Saturday, September 19, 2009

Uni Kuru Toga Mechanical Pencil High Grade Type M5-1012

Uni Kuru Toga Mechanical Pencil High Grade Type M5-1012

To be honest, I’m not really sure of the proper name for this mechanical pencil. First there was only the Kuru Toga, model M5-450 1P (or M3-450 1P in 0.3mm) but now there is a second model of mechanical pencil using the Kuru Toga ‘turn engine’, the M5-1012 1P. This new model is variously referred to as ‘high-grade’, ‘high specification’ or ‘2nd generation’, but high-grade seems to be the most common translation of Japanese websites so I’ll run with that. I guess it makes the 450 series Kuru Togas ‘original’. This article is mostly a quick comparison with the original Kuru Toga rather than a proper stand alone review, and should be read in conjunction with my original Kuru Toga posting.

Kuru Toga High Grade
Uni Kuru Toga High GradeAt a quick glance the High Grade and the Original Kuru Toga don’t share many components other than the name and presumably the same internal Kuru Toga “turn engine” mechanism. You can see the differences in the pictures below.Kuru Toga High Specification and Original
Kuru Toga Original and High GradeThe tip sections look similar but they are not the same.Uni Kuru Toga tip sectionsDifferent grip sections, main bodies, pocket clips, end sections, etc.
Uni Kuru Toga grip sections
Kuru Toga end sectionsClearly the extra metal components of the High Grade mean it should last a little longer.

At 15g the High Grade Kuru Toga is a medium weight mechanical pencil and about 5g heavier than the Original, but really neither of them are going to weigh your hand down. I expected the High Grade to be balanced towards the tip but it isn’t really, which was a little disconcerting until I got used to my expectation being incorrect.

The metal grip section of the High Grade is sculpted like the Original, but it’s a very slippery surface finish and I think the clear plastic of the Original actually provides a better grip.

Lead advance is achieved by a normal push top ratchet mechanism. Ten clicks will get you about 6mm of 0.5mm lead.Uni Kuru Toga push topIt’s only small and emergency use, but I really like the black eraser. Black pencil, black eraser, full marks to Uni.Kuru Toga erasersThe High Grade Kuru Toga is simple marked Kuru Toga.Kuru Toga logoIs the Kuru Toga a draughting mechanical pencil? (Or drafting pencil as much of the English speaking world says.) I have seen it advertised on some websites as a drafting pencil, so let’s examine that idea. The lead sleeve is a thin metal pipe, but only about 2.75mm long. That’s a bit on the short side - 4mm is the usual length for mechanical pencils designed as drafting pencils. Quite a few people are very demanding of their precision technical mechanical pencils and the Kuru Toga has two features which might not satisfy exacting standards. Firstly the tip section steps out to full diameter quite quickly and I’m sure some folk would say it interferes with their line of sight to the lead. Secondly the turn engine means there is a small amount of vertical movement of the lead as you press down on the paper. It’s only a very small movement, but it’s different from normal lead cushioning and I know from previous comments that some of you will not find this acceptable. When you use a 0.5mm (or 0.3mm) pencil for drafting you usually hold it perpendicular to the paper so that the lead diameter is the width of the line. If you hold your pencil perpendicular to the paper then you never get a sharp or chisel point on your lead and the whole concept of the turn engine has no purpose, it’s a nullity. Lastly, as far as I can see, Mitsubishi Pencil don’t claim it as a drafting pencil. So, for my money, there is no question, the Kuru Toga is not a drafting pencil. It may have the general form of a mechanical drafting pencil, but it is not a drafting pencil.

Another question – How long will the turn engine last? The turn engine is a mechanism of toothed plates engaging and disengaging, so obviously there must be some wear, and thus the kuru toga will have a life expectancy of x-million operations before the teeth wear and jam or just don’t turn anymore. How many is x?
  • Best Points – Turn, turn, turn.
  • Not So Good Points – Slippery grip.
  • Price Range – Low.
  • Does this pencil make it into the Top 5? - No.
Dimensions – Length 146mm, diameter 10mm at widest part. Balance point about 70mm up from the tip.


Anonymous said...

Where would you be able to buy a pencil like this?!

Henrik said...

Thanks Dave! I was just about to buy one of these – but now I have second thoughts. Slippery grips and bad balance are the sure ways to writer’s cramp for me. Pity, it looks so nice.

Anonymous said...

I mention this pencil in my "Which lead size do you prefer?" poll results. I would like to try it sometime.

bengkia said...

i'm glad you mentioned the slight vertical movement. I wasn't sure if i was the only one who found that there was some slight cushioning, so it's good to know that others have experienced it too. I found some slight cushioning on the Zebra Tect 2Way too.

