Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Cross Century II Mechanical Pencil Review

Cross Century II Mechanical Pencil Review

Years of blogging have corrupted me. I started this blog with rock-solid righteous prejudices –
Rubber grips = horrible and bad
Side-clickers = dodgy, mutant growths
Silver and gold trims = I’ll be tactful and just say they were not to my liking.
It is now clear to me that this blog has performed some sort of mental adjustment upon me, whittled away at my beliefs to the point I sometimes just don’t know where I stand.
cross century ii mechanical pencil medalist

Down to business then. Stylistically the Cross Century II is a development of the Classic Century, with arguably the most significant difference being the wider body of the Century II. With the Century II the top half of the two piece body is wider than the lower half, somewhat reminiscent of the look of a capped writing instrument with the cap posted. The proportions of this pencil with its straight lines and tapering ends are rather easy on the easy on the eye.

See, that’s what I mean about breaking down prejudices. To me, the polished chrome body and 23K gold trims of the Medalist colour scheme should look…well, just not right…but somehow...?
cross century ii top half
There is a thin black grooved line towards the base of the gold end cap – I really quite like that little aesthetic addition. The gold and especially the chrome are highly polished and really stand out.

Whilst 0.5mm is the only lead diameter option for the Century II mechanical pencil, it is available in 5 colour options, mine being the chrome and gold trim 'Medalist' colour scheme. Well, that’s 5 options in the retail range, there could be more in the separate business range, particularly as part of a BP/MP set.
 
In the hand the Century II has a reasonably substantial weight and feel, and is noticeably top heavy. The bright polished chrome finish is never going to win accolades for its grip enhancing properties. Actually the chrome body isn’t entirely plain – there are groups of very fine lines running the length of the body, but they don’t really contribute anything to the grip. At least with no specific grip zone you can grasp the pencil at any point and rotate it at will.
 
The lead advance mechanism is a standard twist top ratchet. You twist the top half of the body clockwise about 135 degrees to activate the mechanism. It is spring loaded so it springs back as soon as it is released. Ten activations will get you about 7mm of lead. You can operate the mechanism one handed, but two is best. There’s no doubt that twist mechanisms are slow and cumbersome compared to push-tops and most other mechanisms.

The whole top half of the mechanical pencil pulls off to allow access to the lead refill chamber. There is a small eraser under the top half for occasional use.
cross century ii eraser
The eraser plugs the end of the lead chamber so you pull it out to put more sticks of lead in.
cross mechanical pencil lead refill chamber

PAT 5,662,424 is marked on the body of the pencil mechanism which is the standard Cross patent, with links back to Kotobuki of Japan.
cross mechanical pencil patent

The lead sleeve of the Century II is a short thin metal pipe. The sleeve is retractable. You twist the top half of the body clockwise to advance the lead, but anticlockwise will lock the mechanism into rest mode and the lead sleeve can be pushed back up into the tip. As usual you can also retract the sleeve by ‘activating and holding’ the lead advance mechanism and pushing the sleeve in.
cross century ii mechanical pencil tip

The pocket clip is not spring loaded but quite strong and functional. The rounded end allows the clip to slip easily onto a sheet of paper or shirt pocket. It also looks quite stylish.
cross century ii pocket clip

“Cross” on the top half of the body and on the pocket clip are the only external markings on the pencil. I always wish manufacturers could somehow include some style or model identification on their writing instruments as well.

• Best Points – Overall looks, plus I like the rest mode option for the mechanism.
• Not So Good Points – Grip not the most secure.
• Price Range – High.
• Does this pencil make it into the Top 5? - No.

Dimensions – Length 140mm, diameter 9mm on the lower half of the body. Balance point about 85mm up from the tip.

Notes:
1 - This Cross Century II mechanical pencil was supplied by Euroffice, an office supplies and stationery specialist in the UK, in exchange for a review of the pencil and an acknowledgement.
2 - The Cross item number of this Century II Medalist mechanical pencil is 330305WG.

24 comments:

Henrik said...

