Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Faber-Castell Alpha-matic and TK-Matic Mechanical Pencils

The Magnificent Seven - The Final Showdown

Faber-Castell Alpha-matic and TK-matic

by Pencil Paul

Well I have left the best till last, these are my all time favorites. I wanted to show the alpha range, so here we have I feel the finest mechanical pencils available. The sheer quality of manufacture becomes immediately apparent as soon as you handle these pencils.

The silver TK-matic shown was purchased in 1980, the year of inception to the German market and it has worked flawlessly for me throughout all the years of sweated  magazine print deadlines, rattling around in the bottom of a brief case, running for the train in rush hour, bomb threats, 3 day weeks, power outs, being dropped and borrowed! In fact the whole gamut of working life in a busy London studio. It has never missed a beat or fluffed a line, this pencil deserves a medal for outstanding devotion to duty!  It is the only true draughting pencil in The Magnificent Seven, having a lead sleeve for use with rulers etc, and was often used with blue 0.5 lead for print proof marking up, a job that is now of course done on screen. The pencil itself is a solid, reliable heavyweight, that is made from stainless steel with the cunning auto lead advance feature, which is shared by all pencils shown here. As you write/draw the lead advances according to usage, you don't have to worry about leads till fitting a new one, which is just a question of pumping the cap button till one appears at the point. The cap is removable to access the small eraser with cleaning wire which I have never had to use, and the lead store below within the body. The knurled grip is superbly positioned and I feel the whole mass and ample weight of the pencils 26gams improves accuracy and control.

The other pencils shown here have been acquired along the way from various sources. These are all general use mechanical pencils in the alpha-matic range, lacking the drafting sleeve. Again the build quality is top class and they range in finish from the maroon red plastic, to the charmingly named 'Bronce' and to the most expensive 'Titanium' almost black finish. All are equally fine and able pencils. I would recommend anyone wanting the best in an 0.5mm pencil to seek out any one of these superb examples of German excellence. Was it Oscar Wilde who sated that "one never regrets purchasing quality"?
faber-castell alpha-matic mechanical pencil
Faber-Castell Alpha-matic and TK-matic Mechanical Pencils







Paul - Thanks very much for showing these fantastic pencils from your collection. Perhaps after some rest at the saloon and bunk house 'The Magnificent Seven' may ride again?
Dave.

33 comments:

2nd_astronaut said...

Yes, I agree, that's a glorious showdown of your small pencil ride!
Besides the Rotring 600 the FC alpha-matic is my favorite pencil, too. I prefer the alphamatics to the TK-matic because of the great rubber cap design.

BTW, the titanium was not the most expensive one. The order of the regular models was bronce, titanium, executive, AFAIK.

And finally, a quiz (without any price ;-) ): Which pencil can be seen here http://www7.pic-upload.de/29.08.12/qmawnp8hjlp7.jpg

Simple Junky said...

Pilot Automac, but Pencil Paul would agree there are other variants by simply gluing up the joint section.

Matthias said...

They look great! Thanks for showing us.
I really like the Castell coat of arms on the clip. Too bad they got rid of that....

Simon said...

I bought my first TK when at Uni, it must have been 1981. I gave that one away to a girlfriend but replaced it as soon as I could (no mean feat for a student) I still have that one and still love it.

Pencil Paul said...

Thanks to all comments on this one, And 2nd astonaut My very favorite is the Bronce! and I have the executive in Pen version, and Yes the coat of arms announces the quality you are about to experience! Thanks to Dave for letting me rant on! and I hope to be attending the LWES show in London UK so If I see any tasty pencils...........

2nd_astronaut said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
2nd_astronaut said...

Simply Junky: Of course correct!

Paul, I can't decide between the metal versions.
An alphamatic pen is a nice writing utility, too. Pen & pencil make a nice pair, because the pen has a grooving in the cap. For all who haven't seen a pen I googled a photo of alpha-matik pairs http://pic.pimg.tw/deutschland1989/1345215390-1104659234.jpg (great, a Taiwanese Wiedervereinigungs-Fan of my home country!!), there the different caps can be seen.

Anonymous said...

thank you so much for your very insightful reviews. this has truly been a remarkable ride.

i've been fortunate enough to acquire five of the seven pencils in this "must have" list since the series started. my sincere appreciation for opening my eyes.

five down, two to go. the game's afoot.

cheers,
elliot

Pencil Paul said...

Hi 2nd Astronaut, A nice collection shown! And yes I agree The Ballpoint pens are superb to use having the same 'heft' and quality as the pencils, I use my Executive pen a lot, Now if only they had produced a fountain pen...............But We do have the Lamy 2000, my all time Best Fountain pen and of course the pencils which Dave has reviewed,

Simon, No greater Love can exist than the man who gives his Girlfriend his TK, You are a born Romantic Sir!

P.S. Just bid on a Tibaldi celluloid Modello 60 Pencil on the Bay .......and lost, oh well.............More soon.

pencil Paul said...

Hi Elliot, what dedication! and what a great Idea. Thank you so much for your kind words, I hope I can contribute to Dave's site again in the future, keep up the good work, All the Best

Jigar Patel said...

I like images of pencil. Even though I generally prefer wood pencil.

Pencil Paul said...

Hello Jigar Patel, thanks for sharing your thoughts, and of course wood was the original material used for pencils, to protect the charcoal/graphite and as a grip. And for the best of both worlds there are some superb examples of wooden mechanical pencils well worth checking out. Pilot S20, MoMA Muji, Macinari, e+m Holzprodukte, etc, Cheers and Thanks

2nd_astronaut said...

