Thursday, April 24, 2008

Uni Kuru Toga

Uni Kuru Toga

OK, here’s a new one. Fresh out of the postie’s satchel, sent to me by my friend in Japan. I believe it’s a relatively new release on the Japanese market. It is the Uni “Kuru Toga” (M5-450 1P) mechanical pencil by Mitsubishi Pencil. uni kuru toga packageWhat does Kuru Toga mean? Well, apparently ‘Kuru’ is a sort of Japanese sound symbolism that we don't really have in English, but anyway it's associated with ‘turning’, and ‘Toga’ is the shortened form of ‘togaru’ which means ‘be sharpened’. The pencil itself has 'Kuru Toga Engine' printed on it. uni kuru toga engineQuite simply, the idea is that as you write the lead is auto-rotated around so that it maintains a sharp point and doesn’t get a chisel edge on it, leading to changing line thicknesses as you write or if you rotate the pencil in your hand. The pencil comes with a 12 page little cartoon style A6 size booklet explaining the virtues of Kuru Toga. Now I don’t read Japanese, so no idea what it actually says, but here it is reproduced in full, so I think we can all get the general idea. I scanned it lay flat, so six scans of A5 size. kuru toga instructions 1 kuru toga instructions 2 kuru toga instructions 3 kuru toga instructions 4kuru toga instructions 5 kuru toga instructions 6I haven’t pulled the mechanism apart but clearly the concept is that the lead-holding jaws are mounted on a toothed clutch. Each time you press down to write the clutch teeth engage and the sliding faces cause the lead to be rotated around a fraction. kuru toga mechanism diagramThe trick then is the constant lifting and pressing back down as you write. The clutch is springing apart and back together, rotating each time. Now this is a 0.5mm pencil, so a chisel edge on the lead isn’t a huge deal, but still, it’s a heck of an idea. There is also a 0.3mm version. Now that would be a sharp point! Still, Uni extol the virtues of the constantly sharp point for neat precise writing, and a reduction in lead breakage.

Right then. Does it actually work?

Well… yes, it does. Whether you really care, well…that’s another matter.

So, first thing I did was get an ordinary pencil (Lamy 2000) and the Kuru Toga and make sure they had good clean leads with a square end. Start writing. Clearly normal started out a thin line and got progressively thicker as the end wore down to a chisel point. I did not rotate the pencil in my hand. The picture below shows ‘normal’ at the start and then ‘normal’ after a line of writing. At the bottom of the picture are three lines – the middle one is at the start, the one above and below are after the chisel edge has been worn on the lead. So, we can see what happens normally, things get thicker as the lead wears. (Phew, it's like rocket-science)kuru toga comparison 1 Now Kuru Toga. Below is a picture of ‘normal’ and ‘kuru’ after a couple of lines writing with each. Normal has worn to a chisel point and makes thicker lines. Kuru stays sharp.kuru toga comparison 2To recap – here’s the 3 line test for both, shown together. For each, the middle line is the start with a fresh new lead, the lines above and below are drawn after a couple of lines of writing with that lead.kuru toga comparison 3One thing I did note with Kuru Toga was that it always felt slightly scratchy on the paper. You know how when you pick up a pencil and by chance you start writing with the sharp side or tip of the chisel point and it digs or catches a little on the paper. Well, that’s basically what kuru is doing, always presenting the sharp edge to the paper, so it’s not the smoothest of writing experiences. Still, nothing to get too hung up over.

You know, to some extent it almost doesn’t matter how well this pencil works or not, it’s the thought that counts. These sorts of ideas and innovations are occurring in Japan, not elsewhere. Just look at that booklet! This is clearly the product of a design team and company that really think about their product and their market, see a future, try something new, move forward, and not just think, “Oh, it’s a pencil, we’ll always sell them, but there’s nothing much ever going to happen with pencils! They’re a cash-cow, just milk them.”

Link to the new Uni Kuru Toga High Grade

128 comments:

Gunther said...

That's marvellous – almost unbelievable. You wrote: "These sorts of ideas and innovations are occurring in Japan, not elsewhere." I wonder which cultural and economic aspects of Japan account for such a variety of high-quality and smart writing implements with features like that in the "Kuru Toga". (I have read the paper "Japan and the Mechanical Pencil" but it doesn't answer the question on the cultural aspects.) Of course there are the Japanese signs that require fine tips and the calligraphy tradition but I am convinced that there is more than this. The Karakuri tradition as well as the history of craftwork may be also responsible for the huge interest in technological marvels. As useful as many of the numerous unique features may seen, quite a few of them are not really necessary so I assume that this extravagance and its creators are rewarded not only monetary – but by what standards?

Anonymous said...

Dave, what an absolutely delightful post! I pray to the Pencil God that JetPens will make this marvel available here in the U.S. I don't know if I can answer Gunther's question, but perhaps in Japan excellence is its own reward? The product literature itself is so cool--it kind of tells a story. This thing is an instant collectible. What fun!

Barrel Of A Pencil

Gunther said...

"excellence is its own reward" sounds very plausible. – If someone is interested: Google's translation of the uni/Mitsubishi press release for the Kuru Toga (although some parts of the translation are of limited use).

kiwi-d said...

You know to be honest I was a little blasé about the Kuru Toga to start with, but I’m now starting to think that this is a major innovation. Conceptually this is the self-sharpening pencil. That’s a great leap forward, like the development of ratchet lead advance mechanisms, modern thin-leads, auto-feed mechanisms, etc. Sure not all of them may work all that well, but it’s the concept – the self-sharpening pencil!

Now, stick this “Kuru Toga Engine” on a 2mm leadholder…where does that take us?

pigpogm said...

That actually looks like a great idea. Because I spend most of my time using a fountain pen, I tend to hold pens and pencils at quite a shallow angle now. That makes the 'chisel tip' problem worse.

A 0.7mm pencil ends up a bit too thick to write reasonably small with, while 0.5 is just usable, but a bit thicker than I'd like. With 0.3mm, I end up with the chiseling effect making a really sharp tip that ends up digging into the paper when I vary the angle a bit.

Hmmm. I wonder what the chances are of persuading Uni-ball UK to bring these over here? I'm thinking probably zero.

Germ said...

Very neat pencil David. Do they make one in stainless steel? As you know, I'm not a big fan of the plastic pencil.
pigpog - doubt that would ever happen. a company actually going along with a customers request......

Anonymous said...

Very nice. I'll pick one up when jetpens/jpens offers.

Do they even teach kids today to twist the pencil to keep the point when drafting with instruments? I guess all those skills are pretty much a lost art these days.

MC said...

This is great! As a middle school student, no one ever seems to understand why I always rotate my pencil around. This would be the perfect solution- if only they sold it in the U.S.!

JiBi_AI said...

Oh!! I wonder how is it
I hope I can find some place [in my country if possible] to buy it soon
Good or not isn't matter, I'm just impress with the idea.
Many people say "All the Mechanical Pencil is the same, the leads are more important" and I think they will rethink when they see this

Manfred said...

