Monday, July 09, 2007

Parker Jotter Mechanical Pencil Review

Parker Jotter Mechanical Pencil Review

Way back in the mists of time when I was a little fellow at school, a few of the older children had graduated to a “fancy” pen, a Parker ballpoint. There didn’t seem to be any other choices, seemingly the only fancy pen in the world was a Parker Jotter, although it came in a few different varieties – chrome or gold trim, coloured resin or steel lower body, etc. Well that’s my memory of it all anyway. So, not surprisingly, a Parker Jotter was the very first “good” pen that I ever owned. When I was about eleven and started intermediate school, my parents thought that I had reached that stage where I should have a “decent” pen, so a Parker Jotter arrived. I also had to start wearing a school tie and a cap. A tie! Everyday, all day at school. Anyway, I remember my Jotter was a brushed all-stainless steel model. I quite liked it, but somewhere along the way it got lost.
Currently I own two Parker Jotters. An older brushed stainless mechanical pencil and a new brushed stainless gold trim ballpoint. So strictly speaking this review is of an old Jotter pencil rather than a current production pencil.
The Parker Jotter is a bit of a classic. It’s been around for a long time, and has those long clean smooth classic tapering lines. It looks a plain, simple, no-nonsense but classy sort of writing instrument. It seems to me you normally see the Jotter pencil as part of a ballpoint pen and pencil set, rather than as an individual item.
The Jotter is a standard push top ratchet mechanism pencil, but rather unusually there isn’t an eraser under the top cap. Instead, if you unscrew the top half of the body there is a small eraser there, plugging the top of the lead refill magazine.

The screw thread on my old pencil is a fine machine cut thread, but on my new ballpoint the thread is a coarse rolled thread. I’m sure cost reductions were achieved by this change. But the rolled thread still works OK, and possibly its even better for those folk who seem to have a little trouble starting fine threads and end up cross-threading the damn things!

The body is different too. The pencil is much heavier and feels like the wall section is thicker than on my much lighter new ballpoint. Actually the ballpoint feels so light that in comparison you would think it was made from aluminium. But having said all this, neither Jotter is a heavyweight. Also the style of the end cap has changed – the old cap had a depressed centre, and the new one is a simpler flat topped pressing.

The mechanism on the Jotter is a good positive clicker, with 10 clicks advancing 6mm of lead. I believe it’s only available in 0.5mm lead, which is a little unusual in these days of 0.7mm popularity. The tip is a short cone with a short fixed sleeve about 2mm long. Fine for writing and ruling an occasional line, but there’s no pocket safety here. Also I find the tip looks a bit incongruous. It really breaks the smooth continuous lines of the body. I don’t like it, and I’m sure they could have done something better.
The pocket clip is a good reliable steel clip, and of course it has the trademark arrow design. The clip and top button trims are polished, whereas the body is brushed. As well as providing contrast with the trims, the brushed effect gives you a little something on the grip front, but on a hot humid day, the brushed effect won’t really help much and things might well get a little slippery. With the long tapering body you can grip the pencil anywhere you like, but it’s a fairly narrow body so not really for those who like a “fat” grip.

“PARKER” and “Made in USA” are discretely stamped into the body.

Overall, this is a good pencil, and I like it, but for pure functionality its not too hard to do better.
  • Best Points – Classic solid steel.

  • Not So Good Points – Tip not retractable.

  • Price Range – Mid.

Dimensions – Length 133mm, diameter about 7 - 8mm in the common grip area, 10mm at the widest point. Balance point about 70mm up from the tip.

Sorry about some of these photos not being the best – its actually quite hard taking close ups of a shiny reflective metal object with just a basic camera.


Glen Mullaly said...

Yep... I had the set as a kid as well. I think it was mandatory for parents or grandparents to give these to children turning 11 or 12.
Didn't know they were called "Jotters" though.
Thanks Dave.

germ said...

Had one of these when i was a kid. I miss it. Will eventually get another one.


