Sunday, May 20, 2007

Ohto Super Promecha PM-1500S Mechanical Pencil Review

Ohto Super Promecha PM-1500S Mechanical Pencil Review

Somehow I missed the Ohto Super Promecha for a few years. I had actually viewed it online, but seemingly in some sort of defensive reaction, the logical part of my mind must have tried to protect me from the “collecting” part my mind, and so I glossed over all the super-adjustability of it all, and it just didn’t register with me. A case of self-induced “screen-blindness” or something? Anyway, last year a reader contacted me about the Super Promecha, and made the comment, “THERES NO NEED FOR A PENCIL LIKE THAT! ITS WILD CRAZY DAVE!” Clearly it was time for me to look again, and to get myself one.

Before I go any further, if ever there was a mechanical pencil that needed instructions, then the Super Promecha is it. As far as I can tell it isn’t officially released on western markets, so the instructions are not in English, and you really do need instructions. So, here’s my version of the Ohto Super Promecha instructions.
Just look at the thing – silver metallic colour, hexagonal body, cut-out sections and springs and adjusting grip wheels everywhere - this pencil really looks “technical”. It just screams out “designer”, “engineer”, etc. This is not a pencil for “ordinary people”. Right then, picking it up, the first thing that I noticed was that it was a little lighter than I expected. It actually weighs in at about 28 grams, so the aluminium construction keeps it relatively lightweight. Most of the weight is at the front end with the large grip section and all those adjustable mechanisms, so this is definitely a front-heavy pencil. Well straight off the bat, I don’t like that. The large front-heavy grip and thinner lighter body somehow combined to give me a feeling that it was sort of flapping around a bit in my hand, particularly when not holding it tight. It reminded me of some sort of pendulum - you hold the weight at the end and the suspension rod just waves around.
The grip itself is a very fine diamond cut pattern, so you certainly get good positive grip, but it’s quite gentle on the skin, not a rough cut pattern. OK, so lets start at the front and work our way up the pencil. What length of lead sleeve to do prefer? Well, you can set it between 0 and 4mm. That first little wheel and spring mechanism (1) sets the maximum length of your lead sleeve. Then you advance or retract the lead sleeve (for pocket safety) by winding the big grip section (2) around. So you could wind the grip section around just a little bit and only half-retract the sleeve, or all the way to fully retract it. Similarly when extending the lead sleeve, you wind the grip around to extend it out, but its maximum extension is determined by the preset little wheel and spring mechanism at the tip. Overall, not a bad idea, but it would be miles more convenient if the lead sleeve retracted with a simple push like it does on most pencils. Of course if you have wound the sleeve back in and you want to write a quick note or something you don’t need to advance it out, you can just push the top cap and advance some lead and write. But I noticed this leads to problems with lead breakage, which is very unusual for me with 0.7mm leads. The Super Promecha comes in a wide variety of lead sizes. One final note, don’t wind the grip back good and hard, as it might just get stuck; and like me, you’ll need to resort to pliers and spanner to un-wind it again.

The next thing you can set is the lead advance length. You do that with the grip wheel adjuster (3) at the top of the grip section. The Super Promecha uses an ordinary push top ratchet lead advance mechanism, but the adjuster allows you to set the lead advance per click anywhere between 0 and 2mm. This is a very interesting idea, but unfortunately reality does not quite live up to expectation. I noted a tendency for the mechanism to skip the shorter the lead advance setting. So, if you set it for 2mm advance per click, and then clicked it 10 times, you would end up with 20mm of lead extended. But if you set it for 0.5mm advance per click and clicked 10 times, you might not end up with 5mm of lead, because it skipped (didn’t advance the lead) on one or two of the activations. This problem was definitely related to the lead advance length setting. The shorter you set it, the more likely it was to skip.

Well, how does it go at getting graphite onto paper? Firstly I noted I could hear a little rattle when writing. There’s less rattle if the lead is in continuous contact with your paper, but as soon as its raised and lowered in the course of general writing or drawing, you hear it. The noise is actually the push-top button rattling in contact with the body. Next, the lead is not held all that firmly in the sleeve. In comparison to some other technical draughting pencils I’ve got, when tested with the highly scientific “wobble it between your fingernails” test, the Super Promecha does have a little more lead wobble than most.

Next on the way up the body is the pocket clip. It’s lightly sprung and quite good. It is removable, by unscrewing the grip wheel (4) holding it in place.