Re: British Graphite

"So, it’s British yet made in Austria? I wonder if they mean the graphite came from Britain?"

In the 18th and 19th centuries, graphite from Britain was of superior quality. As far as I know it was even forbidden to export graphite. Later, new deposits were found in Siberia that were of higher quality and allowed longer pencils to be fabricated. Anyway, "British graphite" was a mark of quality (or meant to be one), when Koh-i-Noor made those pencils in the 1920s. Kinda like "Swiss chocolate".

You'll have to do the research yourself :-)

Time Waster said...

Those Japanese I kinda find some of these pencils anti productive or anti functional like Shaker pencils :)
I mean is it harder to shake a pencil or click it?

Akis said...

Japanese are light years ahead in innovation from other countries, and not only in pencils. They tweak things around until something new emerges.
I have to buy this one.

Marcus said...

Hi, I happened to chance across this pen on eBay. Use this link to get to the sale page: http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=320263192614

Pretty cool pen!

kiwi-d said...

Here's a link to the Kuru Toga video.

http://www.mpuni.co.jp/product/category/sharp_pen/kurutoga/wmv/kurutoga.wmv

Anonymous said...

I'm so glad to find this page as I had thought myself freaky to care so much about pencils. This one, however, does not excite me too much as I already know how to keep the point of a pencil by rotating it; I do so automatically and probably save myself some strain.

My favourite pencil at present (superseding the one with the cliker at the index finger position instead of the top where the eraser sits) is the Magic House number - it advances the lead automatically i.e. NO CLICKING, plus the lead is protected in such a way that it does not break with pressure - beat that!

kiwi-d said...

Hello Anonymous,
Well I hope you will enjoy reading this blog over the coming months, years....
Personally my experiences with auto-feed mechanisms have not been all that satisfactory. I don't know theis Magic House pencil - is there a website showing it?

Mike said...

Hey Dave:

I did a bit of Googling (love that word) and found this:

http://www.magichouse-singapore.com/en/home.htm

Hope that helps!

--
www.newsbreaktimes.com

kiwi-d said...

Thanks Mike
Looks similar to a few others, but the auto-feed is what counts. Oh well, maybe one day I'll see one and get it. Never bought anything from Singapore before.

Redds said...

While it is an exciting idea, it didn't really appeal much to me when I saw the ad for the first time. I was thinking; 'Hmm... Now this would surely appeal to my pals who keep twisting their pencils when they write'.

Because I DO, in fact, prefer writing and drawing with a chisel edge. Most artists do, because a chisel edge presents 3 line widths; the thick stroke for covering areas, the calligraphy stroke, and the needle-width stroke.

It really repelled me when I borrowed a schoolmate's pencil and had to deal with a rounded edge. I'd scribble furiously somewhere to get the chisel edge before I began writing.

It's really subjective who this MP is going to appeal to. To those who turn their pencils, most definitely. But everyone, unlikely.

Anonymous said...

There are alot of interesting things coming out of Japan, that's for sure. I saw an ad campaign that a friend of me sent to me... www.pentel.co.jp, the first little button on the red strip for those like me who can't read japanese, Ain Supplio... sented pencil lead that "stimulates those little grey cells"

There is even Shopkawaii.com, where you can see alot of the cute things japan is coming out with.

Steve said...

Hi guys, Steve from Uni-Ball USA here. This pencil will be available in stores here in America sometime in June. Look forward to hearing what you guys think!

Dave: Kudos on this site, great resource

Norm said...

I've had a Kuru Toga for about a week now ($7 at jstationery.com in the USA). Been using it as my workday doodling, note taking and idea-sketching pencil. It's definitely grown on me.

The rotate-as-you-write feature certainly seems to work reliably as advertised. I suspect the value of this feature, as others have suggested, may be subjective. Personally, the majority of my pencil use is written words and code and for me, I think, this pencil offered some genuine (if small) benefit. On the other hand, years of preference for pencil rather than pen have made me a habitual pencil rotator and I found myself trying to resist that urge just for the purpose of testing out this one. I also don't rate it that high for drawing or sketching, for the obvious reason that a chisel point has its benefits for that.

Regardless of its rotatory-lead widgetry, it's not an unpleasant pencil for everyday use. Seems to be quite sturdily built from various plastics. I'm a Pentel P205 type of guy, so this one seemed slightly fat to me, but not so much as I couldn't get used to it. The grip isn't unpleasant. It's a very slightly softer plastic than the rest of the barrel and is transparent so, presumably, to advertise the clever engineering inside. The grip is slightly ribbed, a bit like the older-style Rotring Tikky II. I'm not a big fan of that type of grip, I'd prefer some kind of scoring or knurling, but it's not excessive or a deal breaker. The fit of the cap over the (as usual, puny and worthless) eraser seemed a little lacking in grip and I can easily imagine losing the cap.

All-in-all an interesting and potentially valuable pencil that I think I might keep using for a while as an everyday writer. Uni should be congratulated for trying something new and potentially with some genuine improvement, for some users at least. I'm interested to see how reliable the extra complication of the rotation mechanism might hold up over time.

Germ said...

Steve from Uni-Ball USA . when will you be getting in some of the Boxym Hi uni Prouse, and Uni-Carbo series? these are badly needed in the US.

Steve said...

Hi Germ, I just randomly checked this, we have no plans to launch those items in the near future, I think they are great too. I'll try to post if those plans change.

Germ said...

thats a bummer Steve. Maybe plans should be made? :) hehehehe have a great day.

Anonymous said...

Here in the U.S., JetPens and JStationery now have the "revolutionary" (:>))) Kuru Toga in stock in 0.3mm and 0.5mm lead width.

If the clutch mechanism is engaged by the continual reapplication of the point to the writing surface, rotating the lead nine degrees each time, is a cursive writer more likely to wind up with a chisel tip than the writer who prints (the pure cursive writer would use one stroke per word--the printer would use four strokes to form capital 'E' alone)?

My only experience with auto-feed mechanical pencils, i.e automatic lead-advancing pencils as opposed to automatic lead-rotating pencils, has been disappointing. The Ticonderoga #2 0.7mm Sensematic, which touts itself as "the only AUTO-FEED MECHANICAL PENCIL", by its very design always writes like a mechanical pencil with lead worn down almost to the very sleeve opening because its owner has failed to advance it. In other words, scratchy, scratchy, scratchy. Perhaps some other company has developed an auto-feed system which maintains a constant length of lead projecting some millimeters beyond and not just peeking out the end of the sleeve. One hopes the Ticonderoga's auto-feed is an inferior design, not state-of-the-art, and that Mitsubishi's next generation Kuru Toga will (usefully) advance the lead as well as rotate it. A second clutch arrangement, vertically oriented, working in concert with the existing horizontal engine...oh my god, it's the Six Million Dollar Pencil! We can build him better, faster, stronger...

If the Kuru Toga is as brilliant a success as I hope it will be, like Germ I would also like to see it dressed up in stainless, maybe even with metal componentry for its engine. It could be MitsuB's Sharp Kerry. Maybe I should wait until Norm reports back on its durability. Nah...