KeeneBob said...

I still have the set I was given as a kid and I still use it, every day, 40 years later. Sure wish I could find erasers for my pencil, though so if anyone has knowledge of a supplier you could share, I'd like to know.

kiwi-d said...

Not sure of how the eraser might be housed in your old Jotter, but maybe you could replace the actual rubber itself and refill the holder with a piece cut from a modern stick eraser or some other eraser?

Christoph Dollis said...

I own 6 jotter pens, all with the stainless steel body because I carry one of them in my back pocket in my DayTimer.

However, I've decided to keep the Jotter pens for business (I've loved it since I started using it and would rather have my Jotter in my hand than any Mont Blanc) and I really want to get a few Jotter stainless mechanical pencils — thanks for the review!

Now if only I can find them by themselves.

Anonymous said...

If you live in the US, at least in the midwest, Target sells these in stainless for $5.99 or so, same price they charge for the stainless ballpoint version.

JotterFan100 said...

Yeah I'm a teen right now and I have 3 Jotters- one lime green ballpoint, one black ballpoint and a black pencil. I love them and always bring my green one with me wherever I go, plan on taking it overseas for the first time. I was so excited when I got my 1st one, I had seen my dad with a couple and wanted one of my own, got it from Wal-Mart for $4. :)

molson63 said...

Actually you can still buy eraser refills. Unfortunately you'll have to order them from the UK unless you happen across some NOS ones on eBay, as happens from time to time. You want the 3.5mm eraser for Parker pencils, model EN4. They come in packs of four. The plastic box they are packed in has a green 3.5mm dot on it. They are around $5.00 US per pack, and come mounted in the black plastic holder so you just take out the old one and press in the new. Hope that helps!

Stuart said...

The change in pitch of the threads on the barrels probably also accompanied a change inside the cap.

I believe that the older, fine thread models had brass threads inside the cap, while the new coarse ones have plastic ones.

The pencil mechanism itself is a little odd because it was designed to be inserted into a pushbutton Parker ballpoint pen instead of the normal Parker ballpoint refill. The mechanism was made in Japan, while the pens were still made in the US. It was a quick and inexpensive way to get into the .5mm pushbutton pencil market. (Previous Parker pencils were generally .9mm "Thin" lead and had a twist mechanism.)

I really like these Parker .5mm mechanical pencils. This mechanism is more efficient at using the lead. There is a very short distance between the front of the chuck and the writing end of the lead support tube. This means that the stub left when you reach the end of a lead is much shorter than with most pencils.

azimech49 said...

it's a nice review, despite a little old, but since the essence of the pencil hasn't changed too much in a few decades, makes it perfectly for any help.

i own a few jotter ballpoints and two pencils, and they are great, i believe they are classy and up to every occasion, just as anyone says; no wonder this design has sold more than 700 millions of pens in more than 50 years.

reading this i wandered a little more, and just found that i have a limited design from 2004 with the rounded button prior to 1973 and actually was looking info on how to disarm the pencil, one of mine was clogged, but managed to cleanse it while reading this, thanks dave :P

proud of being part of a jotter-loving group :D

Anonymous said...

where can i get them

toddborger said...

I just purchased the 5.99 Jotter pencil at Target that one person mentioned a few comments back. The eraser is accessible through the push cap now. Also, the pencil is made in UK instead of USA.
I loved it as soon as I took it out and wrote with it. It feels great.

Anonymous said...

Swap the lead to Pentel AIN 'B' (or Pentel Super Hi-Polymer) and notice the difference.

2 1/2p

Anonymous said...

Dave I may be going over old ground here - Parker have a date coding system for all their pens/pencils using the 'QUALITYPEN' system Its a very interesting topic and dates my Parker Jotter with code
1 E to the First Quarter of 1998. Its really nice to check out your old Parker gear and find out when they were made. The only disadvantage I see is that you at least need to know the decade in which it was made. You may need a Loupe to see the codes on the barrel mid section. Again, sorry if I'm going over old ground.

