Sunday, July 01, 2007

Uni Return’s Mechanical Pencil

Right-o, here we have snippet number three from my “Japanese Sampler”, the Uni Return’s M5-318 0.5mm mechanical pencil by Mitsubishi Pencil. So thanks again to my friend from Japan for sending these.
It’s a relatively lightweight all-plastic pencil, although its internals are mostly metal. I quite like the look and rose pick colour scheme of my particular pencil, but the rubber grip really spoils things for me. The rubber grip is a cheap looking translucent matt finish that just doesn’t go with the glossy transparent remainder of the pencil. Also its one of those useless rubber grips that is hard and not really all that “grippy”. Why bother?
When I first open my Japanese Sampler package and had a quick play with all the pencils, I was a little disappointed that one of them was broken. It was this one, the Uni Return’s. You see, it wouldn’t advance the lead. I tried feeding new lead in, both from the magazine and through the tip, I pulled it apart several times, and so on. But it was just erratic, sometimes it advanced lead, sometimes it didn’t and sometimes it…and then it started to dawn on me. Things suddenly became clear. They didn’t call it Uni Return’s for nothing. So, this is a seemingly normal push top ratchet lead advance mechanism, but really it’s not. If you push down lightly on the top of the pencil lead is advanced, BUT, if you push down hard the lead is retracted, i.e. returned. Well, hands up, I surrender, you got me, I’ve never seen or heard of this before. There's sort of an extra little collar piece inside the tip mechanism, and when you push down hard it is pushed forward to grip the lead stick and then drag it back when you release the pressure.
I imagine if I could read Japanese the writing on the little stickers on the pencil would have alerted me to this double function, but I don’t, so they didn’t. Though intrigued, and in awe at the creative concept and engineering process that put this mechanism together, I am ultimately not a fan of the Return’s. You see, it’s easy to push too hard, to retract the lead when you really wanted to advance it. Particularly when I was at work and in a bit of a hurry, or some fool had just irritated me and my pencil was bearing the brunt of my frustration, I’d be pressing down hard on that pencil and no damn lead was coming out.

You know they even have it worked out so that one "return" click will retract about 4 or 5 lengths of "advance" clicks. Basically one return click will always retract the whole lead even if you have over-advanced it a couple of times. Good thinking.

So, hey, good on you Mitsubishi Pencil, fascinating idea, just doesn’t quite work in the real world. Well at least in my world anyway.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I bought one of these pencils when I was working in Japan a couple of years ago. When I got back to work, I tried advancing the lead, but it would never come out. I was trying to figure out how to explain to the store clerk that the pencil didn't work, when I just pushed the lead advance a little and saw the lead coming out. That's how I figured out the "Returns" pencil. I don't use it everyday as the lead is too small, but it is a cool pencil.