Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Faber-Castell Propelling Pencil Mechanical Pencil Review

Faber-Castell Propelling Pencil Mechanical Pencil Review

You may well question the title of this posting. Surely it should just be Faber-Castell Propelling Pencil Review? Maybe, but maybe not. At the time of writing, this particular pencil has me confused, and almost seems nameless. It appears on the Faber-Castell website new products section where it is pictured but not named, simply called the “the innovative Faber-Castell propelling pencil”. It is not shown on the main English language international website, but it is on a German language site where it is called “Der FABER-CASTELL Drehbleistift” which translates as “The Faber-Castell Propelling Pencil”. The German-English bilingual packaging pictured calls it ‘Drehbleistift’ and ‘Mechanical Pencil’. I’ll focus on the positive, and be happy that the product-naming folk at Faber-Castell have not emulated Stabilo. For the purposes of this review then I will call it the Propelling Pencil.
Faber-Castell propelling pencilWhatever its name, this pencil is Faber-Castells new entrant into the seemingly fast growing niche of oversize mechanical pencils for learner writers. It is available in four different colour schemes, mine is the orange and red combination. It really is a bright cheery colour scheme, and certainly stands out on a desk covered in papers. There is almost a hint of fluorescence about the orange. The short fat cigar shape also seems to contribute to an attractive little package. I noticed that it caught the eye of most people who came into my office whilst I was using it. Visually then, this pencil is a winner. The branding is subtle – Faber-Castell is moulded into the orange body near the top of the pencil, but you have to go looking to find it. Two sides of the pencil have a large “C” in them down in the grip area, which I presume is some reference to Castell, as well as possibly indicating finger position. It appears the orange is an outer casing overlaid on a yellow coloured body underneath and the “C” is achieved by the orange outer layer not being moulded in that zone. There are three long scallops taken out of the round cigar shaped body to produce a triangular grip zone. The sides of the triangle are 14 – 15mm long in the main part of the grip zone. I know that I have previously found some other such jumbo learner pencils of similar dimensions to be too big for me, but somehow the Faber-Castell seems a much better fit for me. The short length of the Faber-Castell also seemed an asset at times, as many times I found myself holding it with the end cap in the centre of my palm and fingers running along its length. I often held it that sort of almost underhand style when I was crossing things off a list, scribbling things out, etc.triangular pencil body gripThe outer rubber casing is one that I have some respect for. It is a reasonably hard compound that doesn’t really move under normal finger pressure, but it is grippy - very grippy - and certainly does improve the grip factor. On the down side, it does seem to show up dirty marks, particularly any graphite smears from your fingers or papers that you may rest the pencil on. They can be cleaned off, but it does make me wonder what it would look like after a short while in a childs pencil case, but then most things look worse for wear after spending a week in a school pencil case.

The Propelling Pencil uses 1.4mm lead which Faber-Castell seem to be preferring over the more common 1.3mm lead. I still feel that this is nothing more than an attempt to guarantee sales of refills by having an exclusive lead size, but fair enough I suppose. The lead supplied lays down a good smooth line. It’s not any sort of economy lead for children. The lead sleeve is a short metal pipe and is retractable for transport. The lead also has some spring cushioning, which might be superfluous on a strong thick lead like 1.4mm, but then this pencil is for children so it might come in handy. The red end cap can be pulled off for access to the lead refill magazine. There is no eraser.The end cap has three quite large slots in it as airholes just in case some youngster swallows the cap. They are sized so that the leads will not fit through and children can’t use them as some sort of lead shaker. mechanical pencil end cap breathing slotsThe lead advance is a twist action ratchet. The red end cap twists clockwise through about 150 degrees to advance the lead, and then springs back. 10 activations will get you about 11mm of lead. I am slightly dubious about the choice of twist action over push top for a learner pencil, but then it might cut down on youngsters playing around with the pencil. The really unusual aspect of the mechanism though is its lock and retract feature. Twisting clockwise advances the lead, but if you twist it anti-clockwise then there is a loud click and the end cap stays fixed in that position. The lead and the lead sleeve can then be easily pushed back up into the body. You don’t have to do any of the ‘push and hold to retract’ action that is common with most mechanical pencils. This is quite an interesting feature, and probably of some advantage to younger folk.

I have concentrated on the Propelling Pencil in relation to learner writers, but unlike some other recent learner pencils, I really liked using this pencil myself and would recommend it to both adults and children alike.
  • Best Points – Bright cheery colours. Interesting locking mechanism.
  • Not So Good Points – 1.4mm is just a fraction too large for many users. Now if they also offered a 0.9mm version…! The rubber grip seems a little prone to showing dirty marks.
  • Price Range – Low.
  • Does this pencil make it into the Top 5? – Tempting, but no.

Dimensions – Length 113mm, diameter 17mm at widest part. Balance point about 60mm up from the tip.

10 comments:

Henrik said...

Nice reveiw as usual, thanks Dave. Hey! The last two pictures - you have a "Silent observer" (Stille Beobachter)here, an angry one, but none the less...

kiwi-d said...

Yes those Stille Beobachter are everywhere. I guess I should also put him over on Lead Free.

B2-kun said...

Very nice informative review as usual. I would be tempted to pick one up if I ever came across one, though it would be pretty difficult to secure lead refills for it. Got nothing in my collection that takes 1.3 or 1.4 mm leads.

Anonymous said...

Very mean looking Stille Beobachter, Henrik - give you a fright at night time!! Might be worth a try with those unique features. This would also be my first twist action MP - now theres a bonus. 2 1/2p

Sapphire said...

You'll find the lock and retract feature on Cross mechanical pencils

Germ said...

cool post, but not a fan of the pencil. lead is too big and it's ugly. :) like me. hehehe

kiwi-d said...

Hello Sapphire. Thanks for your comment. Yes, that lock feature is not unique.
I am afraid I am something of a Cross-free zone. I have 2 ballpoints (quick, head down, duck and weave), 1 multi pen and 2 pencils. 1 pencil is an old screw action, but the other is a reasonably modern ATX which does have the lock feature. So, do you happen to know if all or most of the modern Cross pencils have this?

Adam said...

Where can I Buy This???

Daniel said...

Faber-Castell Propelling Pencil Mechanical Pencil Review
Dave, where could one buy this pencil you reviewed? Thanks! :-)

heyartlady said...

Being an 11 year 100% devotee of the FC Emotion pencil, I saw this and fell in love. I am an art teacher and loved the colors and use a hand held eraser anyway. I was introduced to them on ebay by a guy selling (overseas) 3 for a huge sum. I didn't want 3 nor the huge sum. I found them at Fahrneys for around 14 w/ 4 s/h. Very pleased, BUT I like the smooth twist advance and retract that the emotion has and am not so fond on the click twist and reverse push to close that this has. Still fun. Website showed only pink and blue when I looked and like Dave I wanted the warm tones, but the 1-800 number got me more colors and the same price as website, I just did it over the phone.

http://www.fahrneyspens.com/Item--i-600125S