Thursday, May 15, 2008

Pilot Dr Grip Ltd Mechanical Pencil Review

Pilot Dr Grip Ltd Mechanical Pencil Review

Quite a long time ago an “Anonymous” reader asked if I would review the Pilot Dr Grip, and I said I would put it on the list. A considerable time passed, and the reader politely reminded me about Dr Grip, and so, here we are. To be precise I’m actually reviewing a Dr Grip Ltd. The “Ltd” is one of quite a few closely related versions of the Dr Grip. I don’t have any of the other versions so I can’t really say what the differences are, but the information on the web implies there isn’t a huge difference between the various models. The Pilot USA website says Dr Grip Ltd comes in four different colours, but 0.5mm lead is the only option.

As I was using my Dr Grip for review week it occurred to me that this is actually the first pencil with a shaker mechanism that I have reviewed, so I’m going to start with that. On the face of it, it’s an ordinary standard push top ratchet lead advance mechanism. 10 clicks will get you about 6mm of the 0.5mm lead. I quite like this particular push top action – you have to push it down quite a long distance with a reasonable amount of force. It seems a very deliberate positive sort of movement, which for some reason quite appeals to me. However, it’s also a shaker mechanism. I guess most folks will be aware of what that is, but for those who aren’t, inside the body of the pencil there is a weight and if you shake the pencil up and down with a fair bit of force then the weight will operate the lead advance mechanism when it slams back into the front stop of its movement.
For further explanation, in the photo above you can see I have unscrewed the body and taken the steel weight off the clear plastic centre-tube which serves as both the weight guide rod and lead storage chamber. Of course for normal lead refill purposes this pencil is just like any normal one - you pull the top button off, remove the small eraser and refill the chamber. There is no need to disassemble the pencil like I have.

I think Pilot have got the shaker mechanism about right – not so sensitive that it is inadvertently activated by general movement but not so tough that you need to shake it excessively to activate it. Right then, a shaker system! So what? Well that’s a fair question. Some suggest it’s the answer to a non-existent problem. I think I’ve got a foot in each camp. The shaker system is primarily a novelty, a good marketing tool and point of differentiation. I believe that’s why someone invented it. Having said that, I am tempted to think that if you were in a speed writing situation, pouring forth an examination masterpiece, that the shaker system and a quick flick of the wrist might help to keep you “in the flow” as opposed to pushing the top button. But it’s pretty debatable. Basically I think if you like it, great, if not, push the top button and forget about it.

Up above I’ve briefly mentioned the small eraser under the top button. It’s standard emergency use type stuff. At the other end of the pencil the lead sleeve is a tapering cone, non-retractable so this pencil is for general writing only and not really fully pocket safe.

The name Dr Grip just doesn’t do it me. To be honest it conjures up some mental images that aren’t particularly pleasant. Most, or all, of the Dr Grip variants have an “Ease-of-Use Commendation” by the (US) Arthritis Foundation, and perhaps this is where the Doctor and Grip bits come into play. On the back of the blister-pack that my pencil came in there are five bullet points, two of which relate to this. The first is “Relieves writing stress and reduces required gripping power” and the second “Great for people who write a lot”. I don’t know how the Arthritis Foundation judges ease-of-use but it seems writing instrument with fairly large diameter rubber grips pass. So, the Dr Grip has a smooth plain rubber grip of about 12 to 13mm diameter which qualifies as a large diameter grip. The grip slowly flares out towards each end. The rubber compound is quite hard, not really much give in it, but it does have some “grippy” quality so I would say it does provide some small improvement to grip, particularly under lower finger pressure, which may well be the important point regarding arthritis sufferers. You all know my general aversion to rubber grips - for those with normal dexterity I would say the rubber grip is largely irrelevant.
There is one thing though about this rubber grip that stuns me. It stunned me the moment I first saw my Dr Grip years ago, and it still stuns me now. The grip looks totally second-rate and just plain cheap. Firstly that milky translucent colour is something I find very unappealing, and rather cheap looking. But that’s a personal judgement. What really stuns me is how it is of a different diameter to the front housing it matches (sic) up to. I just cannot believe this. Pilot are a major manufacturer, a world force in writing instruments, and one of their flagship items has this grip that looks like a piece of oversize rubber tubing, chopped off to length and just pushed up over the pencil body. At the top end the grip matches diameters with the body, at the bottom end it just sticks out, all half-finished, cheap and nasty looking. Shocking. It’s appalling, like something you might find on the cheapest nastiest piece of junk you could buy from the One Cent Shop. I can’t believe that some designer didn’t get the chop over this, but since they keep selling it, I guess not.

