Tuesday, August 12, 2008

S55: A Pentel Timeline

For a little while now Germ of Pencils11 and I have been meaning to swap blog postings. A little variety never hurt anyone. Not surprisingly he’s completed his part of the swap before I’ve even started mine. So, here’s Germ's article, a little history on the Pentel S55 Classic Deluxe.
Ciao, Dave.

S55: A Pentel Timeline
Pentel has made a lot of pencils over the years. When you think of the sheer number of models produced since the introduction of their first 0.5mm pencil, it can be boggling to the mind. (and the wallet, if you are a serious collector…) I doubt many have even thought about the evolution of their manufacturing techniques, processes, materials, construction, etc., from the beginning to ‘til now. Very few have been in the lineup for all of these years. The Sharp p200 series, Sharplet, and the S55 are the only ones I can think of, that go back to at least 1975. Today we are going to discuss the S55, and it’s several variations over the years.

As far as I can surmise, the S55, or at the time, the Pentel 5, has been made since about 1970. How do I know this? Check out this picture:

Notice the bottom left corner? Expo70. Osaka's 1970 World Fair, Expo 70. So, for 38 years or so this pencil has been made, in one form or another. That’s older than me!!!!

Ok, check out this next picture:
From left to right, you can see the progression of styling that the pencil has undergone. #1 thru #4 all have the same clip. #5 and #6 are different. (#5, a different model, was thrown in to show how the styling of the S55 influenced other models). Next the model indication. #1 - #4 are engraved with the original Pentel logo and lead diameter, while #5 is the logo of today, and #6 is a silkscreen of todays logo with the lead diameter. The last outside difference is with the ribbing on the upper barrel. Notice #3. It’s ribbing is the deepest, while the silkscreen S55 is the shallowest. Yes, I know it is hard to determine from a photograph, but please trust me on this. :)

What can we surmise from this? There is a good possibility that the red and gold pencil is older, due to the depth of the ribbing. Molds are cheaper to produce, if accents are kept to a minimum of depth. Plus, I think they look sleeker with a shallower depth, or newer.

Now, for the guts, and the true indication of age.

Notice any differences? #2 and #3 are the same, #1 and #4 are the same, and #5 and #6 are close. I can also tell you that the guts of #1 thru #4 are fixed, and can not be removed. However, the method of attachment differs between them. #2 and #3 are glued in, #1 and #4 are held in by a c-clip. #4 and #5 can be removed, and are only held by the nosepiece when screwed on.

From what we have learned so far, what does this tell us? We know #2 is from 1970, and its collet system and attachment is the same, or almost, to #3. #2 and #3 are going to be from at least 1970. #1 and #4 will be later, and #5 and #6 will be later still. From the depth of the ribbing, I will have to say that #3 is the oldest, probably from 1969-1970, with #2 definitely from 1970, but later in the year.

Now, #1 was in the Pentel Expo box. I kind of doubt it was in that box originally. I think it was just #2. Why? Because its guts attachment and threads are different. It is possible that it came from 1970, and between #1, #2, and #3 we are seeing a change to a different attachment method and thread size. Who knows? We may never find out.

So how old is #4? I don’t know. But, Pentel changed over to the plastic internal barrel sometime in the late 80’s early 90’s. I know this because I have a PS535 that I purchased sometime between 1990 and 1992 with a plastic barrel and green eraser. During this time, I also purchased a PS513 with metal internal barrel and a PS45, plastic.

#6 is a later S55, having been made within the last 10 to 15years, with a white eraser and plastic internal barrel. #5 has a metal internal barrel. I wish I knew its model #. It is probably a P515, Similar to the PS513, but in .5mm and no sliding sleeve.

Another interesting piece of trivia, is the red and gold one is actually a .9mm, with a Pentel 5 barrel. This is how I received it from an auction house, who was auctioning off old stock from a stationery store. Weird.

All of the above is based upon personal purchases, reading, a fair bit of supposition and a bit of knowledge about efficient manufacturing processes. I am 95% sure that I am right, and if I am not, I hope somebody will put me in my place, and correct/edgyoumuhKeight me.

Ok, that’s it for now. I hope I haven’t confused the issue for anyone. Don’t really care, I understand me……:-)


Germ said...

we updated a few mistakes i made. My apologies to any who were tweaked by them. :) germ/pencils 11

Anonymous said...

Shorty model, numbered 5 in your photographs above . . . I have been looking to replace my lost one of these for 18 years! It was an 0.3 mm, silver top, black bottom, If you have any, let me know: niels.olson@gmail.com

Unknown said...

Thanks for you knowledge. I switched end sleeves on a couple of pencils (an S55 and a PS535) to make a hybrid. I wanted to switch them back but couldn't remember which ones I had modified. Your information helped me remember what, and why I made the switch. Keep up he good work.

Niels Olson said...

Just an update: someone actually found seven of the number 5 that I inquired about; he bought them all from a drafting supply store near his place. He sold me four and kept 3 because he liked them so much. If anyone finds more of these, please let me know.

Niels Olson said...

Just an update, the pencil I'm looking for is the PS513 (thanks to Germ: http://pencils11.blogspot.com/2008/11/well-few-items-arrived-today-that-i.html). If anyone comes across any, please let me know. ~~Niels

Christopher said...

S55 and PS535 are "Permanently Discontinued" with no replacement listed. I came across this blog post partly out of grief and despair, and partly hopeful someone would have info about where to maybe get more.

The Kerry Sharp is kinda similar but much smaller, lower capacity, and just all around less bang for way more buck. Nice article, thanks for writing it - way long time ago.

Sadness... that's all I've gotta say... sadness.