Barrel Of A Pencil

kiwi-d said...

Barrel - I would assume "YES" to your cursive writer theory, and "Sorry, afraid it is the norm" to the Sensematic mechanism.

nontimeosedcaveo said...

The Uni-ball Kuru Toga has just featured on the Cool Tools blog:
http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/CoolTools/~3/zJroEsJuGDI/003411.php

Anonymous said...

Just found these pencils in one of the cheap gift and paper shops in the Melbourne Australia China-town area of Little Bourke Street. $9.50AU but strangely it doesn't have the little booklet

Anonymous said...

got one, and its quite a cool gadget but all your doing is getting rid of the need to rotate your original pencil.

PROVED IT DOES WORK!!

Cursive Handwriting said...

Hello, I write in cursive and I have always had a problem with my writing becoming really thick as I write across the line. Will this remedy my problem? If anyone could tell me I'd be set to buy one off ebay. Thanks.

kiwi-d said...

Cursive Handwriting - the answer is maybe. The point is rotated when you lift it off the paper. If you write long words without lifting it off the paper then it doesn't rotate and keep the point as sharp. All depends how you write, and how sharp is sharp, etc.

Henrik said...

In general I agree with Dave, the engine in the pencil doesn't work if you write very light or if you do not lift the pencil.
As far as I know, the Kuru Toga is invented especially for keeping a monoline, meaning the line should have of the same wideness all the time. This is not desirable for cursive, but ok for print and italic. I think you need some variation of the line. If it were pens a “flex nib” would be the thing – but pencils can produce some similar shading, if you add pressure on the down strokes and are light on the upstrokes. Just not the Kuru Toga

Regards
Henrik

Henrik said...

Sorry about the language, I posted before I was finished. The 4th line should read:
the line should be of the same etc.
Hope it makes sense anyway.

Henrik

Claes in Lund, Sweden said...

-> Henrik
Davs! Well, if you had a rectangular pencil lead, it would produce the line variations that are so desirable when writing italics/cursive. Like a Zebra MLP2.
Have fun!
Claes in Lund, Sweden
http://www.algonet.se/~claesg

Henrik said...

@Claus
Hejsan, nice to see a neighbour here, I’m from Copenhagen, so we are not far from each other.
Just one comment on the scripts: I usually try to keep "cursive" apart from "italic", as they are executed very differently. We don’t know what our friend here refers to as “cursive” – but I don’t think a script like Spencerian or Palmer method would benefit from a chisel edged tool like the Zebra – but for a slanted italic like Getty-Dubai it would be nice, some call this “cursive” too, confusing. The other forms rely on pressure for the desired line variation – and it is possible with an ordinary pencil, just not the Kuru Toga.

Regards Henrik

Stuart said...

Barrel said:

"by its very design always writes like a mechanical pencil with lead worn down almost to the very sleeve opening because its owner has failed to advance it. In other words, scratchy, scratchy, scratchy."

The Faber-Castell TKMatic-L had this same type of auto-advance.

I agree with your description. It constantly felt like you were at that point where you need to push the button to advance the lead.

Anonymous said...

I was given this pencil as a gift, it's the best mechanical pencil I've ever owned, and that would include quite a few.

Tokyo said...

We carry these over at www.TokyoPenShop.com and they are currently in stock.

Anonymous said...

1. Bought on 2009/01/25 from Kinokuniya Boookstore in Costa Mesa, CA. $7.50 or so. 0.5mm

2. Hesitant for a few months before picking up this due to the cost and unknown feel of the pencil - no demo available at this store to try out. However, it has turned out to be an instant Winner for me!!!

3. The pencil lead is whatever Mitsubishi Uni provides - nothing 'amazing', but certainly not as smooth as Pentel's leads. Nevertheless, not a problem at all in use. The lead is definitely not their SHU brand leads - the SHU brand leads are definitely 'crisper' as I call it, a more crisp feel vs. Pentel's silky smooth lead feel.

4. Well-balanced and lightweight. Not at all like those all-metal graphing pencils from Pentel - much lighter in weight. Just short of feathery, but still has just enough weight to rest well in my hands. Good for twirling in your hand when bored, and even holding the pencil up towards the tip does not feel heavy - a good thing, some metal pencils are awkwardly balanced if you hold it too far towards the tip. The light weight will allow for hours of use without much fatigue.

5. Kuro Toga's spinning pencil engine does works better than I hoped for and is an excellent replacement for my own twirling. Honestly, it's one of those surprises that I simply love Japan technology for!
Micro-printing with the pencil is just fine, and works great - a normal pencil simply fails at this once the end flattens out (assuming you never twirl the pencil yourself) with fat, fuzzy text. Nice, fine lines.
Regular handwriting and printing works fine as well - never feel the need to twirl the pencil at all!
Of course, the edge is never as super-thin as you can possibly get with a regular pencil if you write on the very edge of a sharpened lead, but you can't do this for very long since that edge will have worn down after a word or less. However, the thin, very legible print that you get with the pencil all the time is very nice and more than acceptable for print down to sub 3-4 point font size. Yep, that small! and you'll never have to twirl ever again!
IMO, I do not feel any problems regarding writing on the thin edge of a pencil lead simply because it's not that at all - you're not writing on the thinnest edge of a sharpened pencil lead, rather, you're writing as if you were the world's expert pencil twirler. Thus, no dragging of the lead or breakage here at all - simply smooth, crisp, microprint writing if you choose all day long!
A lot of fun at first is watching the little logo spin a tiny bit every time you lift the pencil, but that soon goes away (but that is neither bad nor good).
The clear grip is mildly textured, three rings around the grip curved slightly inward, but nothing sharp edged that will irritate you. I would prefer the 100% smooth, circle barrel farther up the pencil instead to continue past the grip area myself.
I don't like the latest grippy rubber grips of late, nor do I prefer a textured grip myself, so this is the best pencil I've found thus far that does not use a tapered barrel. Certainly wish Uni would come up with a version 2.0 pencil that has a perfectly smooth, cylindrical barrel.
The needle point is of a perfect length - allows you to see the exact pencil lead tip under almost all writing angles and conditions w/o a fat barrel blocking your vision. Great for use with rulers as well as it's long enough to handle most steel, thick rulers.
The simple plastic clip is plastic and works well w/o harming clothes. Not a very high grip clip, so don't expect to go bouncing upside down for very long with it however.
The pencil eraser cap is twice as long as the exposed eraser, which is only 1/2 of the total length of the eraser. Makes one wonder? If Japanese pencil designers can come up with pencils that use up over 90% of each piece of pencil lead (dual chuck designs), why can't they come up with some eraser grip design that allows for the use of the 90% of the same???
Naturally, the little eraser portion that is exposed is a joke - begging the user to buy a Mono One or some other long/big eraser for use instead. Verion 2.0 of this pencil could integrate a 2-3cm+long twist eraser similar to other pencils on the market - this is far more useful and there's more than enough room for one at the end of this pencil.
Color of the barrel is on the outer surface - painted/printed color, so expect chips and scratches with years of use. They could have gone with a clear barrel with color on the inner barrel, but figure Uni wants us to buy another Kuro Toga soon!
Barrel is not so fat that it'll be awkward to hold for hours or in different positions, not too thin that it would cause cramps.

