Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Spoke 4 Mechanical Pencil Review

Spoke 4 Mechanical Pencil Review

Long-time readers of this blog may well remember the original Spoke Design mechanical pencil from back in 2012. Well, the years have gone by and Spoke Design are now up to Spoke 4. They are still sticking to their origins of exploring designs with a spoke theme and using the Pentel P200 Sharp mechanical pencil mechanism.
spoke 4 mechanical pencils

The Spoke 4 mechanical pencil is a mix and match two piece design. You choose what combination of the two grip diameters, each available in five different materials, the five different barrel colours and the three different lead sizes you want, and Spoke assemble that mixture to make your pencil.
• Grip: 8.3mm and 9.2mm diameters
• Grip Materials: Aluminium (Anodized Black & Grey), Titanium, Brass, Stainless Steel
• Anodized Aluminium Barrel, colours:  Black, Blue, Red, Grey, Silver
• Lead Size: 0.5 / 0.7 / 0.9mm
The assembly is permanent; you cannot later undo and swap combinations around.

Learning from my mistake with the original Spoke pencil I decided to go for a nice bright red barrel. The 9.2mm stainless steel grip and 0.5mm lead seemed like the options to suit me so that’s the pencil I have. However, Spoke generously threw another pencil into the box when they sent my order, so I also have a 8.3mm titanium grip blue barrel 0.5mm pencil as well.
red and black spoke 4

Right then, first off the Spoke 4 mechanical pencil in my two colour combinations is a nice bright visually pleasing writing instrument. The black slots, sorry spokes, make a particularly nice contrast with the red bodied pencil. I sometimes thought that the bright chrome of the pencil tip did not quite go with the duller stainless steel or titanium grips, but then other times I thought I was just being stupid.

The Spoke 4 is lighter than I anticipated. The blue pencil weighs in at 18 grams and the red at 25 grams. In the hand you can notice that difference in weight, but what you really notice is the difference in balance.  The 9.2mm stainless steel grip moves the centre of gravity about 10mm towards the tip compared to the titanium. That may not sound like much but that extra weight and lower balance is definitely noticeable in the hand. The 0.9mm difference in grip diameters might also seem minor but again it is definitely noticeable in the hand. Being able to use and compare two non-identical twin pencils like these has been very interesting.
spoke 4 grip sections

The grip has concentric rings cut into it. As expected they give a positive vertical grip but allow for quick easy rotation. All bets are off though if you live in, shall we say, a hot sweaty humid environment.

Given my recent ramblings on the durability of mechanical pencils I think I should make it clear that the Spoke 4 is an all metal mechanical pencil, and in particular that the titanium and stainless steel grips are machined from solid metal. There’s no PVD coatings here, so those of you in the space game can rest easy knowing that your titanium grip will undoubtedly prove resistant to hypertrophic alien slugs and their corrosive slime.
spoke 4 titanium grip

With the mechanical pencil mechanism being taken from a Pentel P205 Sharp, the Spoke 4 has a fixed 4mm lead sleeve and so is suitable for draughting but is not pocket safe. There is also of course the emergency eraser under the push top cap.

Eagle-eyed readers will have noticed the lack of a pocket clip in the various photos of the Spoke 4.  Now, that in itself is not too much of a problem for me personally. Indeed, some pencils come with removable pocket clips to suit those who find them an impediment, but the barrel of the Spoke 4 pencil is round, and the spoke sections are depressed into the barrel, so when you rest the pencil on your desk it can roll, and there is no pocket clip to stop it. Yes, I know there is the desk dock, but that may not travel with you to the meeting room, and I prefer to just put my pencil down anywhere rather than having to specifically place it somewhere. That then is a significant negative for me. Great pencil, love the mix and match options… please stop it from rolling around on my desk.

Spoke Design have always gone the extra mile and their mechanical pencil comes with a tube of replacement erasers, a refill tube of Pentel leads and a desk dock. The dock works well and is made from acetal plastic so it won’t mark your pencil grip but will be very durable and hard wearing itself.
spoke 4 mechanical pencil and accessories

spoke 4 pencil desk dock
Spoke Design logo in the rubber base of the desk dock.

In my review of the Spoke 1 mechanical pencil I suggested a small number of minor points for improvement. This review would not be complete without revisiting those. So, back then my comments were
• This is a great pencil, be proud, put your brand name on it. I would also love to see "USA" on it too.
• Spoke 4 = Spoke yes, USA no.
• The pencil stand is a great idea and works really well. I wonder though that over time the metal on metal contact with the pencil tip section may lead to some wear on both. Perhaps a plastic insert in the stand is worth considering.
• Spoke 4 = The dock is now much larger and made from hard wearing acetal plastic.
• The edges of the hexagonal body are just a little sharp for me. Some more rumbling or perhaps some deliberate rounding in the finger grip zone would be in order.
• Spoke 4 = No uncomfortable or sharp edges to be found anywhere
• In the right light, at the right angle, with good eyesight... boy, I'm being very picky here... you can see some very minor tool marks. A little more rumbling might help.
• Spoke 4 = Picky, picky…Spoke 4 looks good, no tool marks in sight.
spoke 4 name and lead size

Overall then the Spoke 4 is a very good mechanical pencil which you should seriously consider adding to your collection.

•    Best Points – It looks great and you can customize to suit yourself.
•    Not So Good Points – It rolls when you put it down.
•    Price Range – Mid
•    Does this pencil make it into the Top 5? – No

Dimensions – Length 142mm, diameter 10.5mm body. Balance point for stainless steel grip variant about 60 mm up from the tip and 70mm for titanium grip variant.


Gunther said...

Thank you for this review! The design is not my cup of tea but I'm happy to hear that the Spoke 4 is well-made so I think that it is great and unusual addition to the world of mechanical pencils.

Ruurd said...

Great review. And a great pencil that you can get in all four (sic) P20x grips. For a 0.3mm one you need to contact Brian Conti of Spoke Design.

2nd_astronaut said...

Nice review! Good to hear that the spoke is alien-proof :-)

I had a look on their website some weeks ago and thought that I would prefer the older one-piece design, but now at a 2nd look I somehow get familiar with the new design. I would prefer the brass-silver combi (or titan-black -- but the black slits look better with non-black barrels, I guess).

kiwi-d said...

I bought my Spoke 1 as black on black, and I regard that colour combination as a mistake.

Matthias said...

Thank you for your review. Your red and blue ones look very 'superhero' like to me (Spiderman and Superman?) so your photo backgrounds are a great fit, as usual ...and superheroes seem popular at the moment, so I guess it's the right pencil for the current zeitgeist.

Unknown said...

Could the lead sleeve part unscrew apart with the Titanium grip?? Mine can't do that, I feel like , what if the lead break into that chamber, how could I fix it...

Kiwi-d said...

I believe Spoke state the grip cannot be disassembled.
For me personally, 95% of lead jams can be cleared without the need to dissemble.
Perhaps Spoke will comment on this.

Unknown said...

Hello! The grip and barrel are permanently assembled... but the tip (conical shiny silver part) can be unscrewed from the grip, allowing replacement of the tip and/or mechanism. With the tip pointing toward you, hold the grip portion and then twist the tip portion counter clock-wise. It helps to use a piece of rubber to get a better grip on the tip.

Unknown said...


First, as a long time (silent) reader, it is great to see the blog back. Thanks for all your work on this.

I became aware of the Spoke Design 4 from the blog and ordered one. When my wife saw it she immediately wanted her own, so I ordered another one.

So far so good, great pencil.

Robert Rowe

Kiwi-d said...

Good to hear from you Robert.
The couple that pencil shops together stays together :)