Saturday, February 23, 2008

Pelikan Souveran D800 Mechanical Pencil Review

Pelikan Souveran D800 Mechanical Pencil Review

This is the second of my two Souveran reviews, and since they are sort of a series it would be best if you had some familiarity with the first one (Pelikan D400) as this review is more of a comparison than an independent stand-alone review.

First off, as a higher numbered model the D800 should be larger than the D400, and as you can see from the comparative photo this is indeed the case. If the D400 is one of the smaller to mid-size models then the D800 is one of the larger sized ones.Photo - Top = D400, Bottom = D800


Overall the D800 is only 7mm (1/4”) longer, but it gives the appearance of being considerably longer because it doesn’t have the narrow push-top button of the D400. This also gives it a much more substantial and impressive look. I mentioned that the D400 didn’t really seem to weigh enough, well the D800 corrects that criticism – it weighs 27g versus 17g for the D400, and it’s a very top-heavy weight as well so you really notice it. This extra size and weight combine to produce a completely different writing experience. Far superior. Call me shallow, but in this case it appears that weight certainly does = value for money and customer satisfaction.

The change to the top of the pencil is a reasonably significant stylistic change, but also mechanistic as well – from push-top ratchet mechanism to twist action ratchet mechanism. The mechanism is exactly like that of the Pelican Pura I recently reviewed – the whole top half of the body pulls off to reveal the eraser, and then its that complicated unscrewing ‘carry on’ to get to the lead chamber.The pencil insert takes 0.7mm lead. I found this twist-action mechanism a little easier to operate one-handed than the Pura’s because of the more prominent pocket-clip. Speaking of the pocket clip, it’s the same styling but somewhat larger pelican beak than the D400 – 41mm versus 35mm long. Even better looking!
As well as looking more substantial the top of the D800 is also somewhat reminiscent of a crown, the sovereigns’ crown I guess. So stylistically I’m much more impressed with the D800 than with the D400. The colour scheme of my D800 is black pinstriping on a blue background. As with the D400 I’m not too impressed by the pinstriping apparently being some sort of sheet wrapped around the barrel.

Overall I am much happier with my D800 than with my D400, and whilst I would recommend the D800 I’m not sure that even my lax value for money system feels totally at ease with it.



  • Best Points – Looks and feels substantial. Love that pelican beak.
  • Not So Good Points – Complicated lead refill system, tip not retractable.
  • Price Range – High.

Dimensions – Length 143mm, diameter 10mm lower body. Balance point about 95mm up from the tip.

15 comments:

Wilson said...

Ding Ding Ding! Time to chime in and it's a doosy. Although this isn't the same thread, it's related and at the top so I can torture people with my ramblings.

I'm not enamoured with the look of the Stresemann stripes any more. The fountain pens actually have translucent stripes of the same colour between the solid coloured stripes so one can see the ink level. Unfortunately, I don't own a Pelikan pencil or pen so I can't say for sure if Dave is right about the top end of the pencil. I know for the fountain pens, it isn't a thin sheet wrapped around the barrel. It starts as a thickish flat sheet with the stripes embedded. The sheet is rolled into a tube and welded. I suspect the flat sheet to round tube joined by a weld is responsible for possible mismatching of the stripes. Then the tube is shaped with a lathe so if the stripes are just a thin sheet then the lathing would very likely remove some of the striping from the thinner sections of the barrel. Again, I don't know if the pencil tops are manufactured the same way but since they have the tooling for the fountain pens, it would make sense to use the same process to make the pencil tops.

Honestly, there haven't been a lot of successful innovation in recent times. To me, successful innovation means it becomes popular. Gimmickry is not successful innovation. Here's a list of more recent features:

1) Auto-advance - fails in practice about which Dave has written.

2) Rubber grips - is not new since there have been rubber grips for wooden pencils for a very long time (plus they suck!)

3) Integrated twist erasers - hasn't taken the pencil world by storm.

4) Adjustable lead advance - found only in a few models and the Ohto version sucks. Before you flame me, I own 10 Super Pro-Mechas and they should have used detents to control the lead advance setting or have some way of locking down the setting. As such, I had to fiddle with it all the time because the push button can turn the advance setting. I have yet to use the Staedtler Regulator to see if it's any better.