6. Overall, ROI exceeds the price of this pencil and the Kuro Toga easily jumps up to the top of my list as the best mechanical pencil I've ever used to write with (for writing). Yes, there are better pencils if you want a big, long eraser, but writing-wise, it's the best.
0.3mm? I'd say for most latin-based character writers, not necessary. You can write well below 4pt font size text all day with the 0.5mm version, with perfectly crisp, legible characters. 0.3mm would be a choice to consider if you were to write lots of Chinese or Japanese characters in small (newspaper text size) sizes, or require fitting lots of text in a very small space.

kiwi-d said...

Whoa! OK, well thanks Anonymous for this most detailed comment. If I had prizes available I'd give you one! Anyway, glad you liked the Kuru Toga.

Anonymous said...

Wow, KINOKUNIYA sure are getting some great coverage - see 21 Jan in General comments. Anonymous, I did what you did and purchased a Kuru Toga - 2 in fact 0.3 0.5 and also purchased a Graph 600 0.3 limited edition. Kuru Togas ARE great pencils no doubt but on the logo that turns around as you write - if you try diagonal cross hatching say of twenty or thirty lines, that symbol will barely move although if you draw horizontal lines it does move consistently. By the way the Graph 600 is a far superior pencil in terms of balance, feel in the hand and sight lines down to the tip IMHO.

Anonymous said...

CORRECTION ABOVE POST
Graph600 0.3 (is NOT a Limited Edition) - but is a great pencil!!!

Sapincher said...

I bought the Kuru Toga and was super stoked to have a pencil come all the way from Japan to write calculus equations for me. I bought the 0.3mm version... in pink... since that is the only colour available on the website from which I purchased. I have to say that the Kuru Toga doesn't quite stack up against even a generic Pentel drafting pencil of the same lead diameter. The rotating mechanism makes the lead all squishy when you try to write with it, as the whole tip assembly sinks into the pencil body about half a millimetre. It's rather unpleasant; I buy small lead diameters only so I can write tinily. Having squishiness in my pencils is simply unacceptable. Also, the plastic wibbles for the sidegrip type plastic are of the wrong wavelength. It is uncomfortable on the tips of my fingers as I am writing, because I feel like I am constantly perched on all the crests of the wibbles. I do like the little pink squishama-ring near the tip though. It's a nice touch. Another beef I have is that the eraser is incredibly tiny! I feel like the year is 2050, and a global nuclear war has decimated the world population of erasers, and my only ration to last me the next year is a small eraser the size of a little rubber laptop foot. One last thing -- The lead rotation thing is completely worn off on this pencil. 0.3mm is simply too small to generate a perfect little cone of lead fast enough. 0.3mm wears out at a rate of a good four clicks a paragraph. If this model weren't supplied in a 0.3mm version, I would like it a lot better. But then, I wouldn't buy it to begin with... Anyway, that's all I have to say abotu the Kuru Toga.

Matthew R said...

Sapincher---Have you ever tried a Pentel 0.2mm pencil? They don't make them anymore, as far as I can tell, but they're available here and there. They are insanely fine-lined. I have one, and if 0.3mm is too thick for you, then you need one too. (Mine is sliding sleeve, and I'd much rather have a PG2, with a fixed sleeve.)

Anonymous said...

they do make Pentel 0.2mm pencils. look in jetpens under search pentel

Anonymous said...

I found a better site http://www.jstationery.com/index.php?cPath=22_160

Matthew R said...

I was guessing that the PG2 is no longer made, but that old stock is still available.

I also just found out that the PG2 is the only model in the PG family that has a sliding sleeve. I don't know if any 0.2mm fixed sleeves are available.

I just got my 0.2mm out, and perhaps "insanely fine-lined" is an exaggeration. I good starp 3H or 4H woodcase pencil is almost certainly finer, and better supported (the 0.2mm breaks easily). The 0.2mm is pretty neat in the no-sharpening-required fine line quest.

(I definitely need to order at least 1 tube of leads.)

Amy said...

LOL i have this pencil and i didn't realize that it did this until i just read ur blog! It's cool that they'd come up with something like this but it is a little excessively unnecessary.

despair said...

Maybe someone already found this out, but the rotating part is color-coded to the lead thickness as per UNI, like the staedtler 775 (orangey-brown for 0.5, yellow for 0.3)

Anonymous said...

Is it a good pencil? i might get one. It's out of stock everywhere!

Anonymous said...

These are available in a number of places selling the Kuru Toga, ranging from "that auction site" and JStationery.com. I haven't bought one yet and will probably wait until I have other things to purchase... it's worth at least a try, given the relatively low cost. The report of the tip having some shock absorption does not bode well with me... I expect the tip to be very firm. Maybe it's just something to get used to.

It is intriguing to see Japanese writing instrument companies continuing to innovate on a relatively "dead" product. The mechanical pencil design has remained pretty much unchanged for the last half century. The only real notable innovation I've seen in recent times is the double-clutch mechanism that Staedtler introduced, to utilize almost all of the lead (this was a peeve of mine, seeing all these little segments of lead get wasted with many MP designs). Otherwise, a dependable propelling mechanism and firm lead clutch is generally found in most MP's today. The remaining factors are probably size, grip, and color choices.

Anyway, if there's anything I can suggest for Mitsubishi to try next with this design is a small side switch that lets you disengage and engage the rotation mechanism. I think this would satisfy most MP users.

~Gary

Cliff said...

I've got one of these incoming from www.jetpens.com. :)

LMC said...

Amazing pencils. The .03mm pencil is the only one I have seen that I can use without breaking the lead.

Javier said...

Just received the upgraded "high quality/high grade" 0.5mm kuru toga and it's definitely a winner. Basically the same MP engine with a nicer wave grip and a little more "heft".

Anonymous said...

Cool looking pen Javier - http://jstationery.com/ much more tekky than the base model.

2 1/2p

Anonymous said...

These are great pencils. I think they work especially well when writing in Japanese / Chinese / Korean as the words are made with many more strokes, therefore the writer will lift the pencil from the paper more frequently than, say, writing in English. Totally love this pencil!

Robert M. said...

I picked one up at a bookstore locally and thought it was nice, and the engine seemed to work reasonably well with the stock lead and with some B and HB leads I tried, but did not yield much difference with 4B...likely because the softer lead wears down to a chisel too quickly.

This wouldn't be an issue if I liked using HB or B lead, but I haven't found any that are dark enough for me. 4B is very smooth and dark and satisfying, but unfortunately doesn't seem to benefit much from the KT engine.

Further, even with writing Chinese, it can be nice to have tactile point control, and the KT kinda forces the user to "trust" the pencil is doing it. This for me has meant that with he 0.5mm Kuru Toga, I couldn't easily accomplish the same tiny characters that I could with a normal pencil with manual rotation. For even finer tasks, I preferred 0.3mm and 2B to KT0.5mm with HB.