Finally we reach the top button, which of course activates the push top ratchet lead advance mechanism. It contains a lead hardness degree indicator (5), which you set from B to 4H, including grade F which is a nice touch. Clearly these lead grades indicate Ohto’s intention that this is a technical draughting pencil. There is a small eraser under the top button, with a needle to help clear lead jams. Personally I have very few such lead jams with any pencil, but with all this super adjustability you just might need a needle with this pencil.

My pencil came in a small simple plastic protective carry sleeve. I was full of anticipation when I received my Super Promecha. Clearly it promised much, but I must confess that something just wasn’t quite right, that overall I was disappointed with it. Much of this could have been unfair expectations. Sometimes it is a fine line between techno-supergadget and gimmick. Now that I have experienced the Super Promecha’s features first-hand, for me personally, I think that overall this pencil has put one foot just over the line, just stepped into the ‘slightly gimmicky’ and ‘disappointing’ area of the field. However, I’m sure a lot of people, and many Ohto users, will disagree with me.
  • Best Points – All that adjustability, particularly the lead advance length.
  • Not So Good Points – Cumbersome lead sleeve retraction, and for me personally, front heavy balance.
  • Price Range – Mid.

Dimensions – Length 153mm, diameter 10mm at grip. Balance point about 60mm up from the tip.

42 comments:

r.e.wolf said...

Visually, it's kinda sexy.

The Gooner said...

Which UK retailers stock this pencil?

Kind regards

Anand said...

Maybe I'm a sucker for gimmicks, but I love this pencil (plus how many pencils can you find that use 0.4 mm leads?) I think I ended up buying one for the sheer weirdness, but it's way too cumbersome to be my everyday pencil. Thanks for posting an English version of the directions - the Japanese ones are comically unintelligible.

I don't know about the UK, but in the US, you can get one from www.jetpens.com

kiwi-d said...

Michael from Pigpog has pointed out to me that Jetpens offer the Super Promecha in a dizzying array of lead sizes, namely 0.3, 0.4, 0.5, 0.7 and 0.9mm.

0.3 and 0.4mm, now there's a pretty fine line between those two.

Spilt_milk said...

http://www.jetpens.com
http://www.jpens.com


btw can anyone loacte a store that can sell criterium 2.0mm its made by bic in france and i cant find a english mailorder

wei.guan said...

Oh no you destroyed my dream, i was so eager about those pencils...you bastard. Anyway, mine are already on the way, i bought this one alongside the PM1000 model, so gonna check them out myself.
BTW, great blog.

Anonymous said...

I have talked to Cultpens in the UK (a great website for pencils, fineliners and other nicnacs) and they have said they have tried faxing the company in Japan but they haven't responded.

I have looked at the OHTO website but it doesn't give you an email address so we're a bit stuck in the UK :-(

Anonymous said...

I bought the .5 and .7 from jetpens and these pencils are almost perfect. I have no problem with the weight distribution (personal taste perhaps) but I do take exception to the removable eraser cap. For two reasons; first, the tolerance between the cap and tube to which it secures itself is a bit loose for this pencil and wiggles in place too much; second, the lead diameter indicator is a simple sticker that is poorly fastened to the pencil. That's all: some basic fit and finish. But, like I said, the rest of the pencil is solid and a treat to write/draw with.

SpiltMilk said...

If it gets stuck at the tip adjusting part u dont need pliers and scratch up the finish just hold it up like a CM and drop it down on table and it should get unstuck. learned it after trying the plier method mentioned above he wrote this blog for the super promecha. I might of been the one asking about why the promecha wasnt on the blog

Pascal said...

For Spilt_milk : I live in France, where it is quite easy to find a Criterium 2.0 mm. (in a lot of stores in fact : metal or black plastic). If you still look for this model, I can buy one for you and sell then send it to you through eBay (Paypal account required). I wouldn't make any profit on the item itself, but if you are interested I'd need to know in what country the item should be sent, for the shipping charge and possibly for a customs form. My nickname on eBay is "clienthonnete". ;)

Phillip said...

I purchased the Ohto Super Promecha and it jammed on me. I have tried but I can not fix it. The company I bought it from will not stand behind their product. I was also told by the company I bought it from that Ohto does not repair or replace their defective products.

andrew said...

This pencil looks great, but I'm starting to think twice with all the cons listed here.


Oh and, sorry if I sound like a complete idiot, but I just can't find the Ohto website. Could someone tell me the link?

andrew said...

