Thursday, November 23, 2006

Schmidt Converter

The Schmidt Converter

What is it? A ‘mechanical pencil cartridge’ that replaces Parker type pen refills and converts the writing instrument from a ballpoint pen to a mechanical pencil.

Schmidt is a German company that makes componentry for writing instruments. Their ballpoint refills are sold by a lot of retailers as an economical alternative to the genuine name-brand item.
My converters arrived just as pictured, without any instructions. You can also see they are rather different in shape and length to an ordinary Parker ballpoint refill, so exactly how would they fit? They were advertised as allowing you to convert most Parker type pens to pencils. I easily figured out they are a push-top ratchet mechanism and the top pulls off to allow access to the lead chamber.
So, first up I grabbed a Parker pen and quickly realised it wasn’t going to work. The spring that fits on the front of the pen refill has to be removed for the converter to fit. My particular Parker’s spring appeared to be permanently affixed inside the pen barrel and I just couldn’t remove it. So then I tried another pen, a non-Parker but one that I could get the spring out of the barrel. But again it was all to no avail. It was actually a twist action pen and I just couldn’t get it to operate the converter mechanism.

Well that was two strikes, so I needed to hit a homer before I was three and out. I had another ballpoint that took Parker refills, and I could get the spring out. It all seemed to fit but I just couldn’t get it to work. I then realised that the converter was actually just a fraction too long, and was permanently ‘pushed in’ when the pen was assembled.
So by slowly chopping small amounts off the top stem of the converter I found a length that made it work, and Voila!
It all woks fine as a standard push top ratchet mechanical pencil, but the lead sleeve is not retractable. So overall, not a bad idea, but a little difficult to get to work in the real world. If you had a pen that you really liked and wanted it to be a pencil, then there’s a chance this converter might just work for you.


Stephen said...

Very interesting - a real "hack" of a ballpoint pen. I've not previously heard of such an item, but I like it!

Anonymous said...

Very commonly a pen is sold as a ballpoint or pencil, the only difference is whether this pencil adaptor is inserted or the ballpoint cartridge. An neat example is the Porsche tecflex pen. The salesman wanted to sell me the pencil model because he said the only difference was the pencil model had an eraser and the pen model did not, but both inserts went into both pens. Ditto for other manufacturers such as Lalex.

GeneG said...

I wonder if anybody knows similar designs when mech pencil refill fits into BP space.

Anonymous said...

Regina Martini sells these to convert the Pelikan 600 series BPs, which are twist-action. She says she has had no complaints, so there must be a way to get them to work in a twist-action pen.

kiwi-d said...

Hi Anonymous and others. Since I published this post I've tried the converter on a few other BPs. It seems to me that most "cheap" (Chinese?) parker refill type push-top pens will fit the converter with perhaps a little cutting to length. My comments about the twist-action not working was not meant to imply all twist-actions, just that particular one I tried.

There is a little discussion of the converter, problems, workarounds and twist-actions over on Pentrace.