I agree too that it's not really a drafting pencil and i find i'm not a fan of the slight cushioning feature in general on MPs because it affects the tactile feedback gleaned from the pencil making contact with the paper when drawing. It makes the pencil feel less responsive.

Anonymous said...

Hi Dave,

I have one of the "normal" Kuru Togas, and I was wondering if the tip section of your High Grade is actually metal. I had unscrewed the tip section of my Kuru Toga, and how surprised I was to find that it was just plastic! That was my one annoyance with this pencil, but otherwise I enjoy it very much. Also, I have a question that is of pure opinion; which pencil do you like more? So if you only got to choose one of those two pencils to keep, which one would you choose and why?


Kiwi-d said...

It appears to me the normal kuru toga tip is plated plastic and the high grade kuru toga is plated metal. Well I haven't used either very much, but if I could only have one for actual writing purposes I'd probably choose the normal because of the grip.

JiBi_AI said...

Now, I use the pink-colored of original kuru-toga and find that it's very good for writing Japanese especially Kanji[Chinese Characters]
Because, When writing Japanese characters [esp.Kanji] you have to write only short line in one times. But English, especially hand-writing character, I don't think Kuru Toga will works well.
You can see the picture printed on the package, They also use Kanji to advert the engine.
I really enjoy and appreciate Kuru Toga when use it writting Japanese

Kiwi-d said...

Hello JiBi_AI, "long time no hear". I don't write Chinese or Japanese characters, but I've suspected what you say for a long time, that Kuru Toga would be more useful to characters than Latin alphabets, etc.
In a similar vein I note that some Japanese websites stress drafting style pencils as useful for Chinese characters, etc rather than for drafting work, etc.

JiBi_AI said...

I haven't post a commment for long time, though I still always be around here.
I haven't speak or type English so long :lol: because of some reason, my English skill was gone away [haha]

synical said...

I like this over the original - both in looks and the output.

Anonymous said...

The barrel is quite thin and smooth, which is can become tiring after a long session because more force is being applied at a perpendicular angle to the pencil body just to maintain a firm hold on the slippery devil. I wish it had an etched/engraved metal grip instead of the satin finish. That being said, it is a FANTASTIC pencil, and I have had much pleasure from sacrificing a thin-walled grip from a freebie pen (no idea on the brand) and putting it on this pencil. It does feel a tad thick, but I think with the right add-on grip, this pencil will be your daily writer.

sygyzy said...

The question is - is this worth the premium over the standard $6.75 Kuru Toga?

2nd_astronaut said...

sygyzy, good question... I have both pencils and was a little disappointed by the highgrade design. I like metal, but I think the diameter change from the barrel to the grip section does not look good. Besides that, I like the skeleton grip of the standard Kuru Toga. So I am indifferent about both versions.

Anonymous said...

I love the high grade ones.
But putting a grip from another pencil on it is reeeally good

tinium said...

just got the 0.3 black original and it looks better than the new metal model definitely as they use a darker shade of see through plastic instead of clear.
really great for sculpting my design on paper!

Anonymous said...

I am currently in the market for one of these and noticed one of the online vendors carries a version with knurling on the grip. this should be a decisive answer to any complaints of slippery grips. I hope so anyway.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous: I think you're referring to the Kuru Toga Roulette. JetPens has it in “silver” and “gun metallic“ (black).

Unknown said...

I have the Kuru Toga Alpha Gel Mechanical Pencil :3 It would be interesting if you could review that since its a mix of a gel grip and the kuru toga engine :D

Larsthegreat said...

Yes, in addition to the Gel grip and Roulette versions, there is now retractable tip version, and an Advance version which rotates the lead twice as fast and has a retractable sliding tip. In my hand, the faster rotation helps, and the retractable tip is nice, but I much prefer the knurled metal grip of the Roulette. Tempting to try and mod the two together.

But nobody has mentioned my biggest complaint with the KT line; the lead advance button moves about 3mm before it engages with anything. I've used other pencils with a little play here, 1mm or so, but the long draw stroke of the KT makes me think I clicked some lead out, when I haven't.

If I could get the Advance features but with a decent grip and without the unnecessarily long pull, That would be a great pencil.

Incidentally, both of the Kuru Toga reviews look to be missing from the index (list) of reviews.

Kiwi-d said...

The list of reviews is "official" reviews only. Both the KT posts are articles rather than full proper reviews... but it's a fine distinction :))