Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Pentel Classic Deluxe S55 and S57 Mechanical Pencil Review

Pentel Classic Deluxe S55 and S57 Mechanical Pencil Review

I’ve never made any secret of my high opinion of Pentel, and how my Pentel Excalibur was “the one” that started me off down this pencil track, so I expected much from the Classic Deluxe. I write this review in a slump, a “Pentel malaise” if you will, for the Classic Deluxe has not lived up to my expectations, and has not scaled the heights to challenge the revered Excalibur.

Photo: Classic Deluxe (top) and Excalibur.
Firstly, let’s be fair, by naming it the Classic Deluxe, Pentel have surely set it up as one of the lofty pinnacles of their range. Personally, with that said, and my background, comparisons with the Excalibur are unavoidable, and it would take something pretty special to live up to all that nostalgia. The Excalibur is my yardstick, the one by which all similar pencils will forever be measured. I have two Classic Deluxe, a natural or silver top S55 (0.5mm lead) and a blue top S57 (0.7mm lead). Both have the same chrome tip section, top button and pocket clip, and black plastic lower body section. It is the metal top half of the body section that varies. The blue of my S57 is a very appealing light powder blue, a very nice colour. The “natural” lightly brushed metal finish of the S55 also looks good. The lower half of the body is black plastic, and it’s a slightly unusual shape, being a 14-sided polygon at the top, tapering to round at the tip. Quite interesting. But here’s the thing that I really struggle with. The metal top half of the body doesn’t match into the plastic lower half. They screw together as you would expect, but the diameter of the metal top half is wider then the lower half and so it looks like it is sort of pushed onto the plastic half, and is overhanging. It just doesn’t look right. On something called the Classic Deluxe it just looks cheap and just a little bit nasty. Sorry Mr/Mrs/Ms Pentel Pencil Designer, I really like your stuff, but this just isn’t your best work. Two other things I don’t think look quite right. First is the rather square profile at the top of the body. A little bit of taper at the top would look better – but still, that’s just my humble opinion. The second thing is the lines on the tapering lower black plastic body section are linear up the body, and then the brushed effect on the metal top half is circular around the body. So this emphasises the discontinuity between the sections – your eye runs up the body from the tip and then hits the metal top half – change of diameter, change of colour, 90 degree change of visual flow from “vertical to horizontal”. As I said up above, it just doesn’t look right.

OK, enough negativity. This is still a top of the line Pentel, an object worthy of respect. Despite all the above, at a quick glance this pencil does have a fairly nice long sleek dart-like look about it. In the hand it’s lighter than you might expect, and not top heavy. No doubt that’s the thin alloy construction of the metal top half. The pocket clip is one of Pentel’s standard components – good, strong and functional. It won’t be falling off whatever you clipped it to. There is a small diameter, but reasonably long length eraser under the top button. No needle is provided for clearing lead jams. Access to the lead magazine is obtained by removing the eraser. The push top ratchet lead advance mechanism feels good and positive as you would expect from Pentel. 10 clicks advance 5mm of lead. The lead sleeve is a reasonably short 2mm tube, but like many (most) Pentels it is not retractable, so this isn’t a pocket safe pencil. There are no specific grip enhancements on this pencil so its just average in that respect. You tend to feel the 14-sided polygon body shape under your fingers, depending a little on high up the body you grip it.

The markings on the pencil are “S55 Japan” and “0.5 Pentel” in bold black printing at the base of the metal body section.

So overall, these are still good pencils, but they just don’t live up to my (high) expectations.

  • Best Points – I’m struggling here. The blue body section looks good.
  • Not So Good Points – The discontinuity of the plastic to metal body halves.
  • Price Range – Low.

Dimensions – Length 141mm, diameter 10mm at widest point. Balance point about 70mm up from the tip.

15 comments:

* said...

Alas, the S55 has suffered from the ills of cost-reduction in its manufacturing over the many years its been around.

I have one from the early nineties that was made in Japan that I can almost swear weighs more and is balanced differently than another I bought last month.

Please take a look at the Pentel PS535 if you can. It's styled like the S55, but has an all-black (scrum, anyone?) plastic body with a metal collar between both halves. Much more elegant than the S55, IMHO. It also has an extending lead sleeve that makes it more suitable for drafting.

On my S55, I actually took off its tip and replaced it with one from a P205, which has a longer sleeve, for better drafting and sharper lines.

BTW, great blog. Thanks.

kiwi-d said...

Dear *
Well I just have to congratulate you on working the rugby reference into your comment. I give you a full 7 points for a converted try.

