Saturday, March 24, 2007

Caran d’Ache Fixpencil Mechanical Pencil Review

Caran d’Ache Fixpencil Mechanical Pencil Review

Well in the world of Caran d’Ache, the Fixpencil (or Metal Collection) is one of their more basic and less expensive mechanical pencils, available in a range of colours.

The Fixpencil is an all metal construction pencil. The hexagonal aluminium body is powder coat painted, and in black it almost looks and feels like one of those slightly rubberised paints, but its not. The pocket clip is a separate piece, it can actually slide up and down the body, but it’s quite tight and won’t slide accidentally. It’s a very strong clip, but not too strong - there is no way this pencil is going to come unstuck from whatever it was clipped to. For an all metal Caran d’Ache pencil, it is very lightweight. That would be the aluminium body, but to be honest I’m more used to CdA all metal heavyweight pencils. There is no special grip section or grip enhancements, but the matt paint finish actually provides pretty good grip. It’s good to be able to grip the pencil wherever you want – down low or up high. The hexagonal body and lightweight make the writing experience a little reminiscent of using an ordinary wooden pencil. Personally though I would probably prefer the body to be just a fraction wider.

The lead advance mechanism is a push top ratchet, with a very positive loud click when activated. Only a small length of lead is advanced with each click. There is a short little retractable lead sleeve so the pencil is pocket safe, but the sleeve is too short to be considered suitable for draughting. The short lead advance is actually a bit of a pain, you have to click it more than usual when writing. The mechanism does have one other slightly annoying trait - it rattles inside the main body. Basically if you flick the pencil around the top button rattles against the rim of the body. This can sometimes be a bit annoying when you pick the pencil up or jiggle it in your fingers.

There is a small eraser under the top button, it’s about 4.5mm in diameter with 10mm of useable length. There is also a needle for clearing lead jams. Because the lead advance mechanism requires more than normal force to activate it, you can remove the top button, use the eraser and replace the button without accidentally advancing the lead. You refill the lead magazine by removing the eraser.

  • Best Points – The very “solid” lead advance mechanism.
  • Not So Good Points – The rattle.
  • Price Range – Mid.

Dimensions – Length 131mm, width 7mm across the flats of the hexagon. Balance point about 65mm up from the tip.

Even though I only acquired my Fixpencil a couple of years ago, I’m not really sure of its exact current status. Mine is marked “Fixpencil 0.5, Metal Swiss Made, Caran D’Ache” but in the current Caran d’Ache catalogue the ‘Fixpencil Collection’ is 2mm or 3mm lead only, and doesn’t have a chrome tip section like mine. There is also the very similar ‘Metal Collection’ in 0.7mm which also doesn’t have the chrome tip section. So basically I think I’ve got an earlier version of the current Metal Collection pencil. But then I haven’t done exhaustive research into it all, so who really knows?

21 comments:

Stephen said...

Thanks for the review.

This is the only mechanical pencil I'm aware of that has been commemorated by a national post office with a stamp.

kiwi-d said...

Hey thanks for the comment. I'd completely forgotten about the Fixpencil stamp, i should have mentioned it in the review.

madsocialscientist said...

Hm, my set of pencils has become a bit Pentel-heavy lately (GraphGear 1000, some Sharps, and bunch of Fortes). Perhaps this would make a nice addition...

kiwi-d said...

Well I'm sure it would make a nice addition to any collection.

Hmmmmm, I'm not sure its possible to have a collection thats too Pentel-heavy! :)

Figue said...

This model is definitely an older version, the modern ones don't even have a nose nor a sleeve like yours. The thing I hate about these pencils is that they are too short, it they were the same size as a Fixpencil 77 (2mm) it would have been a great pencil, a grip enhanced like the ones on the 2mm would have been a great addition.

Gunther said...

Yesterday I have bought a new 0.7 Caran d'Ache Fixpencil. It is named "884 CARAN D'ACHE 0.7 mm SWISS MADE", has a length of 130 mm and weighs 15 g. The clip seems to be held in position by some kind of detent but I haven't examined it closer yet (I was not able to slide the clip). Unfortunately the pencil's tip is not designed as the one in the review; there is no sleeve, just a 3 mm chrom-plated cone (not spring-mounted) that guides the lead. - I have paid 12 Euro (about US$ 16) at a small German store.

The most striking part of the whole pencil is the cap. It is 16 mm long, has an outer diameter of 7 mm, an inner diameter of 5 mm and weighs 3 g, making up a fifth (!) of the total weight. This heavy cap accounts for the position of the balance point that is about 85 mm from the tip; without the cap it is at 75 mm. A closer look at the cap's inside reveals treatment traces that reminds of lathing but I can't believe that is has been manufactured this way (although the text "CARAN D'ACHE" on it - probably pressed in - indicates a more laborious production).

With its matt black aluminium barrel it is a nice looking pencil, and the lead advance mechanism seems to be reliable. But sice this Fixpencil rattles too I'm not sure whether to keep it or not.

