Today I want to have a look at 3 rather similar mechanical pencils.
From top to bottom:
Faber-Castell Grip Plus
Penol Jumbo (1.3mm lead)
A No Name No Identification Unknown pencil
A second glance reveals that the rubber grips are not quite the same either. Penol & No Name are very similar to each other, but a little different to Faber-Castell - I doubt your average man in the street would pick up on it though.
So, putting aside colour schemes, brandnames, etc that’s pretty much all that separates these three clones to the casual observer.
Right, lets take a serious look and play spot the differences. I’ve done my best with the photography, but some of it was really beyond my camera and "lighting facilities".
Penol and No Name are very similar, but close inspection reveals differences in the grooves. They both have 16 grooves per side, but you can see differences in alignment, depth, etc between the two. Internally the two grips are quite different. This would suggest they are not the same manufacturer as each other. Eraser Cartridges
Pull the cartridges out and No Name has some side grooves and depressions that the other two don’t have. The other two are very similar, even having mould cavity identification letters in the same place. I’d suggest therefore that Penol and F-C eraser cartridges were made by the same factory. Hopefully in the enlargement below you can see the grooves depression in the main shaft of No NameMetal Tips
All three metal tips are very similar, but under close inspection No Name’s tip is a little longer and thinner. Unscrewing them reveals significant differences. No Names tip is clearly completely different. Penol and F-C are quite similar, but see how the shaft on Penol is slightly longer than F-C. Internal mechanisms
The black housings that screw into the main body are all quite similar, although No Name is different because of its different metal tip.
So, where does this leave me. I could carry on dissecting and investigating, but I’ve had enough. So at this stage, my guess, and it’s only a guess, is that Penol and F-C are made in the same factory. They just make the body in a different colour, use a different pocket clip, a different rubber grip moulding, and print different brandnames on them. I’ll explain the metal tip difference as just part of the difference between 0.7mm and 1.3mm mechanisms, but I admit it’s the weak point in my theory. Thus I would say Penol and F-C are variants of the same manufacturers pencil, and No Name is a copy. If I’m wrong then one of Penol or F-C is a really close copy of the other, almost worthy of the name Clone.
Many brands we think of as manufacturing their own products actually source some finished product from other manufacturers, and I'm sure all would buy in a lot of components from sub-contractors, e.g. pocket clips, internal mechanisms, erasers, etc are often made by sub-contractors who then supply the same item to many different assembly factories.
Another view on this clone
For the record – Thanks to Henrik from Denmark for sending me the Penol Jumbo and No Name.