2 1/2p

kiwi-d said...

Hi 2 1/2P.
No, defintely worth mentioneing.

Anonymous said...

Actually rechecking the system - my Jotter pencil marked 1.E is the Third Quarter of 1998. Thought I better correct that error before a Parker Nut jumps in.

2 1/2p

kiwi-d said...

Ahh, but now someone might jump because of the use of the word "nut". How about 'Parker Enthusiast'? :-)

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the protection Dave. 2/12p

dodgemannfs said...

in my set the pen was made in the Uk and the Pencil in the US

kiwi-d said...

Hi dodgemannfs. That's an interesting mixture. Is this set recent production, or is old?

Anonymous said...


I have several of these Parker Jotter pencils. I would like to add a couple of points of observation.

1. The oldest Parker mech pencil I have has brass thread on the top part of the pen and this screws onto the fine threads on the plastic body.

2. The next design change I observe is the transition to larger plastic threads on the top part of the pen. I think they went to this because the fine threads are easier to strip on the plastic body by cross threading accidentally. Metal bodied Jotter with fine pitch threads were more immune to this.

Up to this point you could take the top metal part of the pencil and swap it with the top part of a pen. I did this once to "resurrect an old mech pencil whose clip had become damaged. I had an older Parker jotter ballpoint and I took the top part of this and put it on the Pencil - hence my Parker Jotter pen/pencil set was once again "like new".
As has been pointed out, the mech pencil mechanism is basically pushed into the ballpoint body in the space of a Parker ballpoint refill. A quick and dirty way to get a mech pencil in the jotter line.

3. With the newer types now, the top metal portion of the mech pencil is hollow - it contains no mechanical parts in common with the ballpoint. The pencil mechanism has now been lengthened to go into the top part of the pen. Now you can just pull off the top push button and use the eraser (larger than the previous design which required unscrewing the top part to access the eraser and fill the lead) as well as fill the lead.
Sadly the top parts of the ballpoint and mech pencil are now no longer interchangeable - but the result is a better more convenient design for the mech pencil.

4. As far as the push button, I must say I preferred the push button with the recessed top. But it looks like the metal used for the push button is thinner than for the older recessed push button style. I think they went this route so as to maximize the diameter of the eraser in the pencil. The pen by necessity has to have the same kind of push button. Also, the thinner metal makes it impossible to be able to impress a recessed top on the button - the metal being to thin to have it be durable. A deeply engraved push button was a sign of quality. The engraving on the newer buttons by comparison is not as deep as the older recessed style since the newer metal is thinner. Too bad, I always thought this was a classy feature. I think Parker should consider finding a way to bring back this design feature.

5. Finally ,as has been mentioned, the Parker clutch is close to the tip, hence less lead is wasted. A very nice thing indeed. :)


Dara Adib said...

First, kudos to Dave for the awesome reviews. Cool stuff!

After seeing this post, I got mine for about $4 from Target without a case, just the 0.5 mm brushed stainless steel pencil enclosed in plastic. It came exactly as toddborger mentioned earlier.

I like the pencil. It's a simple all-metal exterior. I think the tip actually adds a little bit of "character" to the pencil. I'm OK with a fixed-sleeve pencil because it's better than a wobbling pencil.

I miss a good grip, but then again I guess a good grip that matched the rest of the pencil would be expensive (and a rubber one would be hideous).

The main thing I found irritating was the small rattle when picking up the pencil or writing quickly, basically whenever the pencil was rotated a little bit. Fortunately, I untwisted the top part of the pencil, and wrapped a small piece of paper (I used thermal paper, the kind in receipts) around the plastic lead chamber, so that it wouldn't wobble against the steel barrel. Voila, problem solved.

I'm also wondering if it's possible to open up the pencil in the future without breaking it.

Anonymous said...

How do you open the pencil? It won't pull apart. It twist it but it won't open. What is the secret???

