Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Return Of The Clones

[This posting is a first for DMP. At great effort and expense to the management, the photos in this posting should all be clickable for higher resolution originals.]

Back in November 2007 in my posting The Mysterious Kotobuki I mentioned the similarity between the Staedtler Elite 9705 and Faber-Castell Grip 1335 mechanical pencils.

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.”

26 comments:

B2-kun said...

The answer seems pretty obvious. I wonder if there is anyone who know for sure though what Japanese manufacturer produces all these German branded pencils. Could it possibly be "Sakura"? Their "SumoGrip 0.7 mm 37655-XCS07" chubby mechanical pencil is identical to the Staedtler Remedy 0.7 mm 9712A

Mark said...

It's probably a small Japanese manufacturer without name recognition who has cut a deal with the major houses to market its pencils under brands with significant name recognition. The major houses get a cut of the profits for loaning out their names, and they don't have to spend a dime on manufacturing. I do wonder, though, if those houses independently engage in quality control, or if they just leave everything up to the smaller manufacturer.

Ralrara said...

It look like.. grapite 779??
well...

Stuart said...

If I remember, the Papermate Protouch pencil has a similar-looking button/eraser assembly.

Stephen said...

An interesting study! There must no doubt be other clone armies out there.

Adriano said...

Dave,

You got a point here... I just did a visual comparison between my Staedtler 9505 .5, TK-Fine Vario L .3, Koh-I-Noor Mephisto Profi .5 and Rotring Rapid .7 - all of them have the same eraser mechanism. So you can add more three clones to the family...

Here are two photos of the mentioned pencils to contribute (sorry for the bad photographer...):

http://coolpencils.blogspot.com/2009/01/contribution-to-daves-article.html

Andrew R said...

I'd bet on an OEM somewhere in the shadows that makes low-end product to fill gaps in the branded manufacturers' product price positioning.

It's a common practice in the industries I'm familiar with, and I'd guess it makes as much sense in the pencil biz as elsewhere. I used to consider it sort of sneaky, but I guess I've gotten used to it.

That said, I'm curious about where you'd place the Staedtler 9705 (etc) on your evaluation scale. I rather like it, but I'm wondering what I'm missing by not getting a Kerry or a P205! :)

I don't like the useless eraser on the St9705, but it isn't that important to me -- a soft plastic click eraser, provenance unknown, has been its companion for years.

Thank you for the great and geekily fascinating site!

louie p said...

great study. my question is, are all brands required the mark clearly on the pencil where it is made and assembled. needless to say the japanese make solid dependable products (pilot for example) we can rest easy on that and yes it is shame that these legendary names are somewhat soiled by the need to outsource. as andrew r said, we get use to the world as it advances toward sameness.

kiwi-d said...

Andrew R - well the Staedtler 9705 is OK. The Kerry is a capped pencil so that makes it rather unusual and interesting. The P205 is a timeless classic. Only way to expereinece what you are missing is to get one of each. Go on, you know you want to.

kiwi-d said...

Louie P - Thanks for your comment. I agree it would be preferable if all companies made all their own stuff, but we know that doesn't happen these days. Just look at how the auto industry re-badge the same vehicle from one marque to another.
To answer your question, it is very dependent on the law of the country you are in. Some coutries have lots of laws about labelling country of origin, others have very little. Often it is rather misleading - sometimes putting country X on the product just means the "company", the "brand", is from that country and it was maybe designed there but manufacturing was done somewhere else, etc. Its possible the pencil may have a country marked on it, but it doesn't say "Made In..." and the packaging conforms to the local law and declares "Made in XYZ" which is not the country marked on the pencil. Complicated.

james said...

2 million pcs F-C 1347 Was made in Ningbo China now.we also cooperate with them now.
so i think the Staedtler also made in China.
we are pencil manufactory in Ningbo China,any how,it is a simple and perfectly item and good selling.

james said...

both of them are simple and perfect item.
we are a manufacture in Ningbo China,i know 2 million F-C 1347 WAS made in ningbo factory.
you know if they OEM this item ,other factory also can variat the Staedtler.
it is possible.

kiwi-d said...

