Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Rotring Side Knock Mechanical Pencil Review

Rotring Side Knock Mechanical Pencil Review

Here’s an unusual one for you, the Rotring Side Knock mechanical pencil.

rotring side knock mechanical pencil

First off, I’m not really sure of its current status. The ballpoint pen in black with chrome trims is available on the Newell Rubbermaid (1) B2B (business to business) website for corporate non-retail customers, i.e. corporate promotional sales. A small number of B2B and retail websites also have the BP and/or MP in polished or matt chrome. Overall though it has a rather scarce presence on the web, and really appears to be part of Rotrings corporate customer offering rather than their retail offering.

Second I’m not sure of its relationship to the Rotring 900 Side Knock. I don’t have one of those but it would appear to use the same mechanism so I would guess it’s internally the same, just a different body.

Third, it’s a Rotring but it doesn’t have a Rot Ring (Red Ring). [As an aside, how about you German speakers suggest some suitable names for Rotring-less Rotrings.] Some websites do though show the Side Knock with a red ring. Even the Newell Rubbermaid website has images with and without the red ring. I also found it described as the Rotring Side Knock by Parker!

Fourth, an indication of country of origin is conspicuously absent. That “side knock” terminology is suspiciously Japanese, so I’d suspect it is another one of the many Japanese manufactured Rotrings. I wonder, do Rotring actually make any mechanical pencils themselves these days?

Right then, enough of what I don’t know, let’s get on with the review. On the one hand the Side Knock in matt chrome is a fairly plain looking mechanical pencil. It doesn’t have any trims or other embellishments that stand out. On the other hand it has classical lines and the metallic look is not unattractive, just a bit plain. When you pick the Side Knock up, that metallic look certainly combines with the weight (25 grams) to send a clear message that this is a writing instrument of substance.
rotring side knock mechanical pencil

The Side Knock is a general writing pencil. The matt chrome body is smooth, so the grip is not fantastic, but not too bad for a pencil without any specific grip zone or enhancements. The short lead sleeve is fixed so it’s not pocket safe. There is a small emergency use only eraser – you unscrew the very top section of the body to access it. A bit of a rigmarole quite frankly.

eraser under top section
The pocket clip is solid and functional.

The main feature of the Side Knock is clearly its unusual method of advancing the lead. The actual lead advance mechanism is a standard everyday ratchet mechanism, but the means of activating it is quite unusual. As you can see from the little leaflet below the lead advance mechanism is activated by bending the pencil in the middle. Roughly about 15 degrees. The whole bend in the middle thing seems rather strange and I imagined it all being a bit unnatural, very much a forced pose,
rotring side knock bend action
Rotring Side Knock leaflet
but I’ve got to admit, I got used to it very quickly and quite liked it. I’m not usually a fan of side-clicker buttons on mechanical pencils. The side button may get in the way of where you want to grip the pencil, you cannot rotate the pencil at will, the button often isn’t particularly pleasing to my eye, etc. The bend in the middle concept of the Side Knock though eliminates all those negatives – you can grip the pencil wherever you like, rotate it at will as the pencil bends in any direction, and there’s no ugly button sticking out the side. You can just write away and when the lead wears down you just press inwards with your thumb to bend the body and ‘Hey presto’, more lead. It’s a very minimal interruption to your writing if you want it to be. Alternatively if it’s time for a little pause and contemplation then the bending action can provide a welcome interlude. If you like side button clickers then you will probably love the Rotring Side Knock.

rotring side knock bend action pencil
Check out the bend
Ahhh, but nothing is perfect. A mechanical pencil that is designed to bend in the middle…well it’s not exactly going to win an award for sturdy rigidity is it. There are times when you can feel the pencil flex, particularly if you grip it fairly high up. Those folk who grip their pencil really tightly might have some extra problems. I personally noticed the flex most often when I just grabbed the pencil off the desk, gripping it fairly high up and intending to just tick a couple of boxes or scribble a couple of numbers down. The flex can be rather disconcerting, particularly to a new user. I should emphasise though that the flex was never enough to inadvertently advance the lead.

So, how exactly does bending the body make more lead come out the tip? Well, like I said, the mechanism is a normal everyday one just like in your everyday push top button mechanical pencil. The difference is in the activation. How does it work? In simple terms, inside the body of the mechanical pencil, the rod that would normally be pushed down by the top button has a cap on it which rests against a curved face. As the pencil body is bent to one side the rod slides against the face and is pushed downwards by the curve thus activating the lead advance mechanism just as if a button had been pushed down on the top of the pencil.
diagram showing rotring side knock mechanism
One question is how long will the curved face and rod last? Over time will the rod and/or the face wear to such an extent that it affects the action of the pencil. That’s something I can’t tell you after a few weeks use. However, a couple of people who have had pencils with this type of mechanism have contacted me over the years and mentioned that there was some wear and/or failure over time, but I think they also felt they got an acceptable lifespan out of the pencil.