Anonymous said...

Turn the cap anti-clockwise (to the left with the pencil tip facing away from you).

Anonymous said...

My son gave me a set for Christmas. I feel really silly because I can't figure out how to reload it with more leads. Help?

Kiwi-d said...

Anonymous - the body unscrews in the middle and then the eraser is plugging the entrance of the refill chamber. Pull the eraser out, put some leads in, put the eraser back in and screw it all back together again.

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for the lead reloading instructions. It worked!

BrianL said...

This last year I got reintroduced to the Jotter pens and pencils after seeing new sets on eBay. purchased 5 red barreled and 5 all stainless sets. I figured this would last me for awhile but, no. It turned out that the Jotters have sort of disappeared over the years from shelves and are making a comeback now that production is concentrated in the UK. It seemed at every meeting when I pulled out the pen, someone would start with the reminiscing of how a Jotter was his 1st real pen. Needless to say, I ended up giving up giving away 9 of the 10 sets to clients an friends.

A short time later I happened to go into a nearby computer outlet and at the cashout, there were packages of double sets. I asked what the pice was and was told $10 per package. A little math told me that was $2.50 per pen/pencil so I bought the 14 packages they had. I figure with 28 sets, I should be safe for awhile. I did learn my lesson and do not take them to meetings any longer. I also have an older T-ball Jotter pen with the machine thread and indented plunger. It is more finely made overall and heftier. It also has a closer toleranced tip and does not exhibit clicking as the refill hits the bottom edge. Yes, it is evident the manufacturing process reflects the attempts to reduce the costs but leave the pen as a quality product at a very reasonable price. Considering that when these originally came out they were not an economy item and in fact rather expensive, while today they are not much more than a few disposable stick pens, the line is a bargain today.

I have substituted a gel refill for the ink refill in ne of the Jotters so I have a pencil, ink pend and gel pen in service plus I also use a Parker fountain pen so, I guess I am a Parker lover.

I have not figured out why there i suck a wide variation in pricing of the line. I'm not into writing instruments that much but I see individual Jotters from about $4 to about $15 while they all look the same.

Anonymous said...

On at least some of the new jotters, the top and bottom sections are glued together. They do not unscrew. There is no access to the internals except through removing the top button and the eraser, the same way you put in new leads. I just obtained a black plastic bottom jotter pencil set from Office Max. I was astonished that I could not separate the top and bottom section since you could do this as long as I could remember.

From a functional perspective, this doesn't change anything. However, it does diminish the ability to waste time tinkering with the pencil and that's half the fun anyway.

Of course, the pen unscrews the same way it always has.

This probably explains the previous question concerning how to separate the top and bottom sections. The question might not make sense with earlier renditions.

I wonder if the sections are glued in the latest all stainless steel versions.

Bob S.

Kiwi-d said...


Anonymous said...


Ignore my previous comment. The top and bottom were very tightly connected, probably with a machine at the factory. The two parts do disconnect, however, it takes quite a bit of effort out of the package.

Bob S.

Anonymous said...

Lost my jotter ballpoint pen which I had it for more than 20 yrs. Brought a new one from ebay and find it a lot more lighter than the old one. Is it just me or they just make it lighter these days?

Anonymous said...

They haven't changed much since the early eighties when plastic threading replaced the old machined brass threading inside the cap. So if your pencil has brass threading you will indeed notice a difference in weight. Do what I do and get the pointed dome cap version from the 1960's with brass threading - a real delight. Ebay of course.

Sapphire said...

