feel "vindicated" (or something similar) that you too find it troublesome.

Anonymous said...

Retractable sleeve is usually a sliding sleeve i.e. it slides upwards during usage. This is good for normal writing. But when it is used against a ruler (or template), the sliding sleeve may be pushed upwards, exposing too much lead and causing a snap. Thus retractable sleeve is usually not the best choice for drafting works.

But this is not the case for Mars Micro 775. The sleeve is unique. It is fully retractable and sliding; but once it is fully extended, it will lock into its position. It then behaves exactly like a fixed sleeve that does not slide, which is perfect for drafting works. This is a pocket safe retractable pencil with a "fixed sleeve".

I think this is the reason why some strength is needed to have the sleeve "fixed" and un-"fixed".

For normal writing, there is no need to fully extend the sleeve. Extending the sleeve 3/4 ways is more than enough, and the sleeve slides while you write.

maxjensen said...

Well. It's a good no nonsense quality pencil. But the rubber grip is so annoying that the pencil always ends up staying in my drawer. It's just not comfortable to hold. I much prefer the very basic Faber Castell TK-Fine 9717 then when I just need a pencil to get the job done (or if I fear someone would loan it on a permanent basis). The Faber Castell has the same locked/retracting sleeve.

Thanks for the review Dave!
Has anyone ever had the Pelikan Epoch in their hands? Although it's not a push mechanism as I prefer it does look awfully nice. So I might feel tempted to buy it some day.

pigpogm said...

Yes, the Faber-Castell TK-Fine 9717 is a very similar mechanism to the Mars Micro, as maxjensen says. There's also the Pentel GraphGear 1000 with a fixed retractable sleeve, but retracted by clicking the clip.

The Pentel Technica-X also has a retractable thin metal sleeve at the end of a conical sleeve, with the whole thing being retractable. It works quite differently, though, retracting with just a firmer click on the button, rather than needing to be pushed.

Gunther said...

I would like to add that not only the Faber-Castell TK-Fine 9717 has a fixed retractable sleeve but all four models of the 971x line. - Rotring also had at least two mechanical pencils with a fixed sleeve that could be retracted. The sleeve of the 600G could be hidden by turning the button, and the one of the 700 vanished by a firmer click.

Anonymous said...

“Retractable pencil with fixed sleeve” usually works on the same principle i.e. the sleeve is fixed to the lead mechanism; and moving the whole lead mechanism forward does the sleeve extension, while moving the whole lead mechanism backward does the sleeve retraction. Naturally, to facilitate the extension and retraction, the lead mechanism must work with the main body casing to allow movement and locking. An example can be spring loading/lock-release mechanism. The main disadvantage is that, cushioned lead feature is not quite possible for this type of pencil, because the lead mechanism is not independent to allow adding a spring to meet this cushioning purpose.

About Mars Micro, the locking mechanism is just a little guiding/locking plastic device, inside the pencil tip. This "frees up” the lead mechanism (unlike the one mentioned above), which a spring can be added to cushion the lead in use. As an aggressive user, I think this is something great. I hope this clarifies why I mentioned earlier, “The sleeve is unique”.

Gunther said...

Staedtler's unique technique used in the current MARS MICRO 775 models (the retractable sleeve that locks when fully extended and slides when not) has first been employed in the MARS MICROGRAPH (# 771) in 1977 (source: Staedtler).

sandy said...

The spring cushioning on the lead is a great feature, greatly reduces the number of lead snaps, makes 0.5mm as useable as a normal pencil with 0.7mm. Also pocket clip is far better than average pencil. Top marks to Staedtler, apart from clunky looks and relatively poor eraser. Currently only £1.99 from www.artthings.co.uk. Best pencil I ever owned (so far!).

Bob said...

It is unfortunate that this pencil is no longer available in the US. It is durable, feels good in your hand and, as Sandy noted, cushions against broken leads. It appears that it is still available everywhere else.

Anonymous said...

I have the 0.5mm, 0.7mm and 0.3mm version of this pencil. I find that only my 0.3mm version is squeaky, and the other two are fine.

Not sure why.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Bob; this pencil (.7) has been my favorite for over 15 years. After hurricane Katrina, I needed to replace the ones that I lost (and the one I had used until the grip was ragged); I couldn't believe that NO ONE in the US carries them. I have tried 6-8 other brands since then, never finding anything that has the right heft, length, or infrequent lead breakage that the Staedler provides. If any of you who keep them in your drawers untouched would like to get rid of them for a decent exchange rate, please contact! jreine1 (at) lsu (dot) edu.

Kevin said...

Hi Dave,
Thats what I like about your site - you get a great review and then it gets fleshed out even more by great contributors like ANONYMOUS 17/7.Without his/her explanation I would have never known how to use the sliding sleeve function. BRILLIANT. I must agree also that the retract mechanism on this pencil is the most difficult I have encountered.

Karl Myer said...

I have two of these Marsmicro 775's, a 0.7mm and 0.9mm.
The 0.7 is all black.
The 0.9 is the exact colors as the 0.5 pictured in this review at the top of this webpage. (I'm in the USA). The lettering on mine says "marsmicro 775 0.9mm", all lowercase, in a casual quasi-handwriting font that looks a little like Comic Sans.

I have had these two pencils for two or three years but did not know until reading this webpage that the lead-holding sleeve is retractable. I tried retracting them this morning and had a little bit of trouble. I had to use so much force that, had I not been sure from this review that the sleeves do, in fact, retract, I would never have continued trying. I came back and re-read the review and relevant posts twice or three times between attempts just to make sure I hadn't misread. But both of the sleeves finally 'gave' under much pressure and retracted for me. I was pressing them down with a lot of force on a table top. After that first time they both work very smoothlyand easily now every time with very light finger pressure. It's a very smooth, easy, and precise mechanism after you get it freed up.

