Both my Onoto pencils are shortish, at around 11.5cm or 4.5 in. The first is a basic simple looking plain black with gold trim model. A traditional classic? The metal is showing a bit of wear and loss of plating. The plastic body is generally in better shape than the metal trims. “Onoto” is stamped into the pocket clip, but there are no other markings. Overall though it is in pretty good condition for something thats over 50 years old.
The second pencil is a little more picturesque, a light and dark sort of pink burgundy marble with gold trim. The company logo is stamped into the pocket clip, but this time the wording “Onoto The Pencil” and “Made in Gt Britain” is stamped into the plastic body. The marble effect is quite nice, with flashes of an almost silver effect at certain angles. The lighter sections give an appearance of real “depth”.
Both pencils are tip twist mechanisms to advance and retract the lead. The lead is 1.18mm and spare leads are stored loose inside the body. You unscrew the little top cap holding the pocket clip to access the leads, and feed one new lead into the tip. No auto-feeding like todays modern push-top ratchets. Also you can see how short the old style leads are, just 25mm or 1 inch long, and they have a sharpened tip.
The sharp eyed amongst you might have noticed the background to the photo above is the letterhead of the Inland Revenue Department. That letter was just sitting there when I went to take these photos and somehow, I imagine the taxman of old was likely to have been an Onoto type of guy, signing all those officious demanding letters that brought sorrow and dismay to the recipients. You may also note the words 'Te Tari Taaki' below Inland Revenue. Here I go again, meandering off-topic, but anyway… as part of the campaign to maintain the “health” of the Maori language (Maori are NZ’s indigenous people), the government entities all have dual English-Maori names. Many of these names make great translations. Historic Maori has no words for many modern societal and technological terms, so there have been some very creative creations. Now I don’t speak Maori at all, and a basic dictionary translation of these particular three words is quite difficult, but would suggest the Maori version literally translates as something conceptual like “The Department for Taking Personal Things from Below, in an Upwards Direction”. The truth is out! It is just the big guy on top takes it from the little guy down below!
There are some other great names like the government agency that gives grants to support local TV and music broadcasting which translates as “The Musical Tunes Hanging in the Sky of our Island”, or the Ministry of Education, “The Support Structure for Raising Knowledge”, or the Civil Aviation Authority, “The Influencers of the Public Flying Through the Sky of the Land of the Long White Cloud”. Most of all though, I like the names of the military, from the Ministry of Defence through the Defence Force (HQ) to the army, navy, and air force we have:
“The Thinking Foundation for Defence” (Min. of Def.)
“The Senior War Party of the Land of the Long White Cloud” (Def Force HQ)
“The Tribe of the God of War” (army)
“The Maritime War Party of the Land of the Long White Cloud” (navy)
"The Military Force of the Blue-Sky" (air-force)