Hello James. Thanks for your comment. You mention you are in Ningbo, China - are you from the Ningbo Beifa Group?
My F-C 1347 has a "Made In Japan" label on it. Do you think several factories make this pencil for F-C? Look forward to your reply.

james said...

Hi Kiwi-d.
I do now work at beifa groud,they do not make pencil,only metal pen.
we make pencil meachanism for F-C GUANGZHOU.
Usually,one factory can finished one big order in time so they consider to place one order to 2 factories.that is possible.

kiwi-d said...

Hi James. Thanks for replying. I see a few mechanical pencils in the Beifa catalogue online. Have you stopped making them now?

I have a couple of questions I would like to ask you. Appreciate if you would contact me at my gmail address up in the blog header.

jedi-amara said...

I came across this post and the existence of perfect clones is the best thing I've heard in, well, forever. Many years ago I had a F-C 1337 which then broke, and I've been trying to get a 1337 or 1347 to replace it ever since. Now I have the Elite 9707 to look for as well! But I still can't find anywhere in Australia that has any of them... CultPens is the only online store I can find that has one (the 1347), and the shipping is really prohibitive even for my favourite pencil. :(

Anonymous said...

Jedi-amara, Australia is a big place, I should know - I live here (Sydney) so depending on where you live there may be options. I emailed FC Australia and they gave me various retail outlets. I got my 1345 at Art on King in Newtown (suburban Sydney) and the 1335 and 1337 is available at Dymocks super store Sydney CBD. Hope this helps.

2 1/2p

jedi-amara said...

Anonymous, thank you for that! I'll shoot an email off to FC, you've given me hope! (either that or I will pester Sydney friends to hit Dymocks for me. ;) )

Anonymous said...

I love my staedtler elite, it's a really nice simple, no nonsense and reliable mechanical pencil. Only thing I don't like is that the printing on the pen gets rubbed off over time. Other than that best pencil for me. :)

Anonymous said...

I told the Japanese largest BBS where the pencils provide as OEM products. :-) According to anonymous, the pencils made by Platinum. Perhaps it is MZ-500A , 525yen in Japan. Please googled 'mz-500a site:platinum-pen.co.jp'

Anonymous said...

Hi kiwi-d,

FaberCastell in fact has an exact clone to staedtler integrity 9505 - its called FaberCastell Gripmax 1371. I'm from KL, Malaysia and bought my 1371 almost 10 years ago in Kinokuniya. Thought of adding more 1371 to my collection but discovered that it is no longer in production. That is how I stumbled upon your blog and found out about 9505. Was so excited that I ordered 2 packets of double 9505 from an art shop in the States. The 9505 package states that it is made in Japan. I've uploaded a graphic comparison and images of the packaging here:

http://community.webshots.com/album/576416620DnQEus

Kiwi-d said...

Thanks Anonymous
Good to know.

Anonymous said...

Great comparison but the site looks like a fairground.

Kiwi-d said...

Ummm, well I'll take the first compliment with thanks, but I don't really get what you mean with the fairground bit?

Anonymous said...

Dave,I'm referring to Anonymous's link which has winners flashing lights everywhere - I guess this is the price we pay for free photohosting. Sorry for the confusion - I wouldn't dream of referring to your blog in such an unkind way.

Kiwi-d said...

Ahhh, alright, now I'm understanding you, even through the haze of 6 glasses of wine. It wasn't even a compliment for me! LOL.

Slight change of subject, but like many bloggers I'm a slowly becoming a bit stuck regarding comments. Firsty I absolutely like and want comments, but the spammers are a constant battle. You don't see the battle I constantly engage in. Now of course many of the spammers are registered with OpenID, or have Blogger profiles so they add themselves as Followers and I have to investigate and try and figure out if they are really people or just scum, or they have blocked profiles and then unblock themsleves much later to reveal serious porno...ahh it's war out there trying to maintain a "G" (for general audience) rated presence.