5) Lead cushioning - found only in a few models and seems really gimmicky. I use 0.3mm pencils and I rarely break lead so the feature seems superfluous so unless you press like you are making triplicates, I don't see much value.

As for my ownership of luxury pencils, I have a couple of the nicer Caran d'Aches, a couple of Yard-O-Leds and several Lamy 2000s (which sits at the doorway of luxury pencils in my book). Dave certainly owns more luxury pencils than I do.

The Lamy 2000 was my favourite pencil for a long time until I rediscovered an old love, the Rotring 600. Granted the going price for New Old Stock is about $40 for 0.3 and $50 for 0.5 (0.7 is almost impossible to get) but my first ones weren't that expensive. The fit and finish on those pencils kills everything other than the higher end luxury pencils but it is still up there with the best. The only downside is the lack of a sliding sleeve which I never really cared for.

Now if we want to talk luxury, we can always talk about my $3000+ fountain pens. ;-)

kiwi-d said...

Howdy Wilson. Good to hear from you. Taking your comment, I have now actually bothered to read the Pelikan website and see the manufacturing process you describe. Yes, presumably it is the same for pencils. I think its basically as I (poorly) attempted to imagine or describe, except I imagined a sheet wrapped around an existing barrel whereas the whole barrel is itself the printed sheet wrapped around. Hence the join etc. I’ve looked again and do get the impression of a clear coat over the stripes, but I guess that’s just way things look. I guess I should have spent more time on the Pelikan site before I wrote my review, but actually I tend to sort of (deliberately) not do that. Downside is some boo-boo’s from time to time. Still, it’s only pencils :-)

Hmmm, $3000+ fountain pens. Well out of my league, and I noted it was pens, plural. I won’t ask “So, if there was only 1 of them you could keep…….?”

Wilson said...

Only pencils? Given some of your detailed reviews, crazy polls and the even crazier Lead Cup, it's not only pencils. You can't fool us. ;-)

My fountain pen collecting days are pretty much over. I'm happy with my two vintage Pelikan 100s along with my current collection. There really hasn't been anything in the past 4 years that has piqued my interest and that I can afford. A lot of the more beautiful fountain pens are well over $10,000.

If I had to choose one then I would choose one of my two vintage Pelikan 100s. They cost me about $500 each so among some of my least expensive pens. They were the first successful piston filled fountain pen so there is a historical significance to them and I love the extra-fine nibs which are much finer than modern extra-fine nibs. In the end, pens should be about writing and not collecting.

As such, I journal predominantly in pencil because fountain pens need far more care. Anything with free flowing ink is going to get messy but you also have to worry about the build up of the ink solids over time. Travelling by air with strange dark liquids even in the original ink bottle can get you pulled over for special treatment.

Since I have 12 Rotring 600 in silver and 12 in black (each dozen costing me less than one Pelikan 100), I won't cry if I lose one and no one pays any attention to them compared to some fanciful fountain pen.

kiwi-d said...

Wilson - I forgot to ask how you came to have 10 Super Pro-Mecha, but now I see you have Rotrings by the dozen I am even more mind-boggled. Do you only shop at "Buy The Box-Lot Ltd"?

Crikey, well you least expensive FP is way more expensive than my most expensive MP, but thats not too surprising.

You may well be interested to hear that since NZ won the hosting rights for the next Rugby World Cup in 2011, to make maximum use of the sporting facilities and influx of tourists, the next Lead Cup will also be staged around that time.

Wilson said...

When I find something I like, I tend to get spares (especially if they're discontinued) unless they're too expensive. I kick myself when I go looking for something again and either I can't get it or I don't like the new model.

A US seller had a set of 0.3, 0.4, 0.5, 0.7, 0.9 Super Pro-Mechas and I thought it would be fun to see which lead diameter really worked best for me. The pencils were nearly identical so it came down to diameter. 0.3 works best for me so I bought another 5 of the 0.3 for a total of 10 pencils. I looked at other 0.3 pencils but none of them were any better and most were worse. It came in under $250 so in the same range as my most expensive pencils. If I lost or broke one, no big deal. But the honeymoon was short and the faults came out but it was still the best I could find.

