Monday, October 05, 2009

Uni Shift 1010 Mechanical Pencil Review

Uni Shift 1010 Mechanical Pencil Review

What to do about the sharp pointy end of the mechanical pencil? That’s a problem that has long exercised the minds of the designers and users of mechanical pencils. Many just ignore it and have a fixed sharp tip. Others protect the sharp end by having sliding retractable lead sleeves, or caps, or double action vanishing points, or extendable protective over-sleeves, or…well the list goes on. The subject of this review, Mitsubishi Pencil Co’s Uni Shift 1010 mechanical pencil uses something akin to a vanishing point mechanism to protect the lead sleeve when it is not in use.

When retracted (storage or carry mode), the Uni Shift looks like this.
Uni Shift Mechanical Pencil retracted
When extended or in writing mode it looks like.
Uni Shift Mechanical Pencil extended
The change is brought about by pushing the upper body section forward which in turn pushes the lead sleeve out of the fixed front section. Note the change in overall length of body above the grip, and the position of components, but there is only a minute change in total overall length.
Comparison of Uni Shift Mechanical Pencil

At the top and bottom of the body sections travel you twist it just a few degrees to lock it into position.

When in carry mode, the push top button does not operate so you cannot accidently advance any lead. The lead sleeve is retracted back in carry mode, but it’s tip is only just inside the front section, and if you had recently advanced the lead then it can be left protruding out the end of the front section. This is not a major problem, but it does mean it can potentially mark the inside of whatever you put your Shift into, and to be honest, I am slightly disappointed Uni didn’t eliminate this matter by having the sleeve retract just a fraction further back.
Uni Shift pencil tip
It doesn’t take long to get used to the idea of pushing the body section up or down to advance or retract the tip, but the little twist to lock it into position is slightly problematic. Whilst it is a fairly definite and positive action, it is possible to only half-twist, particularly when advancing the tip. This locks the tip in the writing position, but not securely, and a little later you can inadvertently have it unlock and spring back into carry mode whilst you idly move the pencil about in your hands when not actually writing. I accept that this matter is within the control of the pencil user, and it’s only a minor point, but I am again slightly disappointed that Uni somehow didn’t address this in the design phase.

The lead sleeve is a 4mm long thin pipe suitable for drafting work. I do note that the Uni Japanese website generally emphasises drafting pencils for precise writing of characters, rather than for any traditional drafting work. Although the sleeve is retractable it is not a sliding sleeve. So, when extended it is fixed in position and does not slide back up inside as the lead wears down. Having said that, it isn’t a fixed sleeve in the traditional sense and there is a very small amount of wobble, which ultra precise type users who demand rock-solid instruments will not find acceptable. Of course the actual sliding upper body section also has some wobble on the central shaft, but that shouldn’t really concern anyone.

The lead advance mechanism is a standard push top ratchet. As mentioned above it only functions when the pencil is in writing mode. Ten clicks of the mechanism will get you 6mm of the 0.5mm lead. The Shift is available in other lead diameters. As well as the black and red 0.5mm M5-1010 models shown in most pictures in this review, I also have the 0.7mm model, i.e. M7-1010, as below. It looks rather nice in silver and orange.
Uni Shift mechanical pencil silver orange
There is a small eraser under the top cap. Black. Very cool.
Uni Shift eraser
You pull the eraser out to access the lead refill magazine.

The pocket clip is a rather plain but springy and functional chromed metal.
Uni Shift mechanical pencil pocket clip
The grip is a diamond cut metal section. It doesn’t feel too abrasive on your skin and provides a good secure grip. It is a round grip, and straight sided, so you can hold anywhere and twirl as much as you like.

Uni Shift mechanical pencil grip and tip
Weighing in at about 19g the Uni Shift is a medium weight mechanical pencil and it is balanced towards the tip. The weight, balance and looks all combine to make the Shift look and feel pretty good in the hand.
Weighing Uni Shift Mechanical Pencil
Markings on the pencil are “Uni Shift” and the lead size on the upper body section. “Japan” is also moulded in small letters on the upper body section.

The lead diameter is also marked on the central body core and visible when in carry mode.

Note the sticker advertising this mechanical pencil is factory loaded with Uni Nano Dia leads.
Uni Shift Nano Dia label

Overall then the Uni Shift is a very nice mechanical pencil and worth having in a collection.
  • Best Points – The Shift mechanism makes an interesting change.
  • Not So Good Points – Not properly locking the mechanism.
  • Price Range – Low.
  • Does this pencil make it into the Top 5? - No.
Dimensions – Length 143mm, diameter 9mm. Balance point about 60mm up from the tip.

Thanks Isu.


bengkia said...

Great review. I just got delivery of these pencils in the mail a day or two ago and was planning to review them after using them abit for drawing; but your reviews as always are a lot more thorough and comprehensive than i could ever hope to be, so i'll just be doing a capsule review and linking to this post.

Great work as always. :)

B2-kun said...

Indeed another thorough well-illustrated review. It is really a nice addition to a MP collection, but I have to admit I really haven't used it much after the first week. Maybe is a sign that I already ammassed way too many pencils to include the Shift in my regular rotation.

Kiwi-d said...

I know what you mean. Glad to have it, and its an interesting addition to any collection, but it won't be one of my regulars.

Anonymous said...

A pencil without a retractable point is unacceptable to me. They should have all been like this to begin with.

Penmaniacs said...

really cool pencil, i definently want one. uni is so inventive, i would consider them a brand that makes modern writing utensils like lamy, but much cheaper. i also wish they had more of there products sold in the USA, not just japan... great review


Anonymous said...

Most of japanese pencils are available on but after buying a couple of these I can say that I hate pencils with the metal kurled tip as it starts hurting your fingers after using it it for a white. I do not get why they still manufacture these type of holders.

Nost comfortable (and I tried hundreds of MPs) pencils to hold (for many hours especially) are:

(1) Pentel 205 (available widely)
(2) Caran D'ache 844 0.7mm (no 0.5 available)-can order at many colors
(3) Koh i Noor Mephisto Profi pencil -can order at

Andrei said...

What a life saver! I was just going to buy this pencil and I thought that reading some reviews first wont do any harm. Well, I just saved 14 bucks, because this pencil would have been a bad acquisition for me. The wobble problem that you mentioned and some missed ergonomics pushed this pencil out of my cart contents. Too bad, because the grip of the Uni Shift looks almost perfect. Its between the Graph 1000 and the Staedtler 925 25 now, I guess. Very good article, congratz!

Anonymous said...

I don't know about others, but I really like my Shift. I use a red 0.5 version and I don't have any problems with locking or looseness or wobbling of any sort. My only gripe is the small eraser that is of a unique size so special ordering is required. It is a little too nose-heavy for my style of pencil spinning, but it's my favorite crossword weapon!

Anonymous said...

I also have had the problem of the mechanism springing out of lock - quite a few times actually. A lock that doesn't always lock ... and yeah, it does take you by surprise when it happens.

2 1/2p

Anonymous said...

How rough is the grip compared to the Alvin Draftmatic?
I like the Shift, but I don't think its right if the grip is as rough as the Draftmatic's.

Anonymous said...

The Draftmatic's knurling is noticeably rougher. I actually like that, but, to each their own.

Here is my recently posted video review of the Uni Shift!

Oroná said...

Es un genial lapiz mecanico. Me gusta el peso y el balance. Usándolo descubrí que hay que girar hasta que haga un pequeño clic para trabarlo en ambas posiciones. De esta manera resulta menos probable que se destrabe accidentalmente.