Never mind, I apologize. I've found the link, yet it's all in Japanese... ah well.

Keep up the good work with the blog Dave! =)

Anonymous said...

Try a Rotring 600 (the old, discontinued style) if you want a thinner pencil. Nothing to adjust, but also much less to fail.

PointFour said...

Anyone in the UK still wanting a Super Promecha 1500P should note that Cult Pens now stock them, along with the simpler Promecha SP-500P.
Link: http://www.cultpens.com/acatalog/OHTO-Pens-Pencils.html

Pascal (FR) said...

The grip section of the Rotring 600 is one of the most abrasives I've ever seen for a mechanical pencil... Not sure this model could efficiently replace a Super Promecha for those who want a thinner pencil or grip (while a Staedtler 925 x could, if you absolutely want a metal body).

Anonymous said...

i like how you see a cutaway at the bottom, my promecha doesn't have that cutaway portion, different version i guess 1507P

Anonymous said...

I am usually a gadget guy, but I much prefer the Rotring "old style" pencil in .5 or .7. I love the weight of the pencil and I have not broken a piece of lead yet. I also prefer the older, thinner, hexegon shape and love the grip. Best pencil I have ever owned. Don't even think about putting this in your pocket. This thing is an absolute tank.

Anonymous said...

I dropped a Rotring 600 Trio (with the non-gnurled grip) at work on a floor that was commercial-style linoleum over concrete (it was in a skyway) and it flattened out the tip so the pen/pencil couldn't come out anymore. I was devastated - convinced that it would never work again. My husband took it to the workroom, clamped it in the vise, and hammered a nail into the tip. Rounded out the flattened hole and it worked like a champ until I wore it out (the internal sleeve cracked in the mechanism to retract the tip). Then Rotring replaced it. Sadly, they don't make it anymore so if/when my stash runs out that might be it.

I love the weight of this pencil. It travels well in the cargo pocket of my army pants.

AK said...

Anyone know how to fix the tip / shaft of these pencils. Or is it possible to get replacement parts? My pencil rolled of the table and thanks to being top heavy landed on the tip, bending it. Now the lead does not feed through

wes said...

what is the best drafting pencil?

wes said...

dave-
where did you buy this pencil

kiwi-d said...

Not sure, but if memory serves me correctly it was a now de-registered eBay shop.

dodgemannfs said...

Okay Dave I'm really in a pickle here, I'm looking for a new mechanical pencil. I'm looking at this one and the Sharp Kerry. Just for reference my current favorite is the Flex Fit II and I really like the looks of the promecha, but it seems like the Sharp Kerry is one of your favorites. Which should I get?

kiwi-d said...

Well...I tend to think that everyone should have a Sharp Kerry, whereas I woould not make that statement about the Super Promecha. But then you may not find the narrow grip Kerry to your liking.
Still, if you twist my arm and force me to choose I would go with the Kerry.

Anonymous said...

I have a Super Promecha 0.7 (1507P) that has a jammed piece of lead in the feed tube. It can't be taken apart enough to fix it. Probably go back to my Staedtler 925-07.

Bummer, cool pencil. :(

kiwi-d said...

Haven't checked, but I'm pretty sure there's a specific detailed lead jam clearing instruction for the Super Promecha over on Pens and Pencils blog

Anonymous said...

The diamond cut grip surface is properly referred to as diamond pattern knurling. The pattern is in fact usually rolled on rather than cut.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Knurling

Anonymous said...

I found the pencil to be more marketing than substance. I love .7mm pencils, and bought this one. The cap broke with the first fall to the carpet, and after that it became annoying ot constantly pull the eraser out because I needed to push on it when dispensing lead. I wrote Jetpens to ask about a Ohto contact or just getting a replacement cap, and only got a " we are checking on it response". I have since gone back to my .5mm Graphgear 1500 and have ordered a .7mm Graphgear 1500 to replace it. That pencil feels far more sturdy than the Ohto. I have since gave the Ohto away.

Housewife in Van. BC said...

Good news!! My husband, was looking for .5mm leads, found his 2nd. Pilot pencil-virgin-. What a relief! I tried to put it on Ebay for $100.00 but , of course, he ranted and raved. What I did do was, write a letter to customer service at Pilot, accusing them of supporting a throwaway society. I said this letter represented 1000 people who wouldn't take the time to write them. How about a campaign to Pilot???