Steve Walsh said...

I have this same pencil. I think it's great. They don't make it any more.

Anonymous said...

I just bought the 2 mm version of this as I am a cartoonist. Its a great pencil and the built in lead sharpener in the cap (red plastic) is very handy. Mine doesn't rattle at all. I guess being a clutch pencil and holding thicker lead makes a lot of difference there. Just about to buy a copic graphic design pencil which holds a 6 mm lead. Looks amazing and the built quality is second to none.

Anonymous said...

The new version is called the Caran d'Ache Fixpencil 22.288

mzr said...

Does anyone know where this .5 mm Fixpencil can still be purchased? I have one and love it and want more. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

argh where can i get caran d'ache .5mm pencil :(!

mp3 said...

I have an extra .5 that I can sell.
You can contact me back-channel -
mp3@parker75.com

Cliff said...

I had one of these, it was my favorite pencil ever, then I dropped it in an extremely unlikely tip-first fashion, causing the tip to bend such that lead will not advance through it.

I like using pencils that have some type of shock-absorbtion system in their tips. One thing your post doesn't point out is that this has a shock absorbtion system which is actually adjustable - if you unscrew the tip and pull out the clutch mechanism you will see that you can tighten and loosen it.

kiwi-d said...

Hi Cliff
I haven't seen Cd'A advertise this adjustability. Did you see it written somewhere or just figure it yourself?

Cliff said...

It is actually in the instruction manual that comes with the pencil! I found a new one on ebay and it just arrived.

kiwi-d said...

Hi Cliff - I checked the tiny litle instruction sheet that came with my Fixpencil and there is not mention of this adjustable system. Would you be able to scan and email me a copy of the instructions? - email address is up in the blog header.
Thanks either way.

Pascal said...

Hi there,

Well, I'm not sure but it looks like there is a small confusion for some users between those who call a "Fixpencil" what seems to be actually sold as an "Office Classic" (see below for an example, you can click on the pic to enlarge) :

http://www.skripta-paris.com/fr/rech_result_2280.html,Cad=a7d1ec67c1495155e4a272ae91e52c5f

Note that the website above exists in English version, and that you can find in this shop / online store some mechanical pencils that it is impossible to find somewhere else, according to what I have found on the web at this time...

Since the website is available in English, I suppose that it is possible for most readers who would visit to order from their respective country, but if for any reason it was impossible for you, I can help, since the store is not far away from my home. At worst, I could order one or several MPs myself for someone abroad and send them by airmail after reception (eBay, Paypal and so on).

Please note that if I buy a MP (expensive or not) to send it later by airmail to someone, in any case I wouldn't pay for the original buyer, since I'd have to order the MP myself or go to the shop to pick up the item.

Please note too that I suggest this possibility only for "real addicts" (like me :) who may experience troubles to order in this shop, because I don't intend to earn money for myself for this kind of service (you just would have to "pay" for the travel -m├ętro- and the shipment) and wouldn't want this kind of service to become an industry.

Well, that's all, if you ever need this kind of help, my nickname on eBay is "clienthonnete" and you can contact me through the message facility on the website.

Pascal (France, 2 kms from Paris).

Stuart said...

About 10 years ago I was on an international flight (the airline was LAN Chile) and they were offering items for sale duty-free.

I looked at the list and saw they had a Caran d'Ache pen set. It was quite inexpensive, so I bought one.

It consisted of a pen and pencil that looked much like this, except that the pencil is 2 mm.

I have other pens and pencils that I prefer, but these are nicely made and quite usable.

memm said...

Recently I bought the new version of this pen, the "844" Gunther mentioned. Mine rattles as well, but not too loud, and the rattle is not caused by the top button. I ordered the yellow version, as it looked happy and friendly on the web site, but I should have used my brain and realised that "fluo yellow" means fluorescent. I was expecting a happy yellow and was quite shocked to get a green yellow that looks very poisonous and eighties. (Don't get me wrong, I usually like the Eighties, but I'll need some time to get used to this colour). It is not powder coat painted, instead the paint is very "smooth", possibly because of the colour, or maybe all 844s are like this.

Anonymous said...

I have a Caran d'Ache #25 fixpencil with 2mm leads. Bought it new about 1962. Still works perfectly, but shows slight wear after fifty years. Has a built in calendar which matches the day of the week with days of the month. Can be reset to get a match each month. The sharpener cap enables very thick lines or very fine. Unless you lose it, it is the only pencil you will ever need.

Anonymous said...

Gunther mentioned "there is no sleeve, just a 3 mm chrom-plated cone (not spring-mounted) that guides the lead". My version 844 0.7mm (gunther mentions 884) which I purchased in 2009 has a 6mm cone but also has a retractable 3mm sleeve. The eraser is very difficult to get at because of the tight, slippery steel button. Rock solid - I can shake it, or tap it vigorously with absolutely no rattle.