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.