Maybe the rubber grip is plain tube looking because it’s supposed to be replaceable? That would be some sort of excuse, but I haven’t seen anything about it being replaceable. Did I miss this on the websites?

Right, on to something a little more positive. The pocket clip is a very good design. It’s a sturdy piece of metal with good flexibility and strength, set into a recessed section of the body which helps keep good visual symmetry - unlike that rubber grip. (Grrrr!) The only thing against the pocket clip is that being recessed it doesn’t do a great job of stopping the pencil rolling on your desk.

As far as actually writing with Dr Grip goes, it’s not too bad. It’s easy to hold, the weight and balance are good, I like using both the shaker and the push top button. Personally I would have liked the mechanism to advance a little more lead per activation.
“Pilot Dr Grip 0.5” is boldly printed on the body, along with “Pilot Japan” moulded into the body in small lettering, and “Pilot” embossed into the pocket clip. So, no doubt about its heritage, except that its only got Dr Grip rather than Dr Grip Ltd printed on it.

The overall verdict? I feel I owe some sort of apology to the anonymous reader who has patiently waited for me to get around to their favourite pencil. I hope that this review won’t cause you to delete my blog from your “favourites”, but this pencil is not one of my favourites, it’s “OK”, nothing really stands out and grabs me in a positive way, but something does in a negative way. I am afraid that to my eyes the rubber grip is a visual nightmare, and really spoils the pencil for me. But, if you can overlook that, then Dr Grip does have its fair share of good points.

  • Best Points – I like the shaker mechanism for a change, and even if you don’t shake, as a push top mechanism it’s equally satisfying. A superior pocket clip. The large grip will definitely suit some folks.
  • Not So Good Points – The grip that doesn’t match diameters – a real shocker.
  • Price Range – Low.

Dimensions – Length 148mm, diameter 12mm at mid-grip. Balance point about 60mm up from the tip

A Note: I spent my review week writing with the lead supplied with the pencil, which I assume is Pilot lead. I haven’t reviewed any of Pilots leads, but maybe I should as I encountered an unusual problem. “Paper-gouging”. I seemed to be forever having the leads chisel point or sharp edge stabbing into my paper and gouging or breaking. This is not normally a problem for me so I am going to have to investigate further and report back in due course.

58 comments:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the review! This pencil is extremely popular in Japanese middle schools at the moment. All the students in the local schools seem to have one in their massive pen case.

I have yet to use one, but by observation it seems that the push-top ratchet is still necessary for advancing/extracting an exhausted lead. Otherwise I'm sure I should've been accidentally(?) shot by some shaken-out lead by now.

Anonymous said...

I have a Dr Grip .7 (dark blue barrel with the plastic pocket clip part of the barrel moulding. It's a monster of a pencil but the funniest thing is the tiny, tiny eraser.

I would personally be embarrassed to be caught trying to use this ridiculously small eraser in public.

LePhare said...

I have two Dr Grip pencils, both 0.5mm, a silver plastic shaker with no clip, just a hole (to hang from?) from Jet Pens, and a transluscent orange all plastic non shaker from Cult Pens. Both look to have longer grips than the model you have.

I only use then after dark, when no one is looking. Not my type of pencil.

Anonymous said...

I love these things. As you said, the shaking is great for when the lead breaks (rare) or you just run out and you're writing really fast. I use it so much, I try to shake other pencils sometimes...

LePhare said...

Have posted a couple of pictures on Pencil Box.
IanS.

Germ said...

Had always wanted a Dr. Grip, but the Papermate Phd came first, and spoiled me for all others. So, I really don't want a Dr.Grip. Sounds if like I made the right decision. But everyone is different, even if wrong. :)

I don't use the Phd much anymore, but still is fun to write letters and notes with.

kiwi-d said...

First Anonymous - thats a good point. Hadn't thought about that. An exhausted lead is still held in the tip by the lead ring and stays there unless you give it a real vigourous shake, and as you correctly surmise, shaking will not normally start a new lead.

Anonymous said...

germ, the Dr.Grip is lighter than the Paper Mate PhD, and round not triangular. The PhD is one of the few triangular ones fat enough for my fingers. Maybe the lighter weight of the Dr.Grip will suit some people better, and I can see that might be true of people with arthritis or other grip problems. For the rest of us, it just adds get-up-and-go! :)

Dave: I realise the step between the rubber grip and the nose cone makes the pencil look, ah, circumcised. But it allows the grip to flare out towards the tip, and my fingers seem to prefer that. Looks like Pilot agree, because their SuperGrip range is similar, if slimmer.