I can agree this is a very nice innovation overall (I wonder if the elimination of rotation affects RSI frequency), but for me personally, I can see myself reaching for other pencils more often (e.g. cheaper Uni Shalaku with larger eraser and retractable sleeve).

Kevin Pacheco said...

I like this pencil a lot, and I agree with most of the positive comments here. On the downside, I've had problems at times writing certain characters, particularly using my 0.3 mm KT (it's not a "high grade" version). The lead sometimes gets "stuck" on the page when I attempt a curved upstroke. It's kind of like hitting a roadblock -- the lead doesn't want to move in the intended direction. If you can get a hold of 0.3 mm KT, try writing a bunch of lowercase r's and n's and see if this happens to you. (Maybe there's a good reason why Mitsubishi hasn't released this product into the Latin alphabet market.)

Janice said...

I just got this pencil! And it was quite expensive! 48 HKD! I thought it was not worth it after I bought it, but then, I came accross this site and I just figured out this is wonderful!!!!

Black Lead Nate said...

Hi Janice, I also got it around for the same price the last time I was in HK. I'm glad you like the pencil. Where do you usually shop for pens there if I may ask.

Slywy said...

I just got this pencil via Amazon (different packaging, and no insert). So far, I love it. The tip stays sharp, and I like the grip. Would love to see this in a durable, heavier metal body.

Wakeful D said...

OK, this has been driving me crazy - where can I find "Japan and the Mechanical Pencil?" Google only linked me back here. Thanks!

Gunther said...

Wakeful D, try this:

http://faculty1.coloradocollege.edu/~djohnson/news/techclass/pencil.pdf

Sapphire said...

For those of us in the UK and Europe Cult Pens has introduced the kru toga from July 1st
www.cultpens.com

Anonymous said...

is the kuru toga a drafting pencil

Anonymous said...

Jetpens in the US has them too and has for many months now. I wouldn't call it a drafting pencil. I have one. It's pretty cool, but it solves a "problem" that really isn't all that problematic.

dodgemannfs said...

YES!!!!! I finally found one of these at my local Ofice Depot (USA)

tim (m) in Portland said...

I just bagged 3 at Office Depot yesterday too! Love the pencil so far, far more consistent line.

2nd_astronaut said...

I bought too early. Now they are available in beautiful, too:
http://thumbnail.image.rakuten.co.jp/s/?@0_mall/kyotobest/cabinet/gazou4/img55818465.jpg

kiwi-d said...

Hi 2nd_astronaut. Yes the high-grade Kuru Toga has been out for a while now. I've got a posting in preparation, but it will be a few weeks away yet.

Wynne and Wes said...

the lead sleeve is not retractable right?

kiwi-d said...

Correct, non-retractable.

Matthew R said...

I've been finding Kuru Togas all over the place, but only in 0.5mm. The lead was a little scratchy, so I dropped in a Pentel B. I guess I'm not a huge fan. I think I would really like one in 0.3mm, though, but all I can find are 0.5s.

Wynne and Wes said...

jet pens would probably be the only place that sells them

2nd_astronaut said...

@Matthew R: Do you expect a recognizable advantage by the Kuru Toga engine for a .3mm lead? Sharp is sharp, I would think...

Matthew R said...

@2nd_astronaut: Someone somewhere said the 0.3mm was their absolute favorite 0.3mm. I can see a difference with the 0.5 regarding more consistent line widths, and I'm hoping it makes the 0.3 something I'd use more. I use a 0.7 and 0.9mm most of the time. I'd really like to know if there is an advantage in those diameters for the Kuru Toga. This is me just being a geek, so fair warning---I suspect the softer lead I prefer needs a little more larger index angle. Getting that with no more tip motion might take some work (or money). I want to switch in a few grades of harder lead (HB, F, 2H, etc) and see if the 0.5 prefers a certain minimum hardness. I don't get consistent results with B---My hard writing creates more wear than the mechanism can take out. I have got to get some of that new Pentel lead that Dave says is smoother. (All I have now is Hi-Polymer.)

Anonymous said...

A KURUTOGA É A MELHOR INVENÇÃO DOS ÚLTIOS TEMPOS, INCRÍVEL GALERA EU COMPREI DUAS,UMA PRETA E UMA PRATA, ELA ALÉM DE AVANÇAR O GRAFITE SOZINHO AINDA TEM PESO IDEAL, NÃO É LEVINHA, MAS VC COLOCA UMA CAIXA DE GRAFITE E COM TRES DIAS TEM DE REPOR, ELA TAMBEM NAO QUEBRA O GRAFITE, SAI AOS POUCOS...hARRISON DESENHISTA
VSITEM MEU SITE DE ARTES
HTTP://SITES.GOOGLE.COM/SITE/HARRISONARTES

Alexa Matthews said...

I have a different model. It is completely metal. I love it :).

synical said...

I found this pencil in Kinokuniya in Singapore for about S$7.05.

Karl Myer said...

Two days ago I happened to notice this Kuru Toga pencil in an Office Depot store, marketed in a Sanford "Starter Set." Here's a picture of it at Amazona; http://www.amazon.com/uni-ball-KuruToga-Mechanical-Starter-1751934/dp/B0026ICM1E/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=office-products&qid=1255710864&sr=8-1

The Starter Set is the pencil itself plus two extra erasers and a blue-capped 10-pack of Uni 0.5 HB Nano Dia leads. The set wasn't in the regular Office Depot mechanical pencil section but in an aisle kiosk along with 50 or so other pen and marker products (but no other mechanical pencils). There was a yellow special-price label on its bin saying $3.50. I peeled back the special-price label to see the original price and it was $6.99 (I'm in Allentown, Pennsylvania, USA).

I decided buy one and then, should I like the pencil, come back and maybe get one more. (There were five in the bin). I took my purchase to the check-out and the clerk rang it up -- for $1.75! I asked if there was some mistake and told him what the posted price on the kiosk was. He just shrugged and said, "Maybe you just got lucky."

I tried out the pencil that night and decided to go back next day and buy their remaining four, if still there, and if still $1.75. Next day after work I walked up to the checkout with those remaining four pencils and, sure enough, the total came out to $7.00 plus tax. So I now have five of these very nice pencils, 50 (extra) leads, and 10 (extra) erasers, all for $8.75.

kiwi-d said...

Hi Karl
Well thats one heck of a bargain.

Karl Myer said...

I really have this website to thank. If I hadn't stumbled upon your site about a week ago while searching for help with a problem I'm having with my Pilot Vanishing Point pencil, I would never have known what the heck a Kuru Toga was. That's the only reason the pencil caught my eye as I walked by it at Office Depot. The Sanford packaging is very nondescript and says almost nothing about the rotating-lead feature (as you can see if you look at my Amazon link in my post above).

