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 Also when the sleeve has been retracted and you first activate the push top ratchet mechanism to advance the sleeve out of the body you again have to be forceful.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.