Ten bends of the pencil will get you 7mm of the 0.5mm lead. To refill the lead chamber you unscrew the top half of the pencil to reveal the push rod.
rotring side knock mechanical pencil mechanism

Then you pull that metal cap off the rod. Note the lead clearance needle.
refilling rotring side knock mechanical pencil
The word “Rotring” just above the centre joint is the only marking on the pencil. That’s a little disappointing. If ever a pencil could do with a name or model number on it, this it.

In summary then, I didn’t really expect to like this mechanical pencil all that much, but it really surprised me. It is a worthy addition to any collection of writing instruments, and if you have read this far you should go shopping now.
• Best Points – it gets a lot of points for the unusual mechanism.
• Not So Good Points – a touch of colour wouldn’t hurt…like for instance a red ring. Non-retractable lead sleeve.
• Price Range – Mid.
• Does this pencil make it into the Top 5? – Hmmmm…difficult. This is a very interesting pencil. OK, I need to go back to the beginning. The main criteria for the Top 5 is, “If I was starting from scratch and could only buy five pencils, would it be one of them?” So, let’s compare it to the existing Top 5. Sharp Kerry is safe, Scribble is safe, Tasche is…not, 925 25 is safe, Accugraph is…not. The buildings on fire, Tasche, Accugraph and Side Knock are on the desk…only got time to grab two…which one gets left behind? Arrrrgghhh, an agonising choice…but…sorry Tasche. So, Ohto Tasche is removed from the Top 5 and replaced by Rotring Side Knock.
Dimensions – Length 135mm, diameter 9mm. Balance point about 60mm up from the tip.

1 – Sanford LP, a company of Newell Rubbermaid of the USA. Sanford's brands include Paper Mate, Parker, Waterman, Rotring, Sensa, Sharpie, Berol and Reynolds


Henrik said...

Thanks for this interesting review – I didn’t know that pencils of this kind were still made. Ok, I read that far and now I will go shopping. However, 25 grams sounds a little too heavy for me, then again I might not. Happen to know if the 900 is lighter?

How about just naming it” Knickebein” after its predecessor the P60 from Pelikan? The word implies a certain amount of teasing and confusion. A Newell- Rubbermaid Rotring from Parker with no rot ring, which might or might not be for sale, is confusing enough.

Regards Henrik

Simon said...

Rotring made an earlier version of this in this style
It was only ever made in 0.7 lead size

Dwscamel said...

That is a gorgeous outfit in the last picture.

The pencil is a bit . . . out of Rotring's style. I'm used to the classic 600 look, or the Tikky series, which all had a very 'industrial' air to them. This one, especially without the red ring, just doesn't strike me as the same maker.

The mechanism is interesting, and I am a fan of side-click mechanisms. (The Pentel Quicker Clicker remains the king of side-click pencils!) But I don't think I'm so sold on the looks yet . . . maybe I'll get more fond of it with time.

A strong replacement for the Ohto Tasche, however.

Kiwi-d said...

The last picture is from a shoe brochure :-)

2nd_astronaut said...

Sexy bends in the photos ;-)

I guess the Pelikan 60 (Knickebein) is the first "body knock" pencil (produced in the 50ies)?

Henrik: The Roting 900 is quite heavy as well (also the body diameter is rather large). Unfortunately I don't have a weighing machine for that range...

Kiwi-d said...

2nd - I felt sure you would suggest a name for the Rotringless Rotrings.

2nd_astronaut said...

Hehe, "Roting" was just a typo. I don't have an idea of a good-sounding German word yet, maybe Rot Ring or Gunther (if he is reading here) are more creative...

BTW: I guess the only mechanism not treated here is Mitsubishi's finger knock (http://www.stationeria.com/2010/06/045-hi-uni-5050.html), but it's probably a unique feature of the Hi-Uni 5050 & 3051.

Kiwi-d said...

Finger Knock - cool - hadn't seen that before. Thanks for the education.

Hmmm, well Neinring sounds suitably Germanic to my English ears.

Vikram said...

Probably "Kein Ring" would be better...
But this looks like a great pencil. Should check if my parents will let me exhaust another part of my long-exhausted "pencil budget" a little farther......

Anonymous said...