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 3 June, Is that Graphgear 1500 a new pencil or is it a combination of the Graphgear 500 and the Graphgear 1000??.

Anonymous said...

Okay,

I swore the Rotring 600 old style pencil was the best of all time IMHO. I bought the Promecha 1500P, with the expectation of getting a lightweight, poorly made excuse as a substitute for the Rotring.

Well I was right and wrong. My favorite is still the Rotring, but I have to say I like the ability to retract the point and still have a "fixed point" when writing. I can't count how many times I have stabbed myself or punched a small hole through something.

The new Super Promecha is very light. However, it writes extremely well. I underestimated the adjustability of this pencil. They got rid of the stupid spring like sleeve adjustment. Now, every adjustment is functional.

These are two different pencils. The biggest gripe about the rotring, is that it overall it is built like a tank, but the tips bend with the slighted drop. Oh well, at least its shape stops it from rolling off a table. Still love the rotring, but don't regret getting this at all. My pockets and fingers are grateful

Rot Ring said...

@ Anonymous

try to get a Rotring 600 0,5 oor 0,7 mm from the Golden Series.

look here:
http://www3.pic-upload.de/14.09.10/fml27k2b572t.jpg

-Arne
:)

2nd_astronaut said...

An "original" Rotring 600G is of course somewhat difficult/expensive to get, but there is an active Asian production of Rotring 800 (same as 600G) with a list price of ~5000Yen.

Rot Ring said...

The original tag was 79,- DM in 1991, then 89,- DM in the year after and 99,- DM in 1993.
That is about 49 €.
The prices for the other items were more dancing up and down again(!): sanford management bullshit.

I have a black 0,7mm in mint condition. It's retractable sleeve moves smoothly by rotating the upper part. It feels like the sound of opening a Dupont lighter. Sometimes I hate that I don't smoke anymore ;-)

Anonymous said...

Where did you get this? I bought mine at jetpens and im pretty sure it's real but it doesn't have that knob on the tip. strange...

Kiwi-d said...

The Super Promecha has had various amendments and modifications. Yours may simply be the current version. I guess the main point is, does it look like the image on the retailers site?

Anonymous said...

As Dave said, actual version is 150xP
http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_5MkvQOiDRv4/TO4b-pjdA3I/AAAAAAAABJE/jjLpQb7dFqo/s1600/Otho+SP++PM+1505P.bmp

while the testdriven version is 150xS
http://www.blift.de/main.php?g2_view=dynamicalbum.PopularAlbum&g2_itemId=118

One lever disappeared because there was a certain redundance within the settings...

If you prefer the old version, you have to look around (one possible start point would be andreays pencils at ebay).

2nd_astronaut

Ethereal Winter Wind said...

Does anyone have problems with the lead breaking in this pencil? I just got a new 0.3 mm one and when I was using it with the lead that came with the pencil, the lead just kept on breaking. I thought it was just the poor quality lead that came with the pencil, so I replaced it some B 0.3mm Pentel Ain lead which I use in my Pentel Graphgear 1000. But still the breaking continues with this pencil. I don't believe it is to do with my pressure or the lead size as I write with my 0.3mm Graphgear 1000, with the same lead, without this occurring.

Gary said...

Read the comments here

Bought a Super Promecha 1007S (.7mm) from Andre on ebay

Best tech pencil I have used

You have to accept it goes in the pocket in the plastic sleeve that it comes in and the knurled writing finger area adds weight - but the size is perfect for my (medium) fingers

Anonymous said...

Dave, do you or anyone else, know where I could I could get my hands on the .4 model?

Anonymous said...

Hi, Dave -

Love your blog - what an invaluable resource and so much fun. Your reviews are terrific.

On the Super Promecha. It seems that the trouble with the pencil can be reduced to one overall characteristic: Ohto manufactures it to sloppy tolerances verging on the slipshod. On the one hand it looks like some sort of surgical instrument, but once taken in hand it rattles, is loose, has an eraser cap that falls off at the lightest touch, and threads for the adjustments that don't have the feeling of having been machined to scrupulous tolerances. Everything seems loose, frail, unsure. On mine, the sticker for the lead indicator window was rolled on crookedly, so that many of the selections are not even aligned in the window and instead one sees the edge of the sticker.

The Super Promecha would be a wonderful pencil (not exactly a world-beater in a world with the 925 and the 600 in it, I don't think) if Ohto built it well. I still like it, but like you, find that it doesn't live up to itself.