Germ said...

almost forgot to mention.

david - should always use pentel leads. just about all i have ever used for years. (well except when non pentel pencil, but when ran out of lead...) never had a problem with drag or paper catch. :) i hear the colleen gold are quite nice as well..... anybody have some?
also, new entry on my blog, david. good stuff.....

kiwi-d said...

Thnaks Anon - I've got no problem with the grip flaring out, like you I think its a good thing. But they could still have it flare out without that horrid step.

Time Waster said...

You should get your hands on a Papermate Clear Point pencil it design is kinda space age been around for about 7 years or so wider then most makes the best of the spaced rubber grip it uses.

fishsaysmoo said...

When I used this pencil I took out the shaker. It made it so much lighter and thus I was able to write faster.

Also, the pen version of this pencil (also blue, looks exactly like the one in your pictures) was featured in the movie "Breach" as the "favourite" pen ever of the #1 spy in the FBI. Which, according to the director's commentary, was true.

I know what you mean by the rubber grip. It is so cheap that it would slowly slide off as I write.

Anonymous said...

Well, there are some other versions of a longer grip in the Dr. Grip line , like the Furu-Furu Mousse, Offroader, G-Spec White, Flash Colour , and the Centre of Gravity.

Wonder if there's any more? ;D

Anonymous said...

lololololol

Anonymous said...

I too removed the weight mechanism inside, made the pencil much lighter. I enjoy this pencil very much it is well made.

Anonymous said...

Lol. Yes. I love everything about this pencil except for the rubber grip. It's quite hard for a pencil that's supposedly good for arthritis relief...
I love the grips for the Center of Gravity (the Furu-furu mousse series are so adorable in particular). They're ultra-soft and have plenty of cushion. My ideal pencil would be the Dr Grip LTD body with the Center of Gravity grips. That would make every writing an orgasmic experience..

Slywy said...

When Dr. Grip first came out, I thought it was a non-compelling name. You're right -- doesn't have pleasant associations!

I gave a Dr. Grip ballpoint to my dad for signing checks, etc. He liked it so much that he started to do puzzles and the like. His sister told me his writing had improved remarkably, and his comfort level must have, too. So in the end, although I thought it was an ugly pen it served a good purpose.

Anonymous said...

I've had this pencil for a few years and all this time I had no idea it was a shaker! I thought it was broken cause the metal tube was rattling around, so I taped it down. Well, you learn something new every day.

Sue said...

I had an original Dr Grip pencil for many years. It looks the same as the LTD, I guess it's just missing the shaker mechanism. I never thought it was particularly attractive, but it did feel very comfortable in my hand. The semi-transparent grip didn't age well though and turned yellowish. So I finally forced myself to toss it out due to uglieness. I just replaced it with a Pentel Clarius which is a similar shape and more attractive black rubber grip. It also has a retractable tip, but it doesn't seem to have the same balance as the Dr Grip did.

andrew said...

Just picked one of these up at the local stationary store. I decided to give it a try. My only gripe about the pencil is the rubber grip -- argh it's annoying! I don't know if this happens with lefties or righties (I'm left handed) but I just can't get a comfortable grip on the pencil with all the flaring end nonsense. The flared end is in my finger's way and I occasionally have to readjust the pencil in my hand so that my fingers don't come in contact with the flared end. If only they smoothed it, curled it, or something to get rid of the strange flaring end, I'd be really happy with the pencil. But besides that comment about the grip, I love the push top ratchet and the shaker mechanism. :)

it BROKE said...

Personally, I love this pencil. Its great, especially on tests with fill in the dots. (P)SATS and stuff like that. These are rather tricky to fix when they are broken, and often the metal tip < end, where the lead comes out, falls off and it does not make any sound. In face I am actually looking for one right now. All I can say is DONT USE .7 LEAD in .5 pencil, or let your friends mess with one.

it BROKE said...

Oh yeah, on any SAT, PSAT, mab star, TAKE OUT THE SHAKEY THING they will come and get you o.o

Bob-O said...

I love the Dr Grip. I love the rubber grip expecially since I have bigger fingers and I use a 0.7 lead instead of the 0.5 and I haven't had a problem...........

Anonymous said...