OK Dave your top 5 is for people to have a crack at and I've got it firmly in my sights. Take the Rotring out NOW or I'll, I'll...well nearly. Seriously this pencil kinda reminds me of a Parker IM in the matte chrome version, and really, a "bendy" pencil in your top 5?? What were you thinking, or should that be, what were you "drinking"?.

Kiwi-d said...

Kia ora Anonymous,
Well I'd prefer 'comment on' rather than 'have a crack at', and as for the accusation of drinking...well, yeah, that's always a reasonable question when I'm involved :-)

Anyway, my answer is that it is "My Top 5" so by definition I am correct, as opposed to the other lists which are the "Top 10" etc and the criteria for My Top 5 includes concepts such as "the Top Five for a collection, so I am giving some thought to including variety, to having a representative range of mechanical pencil types and styles."

I have now mulled your comment over two glasses of merlot [see, being specific :-) ], and I remain convinced that if the house went up in flames I'd grab Side Knock before Tasche. Bt that's a personal choice, I wouldn't snear at anyone who chose the other way around.

Comparison with Parker IM - well, yes there are similarities, although from [wine sodden] memory the IM is quite a bit fatter.

Well, thanks for taking the time to comment - feel free to include a screen name next time...otherwise I feel outnumbered by the Anonymous Horde :-)

Anonymous said...

Boy has 2 1/2p got Dave stirred up. You should be in fine form after Sonny Bill "mauled" the Scots, winning the four nations - grhhh, Mark Webber losing world championship. Time to bow and scrape - you lot are just too good.

Kiwi-d said...

Stirred? Thats sounds like a non-007 martini. I am merlot mellow :-) Sorry but you've lost me with the 2 1/2p reference...unless you are 2 1/2p?

Anonymous said...

I'm like the commenter above, its a bit hard to take when all I have ever understood Rotring to be is utilitarian and hard edged. The thought of a Rotring that bends was just too much for me to take. I've settled down now, valium does a world of good.

2 1/2p

Kiwi-d said...

Fair call, although the Rotring 900 is nothing new.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Dave, unfortunately availability of Rotrings in Australia these days is limited to the Tikky and not much else. I am still surprised that this bend mechanism doesn't elicit more of a negative response and despite my love of Japanese pencil technology, both wooden and mechanical, the naming of Side Knock is weird to my ears. Probably just getting too old.

2 1/2p

Michael J Corry said...

The oddest thing to me is the way you have to take the eraser off the pencil to use it.

Kiwi-d said...

Yeah, 'side knock' is weird, not a good name...and the eraser isn't going to win any awards.

2nd_astronaut said...

Ok, "Keinring" which Vikram says is correct. Other possibilities would be "Ringlos" (Ringless) or "Ringweg" (ring away), but all miss the "Rot"...

On "side knock": other bend pencils (e.g. Kokuyo Mistral) calls the mechanism "body knock". This "knock" sounds weird for me, but at least body knock is a differentiation from side knock à la Pentel Technoclic or Mitsubishi Pecker.

2nd_astronaut said...

Now I think the name ringlOs is not that bad. Ringlos is also the name for these fruits: http://www.bshf.de/images/projekte/obstwiesen/graf-althans.jpg

Time Waster said...

I like it I think the design beats the new shaker pencils.

Anonymous said...

@ Dave
I have some Side knocks around here ..somewhere.
I'll have to see them with your eyes, in case I find them.
Until now I wasn't a fan of this rotring-gimmick.


Kiwi-d said...

Hi Arne - yes well I thought of it in gimmick terms too, until i actually used it for a week or two.

Now, Rot Ring, you of all people...I must insist on your nomination of a name for the RotRings without a Rot Ring :-)

Anonymous said...

Hi Dave, it's not easy to find a brilliant name in german for those Rotrings.
I nominate
where "Not" in german means a lot as need/woe etc. see here:


Kiwi-d said...

NotRing. I like it, so if I understand the meaning correctly then its a little bit of wort spiel / word game in both German and English but not exactly the same thing in either? More like "Needs a Ring" in German but "Without a Ring" in English?

Anonymous said...

Yes, a word game.
"Without a ring" and "Needs the real ring" are apposite.

To hear the right german pronunciation go to
# choose a german voice
# copy this small text block:


and click 'SPEAK'

You may chosse any English voice and click again to hear the difference(s).



Kiwi-d said...

Thanks Arne
I like the speaking machine.

Anonymous said...

Hi Dave, just shot two rotring 900 0.7mm side-knocks in shiny chrome on ebay.
And yes, the mechanics seem to be identical. But your model is a poor man's one (rotring Madrid?) compared to the chromed brass of the 900. The real king: fat and solid 31.9g with three leads inside :D

Please note, that the tip is fully retractable by manual finger tip, see pen #2

btw: how can I add a picture direct into the comment? Are there tags?