Never mind the pencil - I love your backgrounds!What's he wearing in picture no. 2? Wings? :-)
regards Henrik

Sapphire said...

I have a couple of Cross pencils - they are the thinner Classic Century. I have one in this finish and I like it. Oddly I find the polished chrome grips better than my brushed steel Parker - I must have odd skin.
If you want a 0.7mm you could get the ballpoint and the pencil converter but it means paying an extra £7.50 for the converter.
I was also surprised that gold/chrome combination worked.

Anonymous said...

Dave

Nice review. Sometimes its the harmony of a writing instrument radiated by its design characteristics that inspire the best in us to put good ideas onto paper. This one just looks good.
Thanks - Jim (SC,USA)

Anonymous said...

Just curious. Is that your Victoria Cross? I understand the idea linkage with Cross pencils and decoration and military crosses and decorations but from what I know (at 14 and a Yank) about Australian and New Zealand military history, and how that particular decoration was earned, may I say it's sort of, well, not quite right to use that picture as a background. This is just my opinion.

Ricky
Maryland, USA

Anonymous said...

I think that officer must be a Maori, and those "wings" are a ceremonial cloak of feathers.

Ricky

Kiwi-d said...

Hi Ricky
Yes, you are correct. He is a Maori, wearing a ceremonial cloak of presitge for winning the VC, being welcomed back onto his tribal meeting ground. He is a corporal, flanked by generals. I am surprised you know of this, and also that you consider the imagery somewhat inappropriate. Care to explain?
The trivial subject matter of this blog demeans the background?

Kiwi-d said...

Well Ricky has set me thinking. I've gone away and contemplated this over lunch. I don't think the image was inappropriate, but I can understand that some might think it was, so I have deleted it. To be replaced with something else in due course.

Kiwi-d said...

Sapphire - off the top of my head I am tempted to agree with you re polished chrome vs stainless steel.

Anonymous said...

Kiwi, I'm sorry if I upset you in any way. It's the last night of school here where I live and there's no homework to get through, and I was just looking through your blog again.

I know something about New Zealand because my mom and dad have visited there. Also for history we watched an older movie called "Gallipoli" and I know about ANZAC and then my great-grandfather fought in North Africa and in Italy during WWII and told me a story about a New Zealand tank crewman who went into battle sitting in the hatch of his tank playing the bagpipes!

So to me, military medals are sort of special, and it was just my opinion that perhaps, just maybe, it was disrespectful.

Also your blog is not trivial, and I like it a lot. I use traditional Autopoints with the 1.0 mm leads for math and in school and everybody wants to know where I got them. They call them "fat lead pencils."

Anyway I'm sorry again if I upset you.

Ricky
On the shore of the beautiful Magothy River

Anonymous said...

Rats. Now I feel like a real idiot. You removed the picture of the ceremony which was cool and interesting. I made the original comment about the close-up picture of the patent number with the end of the pencil over the three decorations, the one I recognized as the VC.

Ricky

Kiwi-d said...

Hi Ricky
No you haven't upset me at all, just made me think about it some more, and from a different perspective. Actually I originally intended for the backgrounds to be sporting medal related, but had surprisingly few suitable backgrounds and without much thought just sort of migrated into the military backgrounds without considering possible other opinions.

My comment about the blog being trivial was in comparison to the military subject matter. This blog isn't trivial to my personal enjoyment, but is obviously trivial in the bigger picture of life, etc.

Anyway, thanks for your comments.

Henrik said...

Mea culpa - I wish I hadn't mentioned the backgrounds. This blog is about pencils after all
regards Henrik

Kiwi-d said...

Hardly mea culpa for you Henrik.

Kiwi-d said...

Ricky, Ricky, Ricky...the tasks you set me my young friend. Well I've finally shot some more images and replaced the last of the military ones. But even sporting ones have their problems. I shot some really great ones of Marion Jones, some of my best work ever I think...and then after I'd uploaded them I suddenly thought...ummm didn't she get into trouble...better check Wikipedia...yep well back to square one again.