I've had the old Dr Grip for a long time. It got me through college and now 3 years later I rediscovered it. There is a key difference between it and the Ltd versions. The old one is a bit longer (overall and the grip itself). This causes the clip to be placed further from the paper, and thus further from your hand. If you are like me, that is a major plus, as the clip doesn't interfere with writing. Of course, the Ltd's clip is less bulky so it really doesn't get in the way either. One thing I must say that is positive is that it has never clogged/jammed on me in the 7 years I've used it.

Anonymous said...

Getta unigel shaka or 0.5 normal one... btw the store is in japan so order it online with search uni gel and look on sites until u find them they're close too top though. glhf reply on ur rate p.s. it gets squisheir as u use grrip!

Anonymous said...

wut does p.s. mean anyway???

Anonymous said...

TALK U PEEPLE IF U READ COMMENTS AND DON'T RESPOND TO MINE IMMA GET SAD AND UGHHHH YEA..... T.T





XD

Anonymous said...

I picked up one without a clip. Anybody seen one like that before?


Nate

Mr. Grip said...

I'm rather curious as to what you think of the new Dr. Grips. I'd say sometime about two years ago, Dr. Grip Center of Gravity (G-Spec in Japan I believe) started popping up around some of my classes and discussions. Ironically, it fixed most of the gripes you have with the current version (a Dave collaboration with Pilot perhaps?), as well as keeping what's already successful with this version. The new CoG grip seems to have a bit more give -- upon closer inspection, it's actually a normal "small grip enwrapped and fully enclosed in the larger, "Dr. Grip". It also addresses the grip not being flush with the pencil tip in the old version... yeah, I'm just ranting. Check it out yourself, and a review might be worthwhile, if you catch my drift.

http://www.jetpens.com/product_info.php/cPath/45_642_643/products_id/3095

kiwi-d said...

Hello Mr Grip. Thanks for your comment. I'm afraid I can't take any credit for the Dr Grip COG as I have never had any contact with anyone from Pilot. But thanks for the thought :-)

I had seen the COG on some sites a while ago. I doubt I'll be reviewing it as Dr Grip is not available in my country and I don't think I'll be paying all that extra to order it in from overseas seeing it's not something that immediately says "buy me" when I see it.

uhhh....hi said...

:D
i love this pencil! i use it all of the time, and when im not using it, i start to shake normal pencils! The grip is fine on my pencil, but the eraser is tooooooo smal!!!

:D :D :D

Wynne and Wes said...

i agree "uhh....hi said..." the dr grip is a great pencil, from the grip to the smooth mechanism this pencil was a winner. this was the pencil of choice for me until i noticed how easily it scratches. the i switched to the lamy 2000, more expensive but well worth it

Anonymous said...

This amazing pen is great for use. This pencil helped me take my "Constitution Test" in Middle School (Gifted Program) and has served me well over these years.

The only bad thing about this pen is that the shaker function sometimes decides to malfunction and not extend the lead.
Four out of Five!!!

2nd_astronaut said...

First a big compliment to the photo work, Dave. Your backgrounds are simply ingenious (love all the medical stuff draped around this Doc pencil).
I esteem the shaker mechanism like other commentators here, too, but I can have this mechanism and a nice pencil at once: some pilot 2020 versions or a Zebra tect2way. I have seen at Gunthers M├Ąppchen a (shaker) Pilot H-1585 -- I have to find one *drool*.

kiwi-d said...

Thanks for the compliment 2nd_astrnaut. I do often put a bit of thought into my backgrounds. Good luck with the droolable shakers.

Anonymous said...

i like this pencil. i bought it 2 days ago.

Dre2213 said...

this is a very cool pencil. mine is a platinum color and is very cool. the shaker mechinism is just awesome!I think the grip is very comfortable especially since at the bottom end of the grip is like not part of the pencil.it kinda looks like it has a ring around the bottom of the pencil like it seems like it dosent fit. VERY COOL PENCIL!!!!!!!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

I like pilot pencil leads, they are nice to write with. try the polymer leads. Pencils, i go for colleeo\n. superb

Travis said...

@Nate: Yes, and I lost mine today. It was mettalic blue and instead of a clip there was a lanyard hole, which I thought was the coolest idea ever. I hate the pocket clips, and the worst part is, I had engraved a special symbol that I use to represent me on a piece of plastic that I attached with string to the lanyard hole, and now it's gone. Actually, the worst part is that the clipless ones seem to be discontinued, which saddens me since they were so cool. Ah well, I guess I'll go buy another shaker pencil, since that was the only one I had. (Shaker mechanism is AWESOME.)