The Jotter pen has been through many incarnations. In the early 70s when Britain changed to decimal coinage there was a Jotter with a window in the side that showed old or new money when you pressed the button.
Then there were the colour seasons. One year we had patterns - another year the "Taste of Parker" with colours like pistachio and vanilla - the last was the "Wild" collection with lime greens and fluorescent purples. Then it went dull with black blue read and steel as the only offering (you can still get some of the colours but they aren't made now).
The pencil was always the poor relation though. The mad colours only ever came out as pens. Now only the steel finish is available as a pencil.
There is anew premium Jotter with a pattern engraved on the cap - only in pen and only in black or steel bodies - shiny steel at that.
Maybe if enough of us demanded it Parker would make the premium available as a pencil.
After all they claim the reintroduction of the broad ballpoint was by popular demand.
But as the Duofold pencil is discontinued, I don't have much hope.

Anonymous said...

Interesting information in a Jotter review on Amazon that explains how to move the internal mechanics from one jotter pencil to another:

Thank you,
Bob S. from Phoenix, Az

Anonymous said...

Do all (or most) click-top Parker mechanical pencils use the same mechanism as the Jotter? Quite a lot of them look like they have the same tip.
- PointFour

Anonymous said...

I love Parker Jotter pencil. I like the plastic bottom version which is slim and light, becomes part of my hand similar to pentel p200 series. I love it. I also love that the tip is only 2mm long which for me becomes pocket safe as the pen tip is conical naroow style towards the tip. I really like it. I have about 20 mechanical pencils from pentel p200 and 1000 graph series to Caran D'ache 844 0.7mm pencils and the most comfortable is this Parker Jotter pencil. It is also widely available and not expensive. Accepts plenty of refills in its tube also. Just awesome. Highly recommended. The only pencil that I liked more was Pilot h1005 retractable pencil. Mainly because it was retractable and Parker jotter would probably sell more if it had a retractable version too. But, with 2mm tip I'm not sure there is need for it.

From a nice orange and black version of Parker Jotter can be ordered.

They also sell many colors of ball point Jotters and I was wondering if anyone knows if the pencil mechanism can be exchanged with those from ball point Jotters to create more colors for pencils? Anyone knows?

Pencil maniac.

Kiwi-d said...

Hi Pencil Maniac - you can probably convert them one way or another.

Anonymous said...

Pencil Maniac - A post on the 10th of August links to a method for removing the pencil mechanism and in your case hopefully reinstall into a colored ballpoint jotter. However you will need a very good pair of eyes and some miniature tools - I've tried with no luck - my eyes simply are not good enough to see whats going on.

ThirdeYe said...

I just acquired my first Jotter -- a ballpoint pen from 1986. It was my dad's, so it means a lot to me. Has his company's old name on it along with the words "Operations Expo 1986." Pretty cool! I love it. The refill worked for a few words, then stopped working. I'm not sure if I should bother with a gel refill or just get a ballpoint refill... decisions, decisions! Hope to get a pencil version soon.

PointFour said...

ThirdeYe, that should be "decisions, decisions, decisions!" because Parker now do a hybrid gel ink as well :)

Sapphire said...

Pencil Maniac, Parker discontinued all the Jotter pencils except the steel ones.
This site still has some with blue and red plastic barrels.
Thirdeye, Parker's gel refills are not that successful and there are other compatible ones available. I've heard good reports of the Parker's new ballpoint refill. It's a hybrid ink and goes by the name of Quinkflow. It's a premium price and it's only fitted as standard to their top line pens but I'm told it's much more intense and than normal ballpoint and very smooth.

Anonymous said...

I got an original one that was made in the US but it fell out if my pocket and the tip got bent... So I got a newer one and it is lighter than the original but it is still pretty much the same thing... Good thing Parker still makes them because the jotter was one of my first mechanical pencils... I also think the way the clutch works is cool..


Anonymous said...

Dave, your old stainless steel pencil jotter is the only push button jotter I have ever seen with fine machined threads. Around 1982/83 when the jotter pencil with the push button was introduced, Parker were changing their threading to plastic inside the caps and coarser threading on the barrels. But typical of Parker when they had old stocks to use up they used them. That model of yours was likely a lead cartridge or ballpoint refill model from before 1982 that was then used for the new push button jotters. I would be interested to know if it has a date code around the central cap near the the Parker engraving.