Reuben said...

Hi Dave, I came across your blog while trying to fix an older Cross Century pencil. Do you have any information on repairing such a pencil? I was looking for a step-by-step guide on the net but no luck. There's also no official Cross repair service in Australia :(

Kiwi-d said...

Reuben - sorry, no.

Reuben said...

Thanks Dave, will keep searching!

Anonymous said...

Hi Reuben,

AFAIK there are 3 mechanisms:

The oldest is the 0.9 mm. This employs a continuous screw mechanism. You load the lead in from the tip, that is, the writing point. Face the pencil so that the tip is facing you. Turn the lower part of the barrel clockwise until you see a "point" at the end of the tip and you can't turn it anymore. Then, insert the lead into the tip, while turning the barrel counterclockwise. Put light pressure on the lead as you do this. At some point, the mechanism will hold onto the lead firmly. At that point you can just continue turning the barrel counterclockwise until the lead is completely inside the barrel.

Turn clockwise to extend the lead for writing and counterclockwise to retract. Under the eraser when it is removed, you can store around 9 spare leads.

Make sure you clear any lead in the tip before you load a new lead.

The 0.9 mm model is probably the type of pencil that you have.

There are 2 later models that use 0.5 mm leads. The first mechanism used a cartridge originally, but now works with individual leads. It uses the same size eraser as the 0.9 mm model.

The second 0.5 mm model and the one that is sold currently uses a smaller eraser, but is otherwise identical.

Both of these 0.5 mm models automatically load the lead from the back of the pen like most modern pencil mechanisms. However, they use a twist mechanism. The lead is advanced by turning the lower barrel counterclockwise when the back of the pen is facing you. This is a click mechanism rather than a continuous mechanism. After each advance of the lead, the lower barrel will spring back in a clockwise direction. The first click extends the retractable lead tube. The tube can be retracted by turning the lower barrel clockwise and pushing in the lead tube.

Could you repeat the question?

Bob S. [from Phoenix, AZ]

Anonymous said...

Hi Reuben,

Oops, looks like I misunderstood the question. You wanted to know about fixing the pencil, rather than how to load lead into it.

I would send correspondence to CROSS. They will probably ask you to send it to them and determine if they can fix it or not. If they can't fix it, they will usually give you the option of having it returned or getting a replacement. The repair services at CROSS have been excellent in the past, based on my experience. They do honor their lifetime guarantee. I don't know what it's like currently with their manufacturing moved to China.

Bob S. [from Phoenix, AZ]

Reuben said...

Wow thanks Bob, that was a wealth of information right there! The pencil is 0.5mm, and the problem is that the lead doesn't feed properly - there is no jam as I am able to push lead through when it is in the "relaxed" position. Have emailed Cross as there is no Australian branch here, hopefully there will be somewhere I can send the pencil to. Thanks again!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the detailed review! I just got mine - bought the Century II, pen and pencil set. Curiously, mine is a 0.7mm pencil. Like you pointed out, the mechanism for adjusting the lead tip is cumbersome. But it does look gorgeous!

Anonymous said...

Love your blog I have an old Classic Century, with the Gulf gas station logo on the clip, in .9mm. I havent the faintest idea where it came from.Loaded with a 2b lead it writes really well but is a bit too small to be comfortable for more than a few bars of music. Still the thing is solid gold so it's presumably of some value as other than a writing instrument. Do you know if Cross often puts other companies' logo's on their products? Like was this a limited edition sort of thing? it seems odd to have an oil company pencil.

Kiwi-d said...

Hello Anonymous.
Cross (and many others) do a significant amount of business in the corporate advertising and gift market. I have seen online auctions for many Cross items with corprorate logos and engravings, especially oil companies. I myself have a Mobil pen/pencil set.

http://davesmechanicalpencils.blogspot.com/2010/12/cross-classic-century-pencils.html

Anonymous said...

my cross classic century is facing problem! I twist it but it didnt retract lead! i also can put in the lead from the head without twisting! What should i do? How can i open it?