In August 2008 the Attack of the Clones posting pointed out the variant and copy relationship of three mechanical pencils. Just recently I reviewed the Staedtler Integrity 9505 and I noticed the twist out eraser cartridge looked very familiar, which started some cogs ticking over in my mind. So, now it is time to take that whole line of clone-thoughts a little further.
Let’s take four pencils. The Faber-Castell TK-Fine Executive, Faber-Castell Grip 1347, Staedtler Elite 9705 and Staedtler Integrity 9505, as pictured below. At first glance they seem to be four fairly normal pencils, but let’s delve a little deeper.
Right, what have these four pencils got in common? Well, despite being German brands, all of these mechanical pencils are made in Japan. I mentioned above that the twist our eraser cartridge of the Staedtler Integrity looked familiar and got me thinking. Well, three of our four pencils have a twist out eraser – Staedtler Integrity, FC TK-Fine Executive and FC Grip, as shown below.If we extend the eraser cores out to their fullest extent we can see that they are the same diameter and length, and that they all have little red plastic fingers to hold the eraser core to the cartridge. Nothing surprising about the two Faber-Castell cartridges being the same, but the Staedtler one too? Here’s the three eraser cartridges pulled out from their pencils. Apart from the differing metal cap bands they are remarkably similar.“Remarkably similar?”. Get out your micrometer, look at the design, the mould markings, the little twist instruction arrows moulded into them. Remember the red plastic fingers? These cartridges are not similar, they are the same. Play a game of mix and match. All three of them fit into and work perfectly well in any of the three pencils. So, I would strongly suggest that these three twist out eraser cartridges are made by the same manufacturer, and they have just put some different metal cap bands on them to give some difference in appearance. Classic variants of a base model.
How about the pocket clips? Three of them look rather similar – the Staedtler Integrity 9505, Staedtler Elite 9705 and Faber-Castell Grip 1347. Side on, note how the tip section is folded under exactly the same. The only difference is the mounting method of the Integrity 9505. The Staedtler Elite 9705 and Faber-Castell Grip 1347 pocket clips are identical. Face on, they are impossible to tell apart.So, I say the Staedtler Elite 9705 and the Faber-Castell Grip 1347 pocket clips are the same clip and the Staedtler Integrity 9505 clip is a variant from the same manufacturer.
Let’s now move onto the sharp ends of the Faber-Castell Grip and Staedtler Elite. Here they are below.Just ignore the eraser cartridge for a moment. Don’t they look similar?
Here’s an enlarged view focusing on the rubber grip and metal tip section..So similar I cannot detect any differences.
Now unscrew the metal tips.Still looking exactly the same.
Pull the rubber grips off.Still looking exactly the same. Note how both have the same positioning flange at the base of the shaft for the rubber grip to seat back up against.
Yes, the Faber-Castell metal tip section happily screws onto and fits the Staedtler body.Now of course it only stands to reason that the mechanical pencil manufacturers purchase a lot of finished components from outside sources – pocket clips from X, metal tips from Y, erasers from Z, etc and that many of them could buy the same component from the same source. This could easily explain the similarity in twist out eraser cartridges, pocket clips, etc. But the Staedtler Elite and Faber-Castell Grip are a step too far. Same metal tip section, same rubber grip and innards, same main body, same pocket clip, etc. Same, same, same. Either Faber-Castell and Staedtler independently came up with incredibly similar mechanical pencils, or they are just variants of the same base model being made in the same factory in Japan - with only the slightest of cosmetic differences. I’ll leave you to decide which possibility you prefer to believe in, and the answer to the question, “True or False? Staedtler Elite = Faber-Castell Grip.”