2 1/2p

Kiwi-d said...

I'll check in a few days.

Kiwi-d said...

The engraving is on three lines, just above the central join in the body where the two halves screw together.

PARKER (preceeded by the parker logo)

So, assume U = 1981?

Anonymous said...

Thanks Dave, that confirms my belief that your jotter is one of the earliest Jotter incremental push pencils that Parker produced and explains the machined threading as part of their last stocks before changeover to plastic threads. I just love this sort of detail.

2 1/2p

poorlocavore said...

(grrrr...rotten browser just dumped my whole post...)
Anyway, I found a link for the Jotter pencil erasers:
I've got a matching pen/pencil pair, acquired separately, dating from 1987/1988. I also just found a Model 45 fountain pen for $5 at an antique shop, so I'm quite a happy Parkerite now!

Anonymous said...

I have recently got a jotter pencil. Somehow, the inner core part and the end push cap keep hitting the outter body and make some sound when writing.
I wrapped a piece of paper around the inner core part and stopped the noise. Is this the only my pencil?

PointFour said...

Following Stuart's post, where I was most interested in the Jotter being able to cope with much shorter pieces of lead than usual, I wondered if the Parker Vector might have the same mechanism as the Jotter. Although I used a Jotter ballpoint at work for years, I've always found them a little too slim and tapered. The Vector is slightly fatter and has a more even diameter, though not without a "comfort problem" of its own. The join between its barrel and "section" is stepped enough to notice. Pity, Parker could have done better. Well, I eBayed a Vector pencil recently, and just today tried it. When a Pilot pencil would no longer feed a stub of lead securely because the stub was too short, I transferred said stub to the Vector. Which, indeed, seems able to cope with very short lengths, rather well. So if you're extremely desperate to get the most out of each lead, maybe this is a way to do it...

Anonymous said...

I have been a great fan of the Parker Jotter mechanical penci, because it has a very ergonomic stainless steel body. However, of the five I bought, the lead transport mechanism has failed in three after a few months. This is very disappointing, and I am considering switching brands. What is also disappointing is that Parker does not offer the possibility of providing feedback on their products on their web page.

Anonymous said...

When Parker stopped manufacture at their UK plant sometime in 2010 there was not one press release on the actual closure - the parent company Newell Rubbermaid are masters of business secrecy.

David H said...

I have one of the classic stainless steel versions of this pencil, although it appears the advancing mechanism has failed. Does anyone know how I could go about possibly opening it up and fixing it. It's a very solid pencil.

Anonymous said...

From BobS post on 10 August 2010 this link provides a method of uncoupling the lead cassette from the body of the pencil - a warning though you will need very good eyes and miniature tools to get at that "washer" at the tip of the pencil. I've tried and failed. I bastardised a Jotter pencil so that I could inspect the mechanism and it is basically one whole cassette unit that doesn't seem to come apart anywhere other than at the top where the lead gets reloaded.
2 1/2p

Kevin said...

I don't really like Parker Jotters since they have have an irritating metal-against-metal sound when I try to dispense more lead and click (no idea what else to call it) on the cap of the ball point pen. And they have a odd smell to them, a metallic smell. On top of that, I found the ink in the pen to be plain, dull, and more grey than black.

tomislavS said...

do you know where can i find 2 in 1
i dont know where to find that model and i dont know the name :(
this model have ballpoint pen and mechanical pencil in 1 and the body is like this metal (chrome)
if you know name pls tell me

Anonymous said...

Just picked up a 2 new jotter sets, both made in France, a stainless steel and a blue plastic model. On the blue plastic model, the threads on the cap are a black plastic material with a slightly different design than the previous white plastic. In addition, the cap has less of an overhang, that is, it is more flush with the plastic lower section than in earlier models.

Bob S. in AZ.

Bryan said...

I love the look, feel, and style of this pencil, but the mechanism keeps breaking. Such a shame that it won't work for me.