I'll check the PS535 - pretty sure I've got one somewhere.

adair said...

The Excalibur in your photo is beautiful. I take it that it is vintage and no longer produced?

Adair

kiwi-d said...

Hello Adair - yes the Excalibur is great, but as you suspect, it is a thing of the past, although I do know of occassional sales on eBay.

jeremy said...

I have the first of the s55 types produced, the 5. its up on my site (JL's Collection in Dave's links). it also suffers from quality issues, IMO. of the 5 i had from a purchase on ebay, none had the same taper at the rear of the pencil.
I dig my excalibur, but is in wicked MANLY silver. Gold is yucky!!!! :)

kiwi-d said...

Sacrilege! Heresy!
The Excalibur is mighty in all its forms. And besides, it’s not gold, it’s "gold with black stripes"! That makes all the difference, so there, take that!

Actually, might be dark brown stripes, kinda hard to tell, blinded by the brilliance of the golden glow. It's like trying to look at the sun...

DDave65 said...

I happen to have a Pentel Classic Deluxe S53 (yes, an 0.3 mm) that I bought back in the 80s. It has served me well for almost 20 years and is still one of my favorite pencils. I write very small and my only disappointment is the disappearance of all the Pentels in a 0.3 mm. I also have a couple of Pentel P203s that I bought in 2002 from the UK. (I contacted Pentel North America to inquire about availability in the US and was informed that not only were they not available, but, because of licensing agreements, any Europen authorized Pentel vendors were not allowed to sell them to me, either. So, I had a friend in London buy some at a stationer's and mail them to me. Customer service is not their strong suite.)

Anonymous said...

Hey, those pencils look great!!! I wish I could have one, but, you know,
they are really expensive in my country, like all Pentel stuff.
At least I have this rewiew, thanks

Anonymous said...

I got a 0.7 excalibur pencil, how much it worth?

Anonymous said...

I found this site while looking for a replacement for my 0.3 Pentel. I have had this pencil for over 22 years. Today I lost my cherished pencil. I suspect it is the Universe's way of telling me "22 years? Dude, it is just a pencil." This pencil I am trying to replace looks just like the Classic Deluxe except for the odd shape of the black half. I suppose their Classic Deluxe is a call back to this very pencil. However, the one I have (I mean..."had"), unlike the oddly shaped black plastic of the newer version, the older one has a complimentary smooth black plastic half. The retracting sleeve was a big deal. I've seen others that are...well, less subtle about how they retract.

Anyone know how I can get my old 0.3 Pentel pencil back? I thought for sure Pentel corporate would have something in a storage room somewhere. But they are in Tokyo.
It is silly, but for a guy who has very little, that thing meant a lot to me.

~Tom
tpkelly2 (at yahoo)

Anonymous said...

I have one of these pencils its a Pentel Excalibur 0.7 in stainless steel its a lovely pencil and would love to know more about it i have had it a few years is it worth putting on Ebay ?.
yorkie_is_here (at yahoo )

Pyotrkot said...

Your site is a real pleasure to browse. Only there's no such thing as a quick look at something here, LOL. One glance always leads to another, and another and ...

I would appreciate a list (maybe with pictures) of your recommended pocket-safe (without fixed sleeves) mechanical pencils. They could be both current and previous models as I would search for one, two or ... on eBay if necessary.

Regards,

Rich said...

I'd also recommend a tour of the PS535. I've picked up one of them to compliment my increasing hoard of Pentel mechanical pencils and it is definitely one I reach for quite often. My only complaint with the PS535 is that the lead advance is paltry, dare I say, perhaps the shortest lead extension of ANY pencil I currently own. I've learned to deal with it but I've left 2B lead in it and end up cursing myself every time I end up click-clicking away to advance more of the soft lead.

Anonymous said...

I'll add another strong recommendation for the Pentel PS535. It's THE pencil for me. I've had one in use for 30 years! The chrome is wearing off the clip. I just bought a replacement online, and got a Classic Deluxe just to compare. They cost about the same. They are identical in configuration and shape, with 2 differences: The PS535 is all black and has the sliding sleeve. All parts interchange.
The only other pencil that fits the bill for me, that I'm aware of and can get, is the Papermate G-Force.
No office supply, stationary, or art store in the Phoenix area has either of these. They have only the P205 and all the bubble-gum grade school stuff.

PointFour said...

Anonymous, is the Papermate G-Force bigger than a Zebra M-301, which is also steel with a knobbly plastic grip?
I have an eBay UK search running for Excalibur pencils - no luck yet... will have to look for PS535 as well.