I uploaded 2 photos of wooden mechanical pencils (some of the luxury range, some of the "technical" range): http://www.flickr.com/photos/46521772@N04/7916359154/in/photostream
http://www.flickr.com/photos/46521772@N04/7916373596/in/photostream/

Since I was taking photos, I also took a shot of my regular metal alphamatics: http://www.flickr.com/photos/46521772@N04/7916392396/in/photostream/

2nd_astronaut said...

I hope my comment doesn't appear twice... I posted yesterday, but maybe sth went wrong. So again:

I took 2 Photos of wooden (or partly wooden) pencils, some in luxury range
http://www.flickr.com/photos/46521772@N04/7916359154/in/photostream/
some in middle range
http://www.flickr.com/photos/46521772@N04/7916373596/in/photostream/

For completeness, I also made a shot of the 3 metallic alphamatic pencils in the regular model range:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/46521772@N04/7916392396/in/photostream/

Pencil Paul said...

2nd astronaut, Hey! Thanks for the very interesting Photos. Great to see the blend of materials both man made and natural, Cheers

Vittorio Villani said...

Those are wonderful pencils! I hope one day to get one of those. Nice review as usual.

2nd_astronaut said...

Haha, I guess there is a connection between this blog entry and a stratospheric bid war for an (incomplete!) alphamatic executive on a well-known internet auction site.
The seller should invite you to a dinner, Pencil Paul ;-)

pencil paul said...

Thanks Vittorio,Be sure when you do aquire one of these pencils you will not regret it! Grazie.

Pencil Paul said...

hi 2nd astronaut, No Conection to the bid war on incomplete Executive! what price did it make? I am here in London now after the 30 hour flight! and am attending the London Writing Equipment Show, and will take photos of any and all pencils of interest,All the Best to All pencil pals.

Kiwi-d said...

Photos of the Show sound good to me :-)

2nd_astronaut said...

Pencil Paul, just to make it clear, in case it was not: I didn't want to impute you a connection to the auction (neither do I have one). Instead, the auction seller should be thankful to you. The auction ended at 400€ (271047757592), which is one of the highest alphamatic prices I ever saw...

Anti Money Laundering said...

A #2 pencil and a dream can take you anywhere.

GundamFreak said...

I found my new wallpaper ! those pencils are just too sexy, the photograph setup is great too

et said...

now six down and only one to go (actually end of August last year) just late in posting. number five was easy but the last is proving more challenging.

cheers,

elliot

Vittorio Villani said...

I am a member of the alpha-matic owners club!

http://dmpencils.blogspot.it/2013/05/collection-update-faber-castell.html

Aadaam said...

Hello,

I've used my mother's TK-matic through my teenage years, and sometime it just got "broken", I don't remember how.

Its problem is, that it doesn't hold the lead: you can push it back anytime. It pulls the lead out nicely when pressing, the funnel is clean,

I opened it up, found no visible problems with it.

Is it a spring which is missing? An old spring which is not tight enough? What could be the problem, how could it be fixed?

I've got older, and nowadays I design with pencil a lot, I use a Vario, which I guess is the closest to this cult pen, however, I'd like this fixed as well.

Anonymous said...

Where would I be able to find a case for the alpha-matics like this one? How can you tell the age of the pencils since they were made from 1980 to about 1990?

Vittorio Villani said...

I had time to write a small review of the alpha-matic:

http://dmpencils.blogspot.it/2013/12/faber-castell-alpha-matic.html

Let me know what you think about it! Thanks! Vittorio

et said...

Eureka! I've done it!

I just tracked down the last of The Magnificent Seven and it arrived last evening. In perfect NOS condition. It's been a fun and rewarding quest.

Thank you for pointing me down this avenue.

Now, what's next? Hmmm. Time will tell.

Kiwi-d said...

Well done. I'm sure Pencil Paul will be pleased that he inspired such a worthy quest.

Vasco said...

Anyone knows where I can find a replacement eraser for the TK matic?

Robert Ariens said...

I have 2 of these faber-castel pencils and use them everyday over more as 25 years for my drawings, they're great.
I never knew it are collectibles and worth some money, i have a blue and a titan one.
It is the best I ever had, and I'm still happy with them....
and thanks for all the information I did find here, Robert

GARRETT said...

JUST PURCHASED MY FIRST FABER CASTELL ALPHA MATIC. THE BIDDING WAR AND PRICE WAS NOT SO GREAT, BUT ONCE I RECIEVED THE APLHA I AM VERY HAPPY WITH MY PURCHASE. I AM A LAND SURVEYOR AND USE MECHANICAL PENCILS EVERY DAY FOR FIELD NOTES AND DRAFTING. I CURRENTLY USE THE ROTRING 800 FOR THE RETRACTABLE NIB, BECAUSE OF BEING IN THE FIELD AND ON OCCASION DROPPING THE PENCIL. I'VE ALREADY RUINED ONE ROTRING 600. BUT WHEN IN THE OFFICE I DEFINETLY USE THE ALPHA OR TK. I HAVE SLOWLY BEEN COLLECTING OVER THE LAST 5-6 YEARS AND HAVE ACQUIRED.
1 TK-MATIC
1 ALPHA-MATIC
2 TK-MATIC FINE
1 ROTRING QUAD
1 ROTRING 800
3 ROTRING 600 (0.5,0.3)
1 ROTRING FOUNTAIN PEN
1 AUTOPOINT (RED&BLACK LEAD)
1 OHTO
1 KOH-I-NOOR
2 PENTEL
1 MONTBLANC FOUNTAIN PEN

I WOULD LIKE TO COLLECT SOME MORE MECHANICAL PENCILS, IF ANYBODY HAS SOME SUGGESTIONS ON PENCILS OR PLACES TO BUY THAT WOULD BE GREAT