Heady said...

Have you ever considered reviewing a Uni Alpha Gel series mechanical pencil? It's japanese, but is available online in the States.
Cheers!

Kiwi-d said...

Hi Heady - yes, it's already reviewed on this blog.

Anonymous said...

A really good mechanical pencil is called the uni-gel ox-gel mechanical pencil

2nd_astronaut said...

In the meantime I collected some shakers, amongst others the Pilot H-1585 I mentioned above (ouch, this one was expensive)... My favorite shaker turns out to be the Pilot 2020st (http://www.blift.de/main.php?g2_itemId=550), maybe because the price of it was somewhat more "reasonable" than for the H-1585 (the price now, not the initial one, which was 2000Yen for the 2020st and 1500Yen for the H-1585).

BTW, does anybody know shakers other than Pilot and Zebra?

Kiwi-d said...

Pentel Jolt.

2nd_astronaut said...

Ah, didn't know the Jolt. Another one I forgot is the Mitsubishi Shaka, but since it has a gel grip I can continue forgetting it...

Anonymous said...

I just typed up a glowing review in Word to put here, but it looked too long and I was afraid of getting sued for slander by all the other makers of shaker pencils ;)

In a nutshell: The Dr. Grip is very reliable and works flawlessly. I’ve been very hard on two of them (they’re so beat up they’re unrecognizable) and I’ve never had a single problem, never a lead jam, always fast new lead advancement, and an unparalleled shaker mechanism. I tried another shaker and it’s like a toy. The Dr. Grip looks like the only really good shaker out there. Right weight, right advance length, right balance, everything. The grip could use work, sure, but it’s not as big a problem as it’s been made out to be.

Anonymous said...

Every single person at my school has them. lolololololololo

Pilot Lover said...

How do you put pieces of paper or stickers inside the G-spec one?

A Person said...

To:Pilot Lover
From:A Person
This is how you put it in. Here is a link.

http://cgi.ebay.com/Pilot-Dr-Grip-Mechanical-Shaker-Pencil-0-5mm-blue-/400158483464?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item5d2b4de408

Scroll down on the page to see it.

Pencil Junkie said...

Where do you get the G-spec version?

A Person said...

Revising my comment before: since the ebay one may not last here is another link. Pencil Junkie, you can get the g-spec version on Jetpens.com. Here is the link.

http://www.jetpens.com/product_info.php/products_id/3098

Again, scroll down to see the instructions(sorry they are only pictures).

Anonymous said...

I don't know about what others think, but the grip to me doesn't look or feel cheap or ugly at all.

Physicx said...

The Dr. Grip is insanely popular because it is extremely valuable to penspinners. The tip costs $5 on penwish, and the grip is around $2. These parts are the main pount of the pencil, and are used to mod many pen-spinning pens nowadays.

Anonymous said...

The grip is the reason that I bought it. I have bigger fingers and I like all my hand held tools to be as big as possible. So I very much disagree about that. Great site Dave, but you are on firmer ground when you stick to technical issues. For example, I would like to see more discussion of cushion systems. But this grip gripe is a personal matter. Just as when you give pencils low marks for certain kinds of erasers. Some people want a high quality pencil with a big exposed eraser. Such a pencil shouldn't receive low marks. It should just be categorized as such. We don't judge pick up trucks as though they were cars. I would like to see a better break down into categories across the site.

Anonymous said...

I have the exact pencil, the baby blue one and I don't know if I am missing a part of the pencil or not but I opened it to clean the inside of the grip, pieced it back together but it won't click anymore. Could you help with that? I try piecing the parts in different orders but it doesn't work

John said...

I have always loved the Dr. Grip. I have the older? version with longer grip, black case with plastic clip and no shaker mechanism. I had one in elementary school and then bought some off eBay in 2009. I always thought it was a cool pencil and like it very much.

Anonymous said...

Like a previous commenter, I've used this pencil for years and never realised that it had a shaker mechanism! It makes sense, though, if it is meant to be easy for people with arthritis to use - I imagine shaking is easier than clicking. Mine still works well and I find it comfortable to use, but the dark silver paint on it has worn off in places to reveal white plastic underneath.

Anonymous said...

i've used this pencil for like 7 years, obviously not the same one, but i can't stop buying these. they are definitely the best and they're inexpensive too! the bulkiness and heavier weight provides stability and that is another plus!