I must also say that one time as I was looking down the length of the pencil I was suddenly struck by the similarity to a Sky Tower type building. The looks grew on me even more after that architectural revelation.
The lead sleeve is a 4mm metal tube for draughting work. It isn’t retractable. This pencil is super pocket unsafe. The tip section includes a lead hardness indicator window. You can rotate it around to show 2B to 4H, including F. Personally I think this hardness indicator is at the wrong end of the pencil. If you have a couple of pencils loaded with different lead grades and store them in a cup or holder point down then you can’t tell which is which until you pull it out of the cup. I also tend to find the indicator a little distracting in general use, as its right down there in the line of sight of the tip as you write or draw. However, others may argue you should store your pencils upside down to protect the long thin lead sleeve from damage. If that is your practice, then the indicator is correctly positioned.
OK, well up at the other end of the pencil there is a twist out eraser. The twist action is very smooth and easy, and the eraser is a little under 4mm diameter with about 26mm of usable length. The compound appears to be vinyl and erases quite well. The thin diameter means you can do some reasonably detailed fine erasing, but the compound does seem to have a slightly annoying habit of sticking to the paper. As the top of the pencil, the eraser cartridge is also the push top that activates the ratchet lead advance mechanism. It is a very positive noisy ‘clicky’ type, 10 clicks will get you 7mm of lead. My pencil is a 0.5mm model, but 0.3, 0.7 and 0.9mm are also available. You pull the whole eraser cartridge out of the body to access the lead refill magazine. The metal pocket clip is quite stiff but functional. Perhaps the TK-Fine Vario L’s main point of difference is its rather unusual adjustable lead cushioning system. You hold the metal grip section and twist the body one way for the “hard” setting and the other for the “soft” setting. On hard setting the lead is rigid, but on soft setting there is several millimetres of spring loaded retraction up into the lead sleeve if you push down hard on the lead. The theory is that this cushioning reduces lead breakages, etc. I’m not entirely convinced by this variable cushioning feature. When set to soft, the amount of lead movement sometimes seems excessive. I’m tempted to think this is all a bit pointless, just a marketing ploy, that a standard “fixed” cushioning system, or even no cushioning, would have been fine. Call me crazy, but I also thought there was a little bit more sideways play in the lead on “soft” setting than on “hard”, but someone will probably tell me that’s impossible.
The upper part of the body is a hexagonal plastic section, but the lower part is a nice round cross-section shiny metallic (chrome?) grip zone. It has some shallow circumferential grooves cut into it and flares out slightly at the base. The grip section is about 8mm in diameter which is relatively thin. Back at the beginning of this review I said, “...and judging by comments and emails…it certainly has its share of fans.” Well, unfortunately, I’m not really one of them. I’m afraid that in my book, the grip section is a complete let down, and ultimately ruins this pencil for me. The small diameter and shiny surface somehow combine to produce a very unsatisfactory insecure slippery grip. Faber-Castell have manufactured this pencil for a very long time so it must be a successful seller and many will disagree with my assessment, and maybe I am going overboard here, but this is the worst grip I have used in a very long time. Sorry, but that’s my personal opinion. I’ve got other plain shiny metal pencils, but they tend to be fatter. I think the problem is the combination of thin pencil and shiny metal grip.
- Best Points – the looks, the eraser.
- Not So Good Points – the grip.
- Price Range – Low/Medium.
Dimensions – Length 154mm, diameter 8mm at grip section. Balance point about 65mm up from the tip.