I not only knew all about the Kuru Toga when it finally happened to cross my path at Office Depot, but I recognized the Nano Dia leads included in the starter kit as being of a premium type. So I have you to thank, and I truly do appreciate it.

The mechanism that turns the lead in the pencil is very responsive and so smooth I don't feel it working. The only way I know it's turning is by seeing the logo turning through the clear plastic. From that I know it's sufficiently responsive to turn each time you even lightly touch lead to paper. I really like the idea that, when you're writing cursive, the lead turns slightly with every word. And it's not only to keep a sharp point to the paper but to provide more lead as a support behind the tip to help prevent breakage. In other words, as I see it, you're writing with a point that's in the middle of the lead so that the point has plenty of lead behind it to support it, instead of the point being all the way at one side of the lead and having nothing behind it to support it.

I can also say that the eraser is excellent. It seems the equal of the Staedtler Mars Plastic eraser I use in terms of cleanliness and completeness of the erasures it makes.

Karl Myer said...

This is my first full day of using the Kuru Toga at work since acquiring mine Wednesday. I have been using only my Pilot Vanishing Point instead of the Kuru Toga, just to make sure the various fixes lately attempted to curtail its lead-slippage-back-up-into-the-sleeve problem are indeed meeting with success over a few day period. In other words, I have been coddling that pencil, trying to bring it through its problem without resorting to shipping it to Pilot USA for service. The VP is one finicky pencil, but I love it.

Finally though, this morning, things seemed to stablize, Pilot Vanishing Point-wise, allowing me to finally get around to switching over to the Kuru Toga. I filled out a form at work, first half with the Pilot VP and the other half with the Kuru Toga. The Kuru Toga half has a very noticeably neater look. My handwriting looks the exact same throughout that half of the document, while the Pilot VP half shows predictably mixed line widths in the words. The surprise, to me, is how much better a pencil-written document (a form, at least -- maybe not a document which depends on attractive handwriting which may benefit from varying line widths) appears overall as the line widths approach absolute uniformity. This attribute appeals to me, especially, because my handwriting needs all the help it can get, neatness-wise.

I do rotate the Pilot Vanishing Point as I write. Every second or third word, perhaps, I turn it approximately a quarter-turn in my hand. I did do that on this morning's document and, still, there are some words with very considerably thicker lines than others.

This is probably owing to my limited skill and attention at turning the pencil, but isn't that the point? As someone in one of the above Comments observed -- I believe it was "Anonymous" in his or her very long Jan 27 2009 Comment -- "you're writing as if you were the world's expert pencil twirler." Well said!, Anonymous. That expresses my thought exactly.

Here's a short article posted yesterday, Oct 16 2009, on the web, titled "MITSUBISHI PENCIL SEEN BEATING FULL-YEAR PROFIT ESTIMATES," that mentions the Kuru Toga as one of the reasons the company is doing so well these days:

http://www.tradingmarkets.com/.site/news/Stock%20News/2583582/

TOKYO, Oct 16, 2009 (AsiaPulse via COMTEX) -- MSBPF | Quote | Chart | News | PowerRating -- Mitsubishi Pencil Co. (TSE:7976) is likely to report a group net profit of around 1.4 billion yen (US$15.5 million) for the fiscal year ending in December, some 600 million yen higher than projected, thanks to strong sales of new writing tools.
Its total sales are projected to dip 13 per cent on the year to about 47 billion yen, roughly 4 billion yen short of an earlier estimate. Many companies have held off on buying writing instruments to cut costs, so domestic sales to offices are likely to be down 20 per cent.

On the other hand, Mitsubishi Pencil has enjoyed strong domestic consumer sales of new products with enhanced functionality. The Kuru Toga mechanical pencil, introduced in March 2008, has been well received by students, already pushing the sales volume through the first nine months of this year above the total for all of 2008. The Jetstream ballpoint pen has also been selling well. Overall, sales to consumers are running slightly higher than last year's tally.

Karl Myer said...

In the example I mention in the Post above -- filling out a form -- I had to lay the pencil down often while retrieving information called for on the form. Sometimes I had to go on the computer to get the needed info, sometimes away from my desk. But in each case I had to lay the pencil down. Picking it up again, it was difficult -- no, impossible, reasonably speaking -- to know at what point I had left off turning the pencil previously. After all, my mind is on other things, in this case the confusing form I'm filling out that is asking for complicated information. I can't worry about which way to pick up the pencil.

This would explain why, even though I diligently rotated the Pilot Vanishing Point pencil as I wrote, still there might (and did) result one word with thin lines directly next to a word with thick blurred lines. With the Kuru Toga, as long as I always hold the pencil the same, the point of the lead presented to the paper should always be the ideal, no matter how much time passed since last I picked it up, and no matter how many times I lay it down and pick it up and resume writing. I wouldn't even have to think about this inherent problematic aspect of writing with a pencil except to make sure I hold it the same way each time. Again, as "Anonymous" said above, "You're writing as if you were the world's expert pencil twirler." I love that.

Another perennial pencil problem solved, it would seem to me. Yes, diligent manual rotating will duplicate to a certain extent what the Kuru Toga Engine does automatically, but the machine does it better, and solves this other problem -- of starting at the exact point you left off -- in the bargain. For that you absolutely need the machine.

I'm curious now, since I bought 5 of these pencils, complete with 10 extra leads and 2 extra erasers each, for $8.50 -- so the mechanism must not be expensive or difficult to manufacture -- how soon will it be until pencils in general all have it. It truly is a big improvement, as far as I can see.

Time Waster said...

Picked up one of these on lunch break at Office Max I was suprised they had this.
After disapointing purchase of the Tul pencil a few months back =)

I'll prob just keep it in the package

The thing is it's put out by Sandford of American yet it's made in Japan.

It has a different type of packaging the US version that is rather cool looking..

Anonymous said...

This is truly an excellent product! Last week, I just picked up a starter set for the Kuru Toga at my local Office Depot chain store branch for only $2.00 + tax! And, the set also includes a couple of extra spare erasers and a tube of ten (10) Uni diamond-infused leads!

Anonymous said...

Where would you propose i go to, to purchase this product, since i live in australia? Shipping from jetpens and jstationary, is unstated and appears to be quite high

Anonymous said...

Hi Anonymous, If you live anywhere near Sydney they (the original plastic version, not the high tech version) are available at Kinokuniya in Sydney CBD. I regularly buy from Jet pens and their shipping is high. I usually buy 4 or 5 pens or other stationery to defray the shipping cost on a per unit basis.

Anonymous said...

I also purchased the glossy black model at Office Max. I like it and I prefer this color scheme to the blue and white color scheme.

I feel that the biggest improvement to be made in this pencil is some sort of lead viewing window. The aperature where leads are inserted is very narrow. You have no way of estimating the number of leads stored in the barrel and the narrow aperature doesn't allow leads to fall out. This feature is good for preventing leads from accidentally escaping, but hinders the estimation process. And, of course, a bigger eraser would be nice.

On the other hand, it performs quite well and the rotation mechanism works.

Thanks,
Bob S.

Time Waster said...