Kiwi-d said...

Nice shooting Rot Ring.

I don't believe its possible to add images into a comment on Blogger, other than your login avatar.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Dave.

can you make it happen? I would love to see blogger comments with embedded jpgs. We already write 2010 not 1993 (when all things started with very very low bandwidth).

I - for me - would promise nicer macro shots. The real equipment is there it only waits for reasons to be used ;)


Anonymous said...

alright dave you made your point I'll get the 900 in the post this weekend, you'll have it for xmas.


Kiwi-d said...

Arne. I'm composing the request right now, "Dear Google, I think it would aid your campaign of world domination if...." Well, I don't like our chances ;-) Too many options for the spammers and the porno-ers if anyone could upload images to another persons blog.

2nd_astronaut said...

Arne, it's ok that you obviously overbid me on German ebay with the 900s, because you made the photo and weighing ;-)

I agree, that direct embedding of pictures is problematic, but clickable links would be great. Copy and paste of URLs really is 1993...

Kiwi-d said...

2nd, and Arne, clickable links would be good, and embedded images too, but the spammers et al go to amazing lengths. Lets say the blog owner is conscientious [ like me :-) ] and moderates comments for spam to a fairly high degree. But if I allowed images then I have to click through to check them because thay are an actual link from my blog to their site. Now initially the image might be innocent, but then after 1 month they update their images with inappropriate ones so now my blog links to a spam or porno farm. People even do that with Followers. I check my Followers (to a small degree) because every now and then a spammer becomes a Follower and I have also picked up a few who were initially innocent but months later all their linked sites were porn so I have to block them, etc. These guys seem to go to unbelievable lengths...it ain't easy keeping the door shut on these guys. It's all fine for reliable folk like us graphite brothers, but untrustworthy scum keep wanting to get in on the act :-)

Anonymous said...

@2nd, did you really bid last week?

That guy sold a lot of 900s and I paid less than 25€ for both pencils.
I think you would have paid more :D
See all bids for 0.7mm 900s listed here:

@Dave - I finally found my older side-knocks, pencils and ballpoints.
If weather is bad at the weekend I might take a photo.


2nd_astronaut said...

> @2nd, did you really bid last week?

Yes. I didn't recognize that he sold that much 900s, I only saw 3 ones. Since I already have 2 Rotring 900s (one shiny and one matt finished) I put in quite low bids and was overbid in all 3 cases with one or two increment steps...

Anonymous said...

Hi Dave! Firstly, thanks for creating a great blog for us mechanical pencil lovers. I have one of these Rotring Side Knock pencils... it's a great pencil, but I find it a little slippery in use. The fixed sleeve makes it a little impractical for me too. The mechanism is great though, once you get the hang of it. I liked it so much that I began seeking out a Rotring 900 Side Knock on German Ebay. After being outbid many times, I finally got one... and it's wonderful! The mechanism is mostly the same as your pencil, but the 900 has a sliding sleeve, making it pocket safe. The ridged barrel is also fantastic, as you can grip the pencil anywhere you like. The 900 doesn't have an eraser, but I don't see that as a big deal. If you like the Side Knock, you'll LOVE the 900!

Incidentally, if you look closely at the little cap that covers the lead chamber on these pencils, you'll notice that it has a ball bearing embedded in it. It looks like an oversized ballpoint pen tip. This is done to avoid wear on the mechanism over time, so I wouldn't worry too much about the durability of this mechanism. Everything on the 900 is over engineered - look at the thickness of the lead tube, for example.

Kiwi-d said...

Thanks for your comment - always good to hear from a Rotring fan.

Unknown said...

Loved this pencil, once had the same one with the one showing on the instructions paper, but it got stolen and been looking for one that's the same style / colours ever since. Any idea where i can find one?

Thanks :) great post :)

Anonymous said...

Hi, Just found your Blog as I'm searching for the "Right" Mechanical pencil for my Art needs. Somehow I lost track of needing a pencil and fell into "Finding a Great Name" for this sleek German Bender "Has anyone one seen my"Bieger"? Not my favorite, but fun to say >Vee ah. Then we get to the simple fact that the pencil bends,To Bend "Kurve" Or the simple meaning, To curve,a verb, "Krummen".

LKiwi said...

I was given one of these pencils in 1991, awesome though it "went missing" been hunting round for one. Mine was kind of "scaly" all the way along. Friend had a stationary shop so might have come from there. One day I might be able to find one again :(