Then I was digging through boxes and out came my old Rotring 600. It was like meeting up with your first real love of whom you should never have let go. I knew Rotring was all but gone so I checked eBay and found a dealer who had loads of the 0.3 as New Old Stock. I ordered a couple and loved them so I bought the rest of my hoard. It came out to about $1000 but they should last me for the rest of my years since plastic and metal don't exactly degrade quickly as environmentalists will tell us.

In fact, lead availability will be our biggest worry in the coming decades but who knows how well lead will keep. Perhaps you can do stress tests (heat, moisture, electricity, radiation (UV, infrared), etc) as your next pencil experiment. "Sweetie, I'm sorry I broke the microwave but it was for the good of science." LOL

To set the record straight, my least expensive fountain pen is a Pilot Vanishing Point at $110 and most of the lower end ones are between $200 and $500. I forgot about that one storage box of pens. So you have quite a few luxury pencils that exceed my lowest end fountain pens but the mean price of my collection is higher than your most expensive pencils unless you've been buying diamond encrusted Cartier pencils.

NZ will fold like a cheap chair AGAIN. *ducks from the not pocket safe pencil thrown at him*

kiwi-d said...

Dude, now you're just being tough on me.

Wilson said...

LOL. Perhaps they'll win this time around. After all, their only win was basically on home soil.

Germ said...

come on dave~!!!! you can do these more scientific tests for us? in the interest of all concerned? for the betterment of nerd-kind?

:)

wilson, if you don't like those superpro mecha .5mm can send em to me, along with a rotring 600 in black, .5mm........

germ

kiwi-d said...

Wilson, your comment about lead availability being the worry for the future, are you meaning that the worry is the less common lead diameters like 0.3 and 0.4mm will go out of production?

Wilson said...

germ: I only have one Super Pro-Mecha in 0.5mm. I discovered with that set that 0.3mm is the one for me. So all of my Rotring 600s are 0.3mm. I'm still trying to decide if I will just give away the "set" of SPMs (0.3, 0.4, 0.5, 0.7, 0.9). It was really fun to test out all of the lead diameters with essentially the same pencil. I'm thinking of sending them to Dave because I know how much he doesn't like them. LOL. Of course, he can do one blog entry on playing around with the diameters. Then if he doesn't want them, I would suggest a contest of sorts.

I also have a couple of Lamy 2000 and Yard-O-Led and I probably just get rid of them saving one of each for those temporarily insane moments when I'll use them for a day.

Dave: My main worry is obviously 0.3mm lead going out of production. Certainly, there will probably be inventory for quite some time after the discontinuation and that's why I'd be curious to see how lead handles a variety of environmental situations.

Wilson said...

Darn it. I accidentally hit return in the verification box and it posted for me before I was finished.

It'll be interesting to see how long pens and pencils stick around beyond being "antiques". Certainly, fountain pens have not disappeared but as the generations get more and more wired, I'm sure writing will decline. When I was a young lad, people passed notes around class. Now all of the children send text messages. LOL

kiwi-d said...

Hi Wilson
Well I guess 0.3 (and surely 0.4) might go out of production, but 0.3 does still have a few fans, there is some market with artists, so you never know, be optimistic. Not sure I’ll be able to take you up on the lead stability challenge, but I’ll bear it in mind. I suppose a fistful of SPM’s might exert some influence on me LOL.

I think pencils and pens will be with us for a long time yet, but I suppose I have to agree writing will decline by some degree. But hey, the paperless office was supposed to arrive 20 years ago, yet today the paper companies have never sold so much! Regarding texts, theres an ad here on TV, - two teenage girls sitting next to each other, texting away furiously and glancing at each other. Finally they fold their phones shut and with a tear in her eye, one says to the other, “I’m so glad we had this little chat”

Wilson said...

Of course, I own 24 Rotring 600s so I have backups and spare parts for well after I die.

If I buy 100 40-lead Ain containers and I use a generous 5 leads a month (I'll probably use 1-2) then I'll have enough for 66 years. LOL

X said...

Hello, I got a Pelikan pencil and looked it up, I couldn't find it by searching so I tried browsing and I found this, and the D 400, but still none, so what I'm trying to ask is, has anyone ever heard of the Pelikan Souveran D 730? This seems odd to me...

Rot Ring said...

There are Souverän pens M730 and ballpoints K730 (compare ebay # 220669433171) to be found.
Quite rare, with sterling silver but no Drehbleistift D730.
Can you make a picture?