Jets Pens has a Kuru Toga alpha Gel if anyone is interested. Not sure if I'll bite on that one =)
I like the Kuru Toga I have three of them =)

Anonymous said...

well i was on jetpens and i saw the newest kuru toga incarnation, it is a kuru toga and an alpha gel put together!!! now im debating wether or not to get it..

2nd_astronaut said...

Ah, at least one pencil temptation I am immune to (these in my eyes ugly gel pencils)...
But on Jetpens, I could give the Platinum OLEeNu (strange name for this good-looking pencil) in Gunmetal a test drive in order to find out, if this lead saver is also lead break proof (as they claim). Or maybe Dave does some exploring for me :-)

Anonymous said...

I have the gun metal OLEeNU pencil. Absolutely loved it for the first few weeks, but now the rubber hand-hold near the tip is loose and slides when writing. I guess I need some stickum for the rubber.

2nd_astronaut said...

@ (last) Anonymous:
Today my gun metal OLEeNU pencil arrived (packaged like a christmas present :-) ).
Pro: Looks good
Cons: Don't like the haptics of the rubber grip
Sliding sleeve mechanism is a bit on the stiff side

For an assessment of the lead saving mechanism I have to test write more...

Peter Hosey said...

At the Office Depot in Costa Mesa, CA, I was stunned to see it in the mechanical pencil section (it's very rare around here) for $9. (For comparison, Kinokuniya charges $10 for the imported-from-Japan model.)

That inspired me to check online. Office Depot's website has it for $7.29; OfficeMax's website has it for $7, the same as Art Supply Warehouse's website.

I bought mine at Art Supply Warehouse's store in Westminster, CA. Unlike Office Depot, they charge $7 in person as well as online.

I can confirm that the photo shown on the OfficeMax page is what the US package looks like: Very non-descript, as Karl Myer said above. In fact, the US package doesn't have the “Kuru Toga” name anywhere on it, except in the photo of the pencil (on the back). The package merely calls it a “uni-ball mechanical pencil”.

Incidentally, I notice that all three of those sellers of the US package, plus Newell Rubbermaid's own office-products page (Sanford, Uni's US distributor, being a Newell Rubbermaid company), list the “Kurutoga”/“KuruToga” as one word. On the pencil itself, it's two words.

Anonymous said...

Bought one today at Office Depot, for about $9-$10, along with a Pentel Kerry. Did not know about Kura-Toga rotation. Started writing and found the tip had a great deal of play. I thought oh-no, should have tried to hunt down a Koh-I-Noor instead. Surprised to read here about people rotating their pencils; I thought it was just me that rotated. :-) It will take a few months before I decide if I like it. If not it will still be an OK pencil.

Anonymous said...

I came across a Japanese blog where the blogger modify his Kuro Toga to hold 0.7mm lead. Scroll down the page and you'll see pictures of how he did it. Note the simple instructions in English just below the pics.

http://chair.blog4.fc2.com/

David said...

All,
I have all the flavors of the Kura. 0.3, 0.5 and the Metal one from Japan. Love them. Not as heavy or as attractive as I would like; I am a major pen and pencil collector. Love the technology. But, I use the Pentel Kerry and the GraphGear 1000 more often due to the asthetics.

Eric said...

Well I have finally completed my 0.7 kuru toga. Thanks for posting the links to your friend in Japan, Dave. I can't believe I'm writing with 0.7. It's almost not noticable from the 0.5, but the lead is lasting so much longer. I did an entire page worth of calculations without advancing the lead, and I only had it out about 1mm. Really the only finer line is my 0.3 kuru, but just having a 0.7 kuru is so worth it. One of these days I'll do a write up on how I did it (similar process, just different materials).

Kiwi-d said...

Eric - very interesting - thanks for your comment - look forward to the process write up.

Anonymous said...

I notice you can get these in Sainsburys in the UK.

Jennifer D said...

Hi - i love these pencils too and have purchased mine from Tokyo Pen Shop (www.tokyopenshop.com) for only $6.50. Definitely a bargain from the $10 price tag at Kinokuniya (Cupertino).

Jose Egüen said...

Hi from Spain. After reading all your reviews, today, I've finally received my KuruToga 0.5 (plastic). I must to say to all of those claming for not so good construction or working of mechanical engine (too low pressure, easy to break, ...) that from my point of view, are wrong. Compared to other pencils in the same range, this looks very cool and comfortably on hand, good design and grip, construction in general. It is true that it could has a bigger eraser but... which pencil has?
For the first time in my life I feel totally comfortable writing with a pencil. This is gorgeus!! Believe me, I am very critic with little details and for my surprise, this pencil fits all my requirements about this price and ever highers. I wish to be able to find "roulette" model here but I'm afraid is only available from Japan directly, because is sold out in USA for now...
Ok, there are betters pencils (I have Namiki Vanishing Point, Faber Castell, Rotring, etc) but this is the only one sharpening itself. And it works great!!

SungjaePark said...

i love kuro toga i have one. at first i thought it wasn't nice. now i like it!!

Tami said...

I have one of these. Have you found a place that sells replacement erasers? The pencil is virtually unusable after the eraser is used up. I need an eraser!

Daniel Beaver said...

I have been using mine for a week, and it has been a mixed blessing. I have always held my pencils at a shallow angle, and it was not until I re-trained myself to hold it more vertically that the mechanism started working.

But once I got it working... oh boy, does this thing write well. In the "making marks on a paper" category, it is unrivaled.

But... the eraser is awful. Tiny, and it sinks into the pencil whenever you use it. On Thursday I finally gave up using it and bought a standalone eraser. The hassle of that is enough to drive me back to my old Pentel Twist-Erase, which I have used for years.

I am in that camp of people who consider the eraser as important as the writing end, and the Kuru Toga falls on it's face when you try to erase anything with it.

esl2020 said...

I used one of these for a while, and I really enjoyed the design, although I would have preferred a retractable tip and an extending eraser. Also, if you write or draw lightly, the mechanism won't activate. If sketching light guidelines, it won't rotate at all. Just something to be aware of.

Anonymous said...

I got mine in 0.3 lead size from Japan, and it's fantastic! My class notes have never looked so beautiful.

I also have it in 0.5 size, but I much prefer 0.3--every single stroke is thin and perfect! But that's a matter of personal preference.

The 0.5 size is available in the United States on amazon.com; not sure about other countries.

Anonymous said...

I like the idea and it was fun to use. But overall it is not a pencil for me. (1) The plastic is slippery. It slips in my hand, and also the assembly loosens. I tried fine sandpaper but it did not help much. (2) I realized I unconsciously rotate pencils while writing, so I fight with it a bit. (3) The outer plastic sleeve broke at the area where you look through to the mechanism. (4) The movement of the lead is too great for me. I usually use a fixed sleeve pencil.

Anonymous said...

