Monday, January 26, 2009

Zebra Tect 2way Mechanical Pencil Review

Zebra Tect 2way Mechanical Pencil Review

There are several sub-variants of the Zebra Tect 2way with cosmetic differences from each other. Mine is a “Tect 2way light” which appears to mean it has a transparent plastic body and grip section. Other variants have solid colours, and others have metalized grip sections. Pricing varies significantly amongst these options.

(Above picture is clickable for higher res view)

Some readers may recall an earlier rant about a particularly blue pencil. Well, my Zebra Tect2way is blue, and it looks pretty good. Not good enough for another rant, but it’s getting close.

So then, nice blue transparent body, some nice crisp lettering in white, shiny chrome trims…overall a good looking package.

The grip section has three rubber rings around its lower part and a couple of concentric depressions above that. The rubber rings are a little bit too low down towards the tip for me, I would prefer a fourth one. They stand reasonably proud off the surface and so do give you some extra grip. Their feel under finger is a little unusual and may not be to everyone’s taste.

The lead sleeve is a 4 mm pipe suitable for drafting, but not so suitable for your pocket. The pocket clip is a simple piece of bent steel, rather strong so it won’t be sliding off whatever you have clipped it to.

Up at the top of the pencil the push top button freely rotates and spins around which is a little unusual. It has the lead size “07” (no decimal point) printed on the top of it, in a font that I like. You pull the top button off to reveal a small eraser and that comes out to access the lead chamber.You can use the top button as an ordinary push top ratchet mechanism – 10 clicks will get you about 7mm of lead. However the lead advance mechanism is a shaker system, so alternatively you can of course just shake the pencil to advance the lead. The shaker strength seems about right to me. It doesn’t seem to activate inadvertently, but you don’t have to risk whiplash of the wrist to get it to operate. The internal shaker system weight is spring cushioned at the top end of its travel which produces a rather interesting bouncy effect when you are shaking.

The main feature of this pencil, the feature that the sales advertising seems to focus in on as a point of difference from other mechanical pencils, is that the shaker system can be turned on or off. At the top of the grip section just above the chrome band is a short rotatable ring section. You turn the ring section one way and the shaker system is active. You turn it the other way and the shaker weight is held fixed in place so it won’t activate the lead advance mechanism. I guess this one/off feature is the origin of the 2way bit in the name of the pencil. I suppose you could also use the ‘off’ feature to lock the shaker weight in a specific place and thus customise the balance point of the pencil. But then of course you would not be able to use the shaker to advance the lead.

Whether the ability to turn the shaker system on or off is of any value to you is obviously an entirely personal thing. It seems to me that in general people either like shakers or they don’t, thus the ability to convert the pencil from one to the other is somewhat gimmicky. I’m sure the feature has marketing value as something unusual and a differentiator from the competition, but whether it has any practical value…well that’s an entirely different matter. Just for the record, for me personally it has little value.

At the end of the day I quite like this pencil, but I’m not sure I would make much use of the shaker on/off facility. I’d probably just leave it on as I quickly developed a habit of flicking the pencil around to make the shaker weight bounce on its sprung top end-stop.

  • Best Points – The spring bounce of the shaker.
  • Not So Good Points – Not much really. Not pocket safe, and could do with an extra grip ring or two.
  • Price Range – Low.
  • Does this pencil make it into the Top 5? – It’s a good pencil, but No.

Dimensions – Length 150mm, diameter 11mm at widest part of grip. Balance point about 70mm up from the tip, with the shaker weight at the front (tip end) of its travel.


B2-kun said...

Nice review for this handsome value mechanical pencil. I picked up a translucent yellow version on a trip about a year ago on looks alone. Initially I found it to be a comfortable sketching tool. As taken as I was with it on the flight back, I have to admit I went back to my comfortable, precise, and solid Pentel Graph 1000 for my first drawing choice.

Kiwi-d said...

Hello B2-kun. That yellow one looks good. The 1000 is a classic so always hard to move on from.

Anonymous said...

You forgot to fill it with blue lead. ;-)

Appreciate the review!

Kiwi-d said...

Blue lead. Now that's a good point!

Germ said...

kudos!! I will have to get a 0.5mm metal one, one of these days...

Dave B said...

Dave, Perhaps the rubber rings can be moved from the lower position up to a position that is more comfortable. From the picture it looks like they are small colored O-rings that fit into the indentations.

Kiwi-d said...

Dave B - good idea, that hadn't occured to me. So, yes they are an o-ring, but the indentation they are in is much deeper than the unoccupied indentations further up the grip. So, you could do it, but they would probably roll, and they would be raised far above the adjoining surface.

ImAnOxymoron said...

where do you find it in different colors?

Anonymous said...

Just a minor quibble - When you write with the clip in the normal position all the lovely Zebra writing is turned away from you (as a right hander) - all you see is the plain barrel - this may be a deliberate move by Zebra - less distractions when writing OR designed by a peeved lefty. It took quite some time to readjust the clip to my liking. Also when stored I like all my pens with the clips facing to the left and with the pencil inscriptions showing - with this one you can't do that.

2 1/2p

Anonymous said...

Dave, I note in your last paragraph that you leave the Shaker ON - so do I but for an entirely different reason - when I lock the Shaker in the OFF position it wont unlock again without vigorous tapping of the pencil on my left index finger. It seems like the shaker weight is somehow interfering with the ON/OFF mechanism. Definitely faulty - what do they say, the more bells and whistles, the more problems. Still a very enjoyable pencil to use .3mm.

2 1/2p

Anonymous said...

Notice any problem filling the lead chamber with more than a couple of leads?

Anonymous said...

What size eraser do you use to refill the .3mm lead version. I bought size A from the same website that I purchased my favorite, yes this is my favorite drafting pencil, but size A is too big. Any ideas?


miss.awesome.lady said...

Jetpens should have it

Anonymous said...

I Love it!!! I just don't know where you can buy the pencil

Daniel Chen said...

I hate this pencil. I got the metal version and it is INCREDIBLY bottom heavy and unbalanced. I dont know about the light version though

I guess for shakers I will stick with the DelFul. Way easier to shake and more balance.

God this pencil is atrocious.