Thanks for the good advice. These two pencils were very little used by me because of their long sharp protruding tips. Now that I have discovered they retract I am thrilled to have them both and will use them often.

By the way, it is true, as this review states, that the lead-advancing in these pencils is super-smooth. They're a pleasure to use, but also like the reviewer, I'm less than thrilled by the gaudy color schemes, and I simply don't like rubber grips.

PointFour said...

Does anyone have experience of a 775 in 0.3mm? Given its small diameter, I'd be worried about applying enough force to make the sleeve retract, yet the cushioning sounds a very good idea for such thin lead.

Anonymous said...

Hi PointFour, I got both, the 0.5 and the 0.3mm version. Unfortunately I tried to retract the sleeve of the 0.5 but didn't go easily and since the sleeve is a bit wobbly. It was just by curiosity because I always carry pencils in a case, so the retracting sleeve or the pocket clip is irrelevant to me.
The sleeve of the 0.3 is wobbly too, but just a tiny bit, probably because of the cushioning. Very rare that the lead would brake, however I use it for drawing and rarely for continuos writing.
Nick

Bob said...

It appears that this pencil is going to be offered in some new colors. Has anyone seen these offered for sale anywhere? Thanks.

Bob

www.staedtler.com/Mars_micro_gb.Staedtler?ActiveID=2199

Anonymous said...

I didn't know the sleave was retractable before reading this review.. indeed, it's very hard to retract the point.....

Anonymous said...

I had used this for some years, but the rubber grip got loose and made it practically unusable for me. I prefer this days a Faber Castell 1345, where the rubber grip seems to hold well for now.

Anonymous said...

Bob,

Just saw some Mars Micros in 0.5 mm in other colours, in a shop in my local UK small town. Couldn't help noticing the bright lime green, with a white grip area that looked made of plastic rather than rubber. You'd notice it if you left it on the desk, provided you were brave enough to carry it in the first place. Also remember grey. Not sure all the other colours were there, I think the shop had a display pack and some were already gone. The colours were brighter than on Staedtler's graphic.
- PointFour
(OpenID not working again, such a pain to use)

Kiwi-d said...

Thanks PointFour.
I am aware that OpenID does have periodic problems with Blogger, and maybe other sites as well. Sometimes its related to security settings on your browser, particularly Firefox.
Just as a possible suggestion, you can create a Blogger account and use it without creating a blog. Quite a few people do do that.

Sapphire said...

If you're in the UK Rymans the office supply chain has them and the Kuru Toga.

PointFour said...

Thanks, Dave - done now.

Leonardo Pinheiro said...

I have become a loyal user of Pentel A315 during the engineering course, a *very* nice mechanical pencil. Good to write texts, make drafts and do calculus. The rubber grip is perfect, the metal sleeve is so hard that you can kill someone on the neck (rock solid, never breaks). Now it seems that Pentel has stopped making it.

Kiwi, how come you didn't review it? If you did, perhaps it would still be in the market. LOL

So, after 9 years with the only and same Pentel, I bought a Staedtler 775 0.5mm blue.

The retractile sleeve mechanism is not hard to use at all, but not too soft either. There's the lead short cushioning, and the rubber grip is a little bit thinner than A315's grip, but I hope to get used to all of that soon. There's no squeaking.

My +1 to this pencil.

Anonymous said...

I goted a Staedtler Mars Micro 775 with 0.5mm leads at four years. It was an exceptional mechanical pencil. I used for everyday work in school and it was excellent in that work . I desarmed always and investigate its mechanisms. But it was old and breaked, with a breaked grip, for this reason I changed it for a Rotring Tikky with 0.5mm leads.
In conclussion the Mars Micro its EXCELLENT

Anonymous said...

I'm thinking about buying this pencil i have only found the 0.3 version in the stores, does it have any problems like squeaking or the rotring tikky is better?

Anonymous said...

If any one is interested, Amazon UK is currently selling these for £7.98 for packs of 10. This works out at 80p each. I just bought 3 boxes.

Anonymous said...

In the last 5 months I've broken 2 of this pencils, I dont know what im doing wrong I loaded them with 12 leads...maybe thats the problem

Is there any way to fix them they're stuck...

As far as Ive used them thay dont seem to be very reliable pencils.

Bob said...

Mars Micro 775 is available via Amazon now.

http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_ss_c_1_24?url=search-alias%3Doffice-products&field-keywords=staedtler+mars+micro+775+mechanical+pencil0.5mm+%2B+12+lead+refills.+77505bk&sprefix=staedtler+mars+micro+775%2Caps%2C282

Bob

Anonymous said...

Where I live this pencil is very expensive (8-9 dollars).

I actually bought 4 of this pencils so far 2 of them have broken within 4 months of use!!

I wouldnt recommend this pencil its not really comfortable there are better and cheaper products, the only good thing about this pencil is that its retractable.

Id recommend getting the zebra z905 its cheaper and an overall better product.

Anonymous said...

To anonymous 6/11/11

Ive also broke 2 of this pencils I also loaded them with 12 leads (but the website claims it can hold 12 leads at once).

I recall your cooment this arent reliable pencils. And they arent cheap at least for me

J Ferguson said...

I have one in .9, and I quite like it overall. Had no idea that it was retractable--thanks for that "tip!"

Katrien Nijs said...

I have problems to refill:it does not work and the lead breaks. Second problem: the lead gets stuck and does not move at all. Am i the only one?