I've had 3 of these (which I won in a UniBall contest). I loved them at first, but after a short period of use, I can't recommend them. That's because they fall apart in your hands. The cap the covers everything but the lead on the writing end comes loose very quickly. The first one lasted only about a week and I don't even know where the cap disappeared to, but without the cap, the rest of the mechanism starts to disassemble. The second one lasted about 3 weeks before it, too, disintegrated. That, and the woefully inadequate and tiny eraser (and its cap, which tends to fall off and disappear as well) make it a fairly useless product in its current incarnation. If they can fix those problems, they'll have a good product.

Anonymous said...

I was at a local Office Depot store over this past weekend and noticed that the reverse side of the blister card of the Kuru Toga starter set now states "made in China".....hopefully the quality has not lessened as a result since these previously originated from Japan.

yudhi said...

My Uni Kuru Toga arrived a few days ago. I’ve been trying it for the past 2 or 3 days and so far I can’t say that I’ve enjoyed it. My handwriting for some reason got worst using this. Sometimes the rolling mechanism didn’t work as well. Also, there’s some sort of ‘play’ on the lead, it doesn’t feel solid, like it’s wobbling a bit everytime you write.

My conclusion: It’s not as good as the hype.

I was planning to get the Roulette, but after trying this I might cancel that plan :)

Anonymous said...

I found one at Office Max (Mountain View, CA, USA) for $6.29. The front of the blister pack did not mention a starter kit though it did come with two tiny erasers and some Nano Dia lead. Only on the back of the package was there any mention that the lead rotated. This one was made in Japan.

The packaging appears to be for the US and Canada markets since all of the printing on the package in both English and French.

It is a nice looking pencil but is a little thicker than I usually like. I'll try it for a while after my current experiment with a Pentel 225.

Peter Hosey said...

I bought a couple of these from Amazon after they went down to $4 (where they're still at: $3.88 as I write this). They are indeed made in China now, which may explain how they cut the price in half. I suspect that any “made in Japan” KTs still available, at least in the US, are old stock.

I took photos of the new one in its package, front and back: http://flickr.com/photos/boredzo/tags/2012kurutoga/

I haven't tried out the new ones yet, but I can already see that they've changed the color scheme a bit. Not so obviously different as the Japanese-package models, but the barrel is now a single translucent black piece (previously solid black until below the “Kuru Toga Engine” logo), and the ring and cap are now blue (previously gray and translucent-black, respectively).

john sok said...

my friend also send this to me from japan. It actually does work and in the 3 months that I've used it, it only broke the lead 3 times. Thats amazing.

john sok said...

I've used one for about 4 month now. In that 4 months the lead only broke 3 time. It really does work even though i like the over engineering

Catherine Fernandis said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Catherine Fernandis said...

I love the kuru toga :). Mine is made in Japan and mine is actually the alpha gel kuru toga so it has the gel grip (which if you compare to the alpha gel HD, is not the same, but is pretty good though). I got the 0.5mm.It works really well (especially with the nanodia leads), and the mechanism is smooth, and doesn't get jammed as I've read in the comments. I didn't order mine but I went to a store called APITA here in Hong Kong. Its a very good writing pencil, not suited for drawing, but thats the main point anyways. I'm not a fan of using the erasers at the end because I usually use a knock eraser anyways :3

Anonymous said...

For UK users...

Actually saw these demonstrated on a tv show on NHK (Begin Japanology), and was very curious - after lots of web browsing I found them on Amazon UK, but the cheapest were at my local Wilkinson store and as of May 2013, are currently £3.25, but only available in black/smoke versions which is a shame

Ended up buying 5 for myself and family and love the way they feel and write

Chez, swansea

Anonymous said...

I bought one of these, but do not recommend it. It is good for novelty value, but fails miserably as an actual writing implement due to the play in the tip, which greatly reduces precision (much more than non-rotating lead would).

It does have a solid feeling click mechanism, pushes lead out just the right amount, and the rotating mechanism operates as advertised.

Unfortunately the play in the tip nullifies all these good qualities. I'm planning to see if I can design a small shim that will reduce the play while still allowing the rotating mechanism to work - if I can do that, I'll be happy.

Udi said...

Just wanted to update from the previous comment that I managed to remove the lateral play from the tip of this pencil. I added a small metal washer that slides over the black plastic 'inner' tip, after unscrewing the chrome tip cover. The washer's purpose is to hit the inside of the outer tip when the black inner tip tries to move laterally, but still allow axial (up/down) movement so the engine can work.

I filed/sanded the black inner barrel a little (not visible externally) to get a perfect fit - it takes some fine tuning to remove the play but still allow some movement so the engine can work when the outer tip is screwed on and tightened.

Might be useful for the home tinkerers out there - now I have a pencil that is both novel and useable.

Carl said...

Many thanks to Kiwi-D for this cornucopia of pencil knowledge. I taught junior high kids in Yawata Japan (2007-2010), and one of them wrote an English report on how wonderful this Uni Kuru Toga is. I bought one (my only pencil) which was stolen out of my desk while teaching 9th-grade Earth Science here in California (Spring 2013). I never fully understood all the hullabaloo about this pencil until reading here. I also found the Pentel Sharp Kerry described here in the most exhaustive detail to be more appropriate for me. Just ordered one. Thanks again for turning pencil knowledge into a shared academic pursuit and making the loss of my Kuru Toga into a big Pentel Kerry gain.

Anonymous said...

I just bought one of these pencils for five dollars at Walmart Supercenter. Im just putting this out there for prospective buyers who don't want to pay seven dollars or more for a pencil.

Anonymous said...

The new 0.7 mm Kuru Toga includes a lead viewing window. This is a great improvement. Unfortunately, the trim color is neon green, not my favorite.

I didn't purchase one of the new 0.5 mm models, so I don't know if that model includes the window.

I am referring to the black plastic models available in office box stores and similar.

Bob S. [back in Phoenix, AZ]

Peter Hosey said...

I have a few of the 0.5 mm models that Bob S. mentions (the newer “made in China” model with a blue eraser cap) and can confirm that it has a lead viewing window.

I never noticed it before, since most of the lead chamber is solid black, but if you hold the pencil up to the light, there is a ~1-cm-long transparent section right about in the middle (hidden by the smoke-gray exterior) where you can see the lead rattling around.

Chris Frosin said...

Good evening. Have you seen, tried, or have a view on the Kuru Toga premium that seems to be popping up a little now.

http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/Uni-Ball-Kuru-Toga-High-Grade-Premium-Edition-Mechanical-Pencil-with-Silver-/291122916048?pt=UK_BOI_Office_Office_Supplies_Stationery_ET&hash=item43c8472ad0

Love the original, but was always a little light for me. Hoping this might have a little meat to it :) Looks smart!

Chris

M Fryda said...

A "starter set" for this pencil with 10 diamond leads, two extra erasers, and the pencil itself in a blue color scheme is on sale at Office Despot in the US for 2 USD! Office Max will price match. I can't think of a reason not to pick this up at that price! As to the pencil itself: It feels really good writing with it. Its low weight, but feels very precise. My only complaint is that the lead sleeve wobbles significantly when you erase. But, let's be honest, few of us will do much erasing with this tiny little cap eraser.