Sunday, September 30, 2018

Rotring 800 Mechanical Pencil Review

Rotring 800 Mechanical Pencil Review

A little while ago the retailer Pen Heaven contacted me and suggested that since a review of the Rotring 800 mechanical pencil was missing from my blog they would like to fill that gap by sending me one to review, and so here we are.

When it comes to technical writing instruments few if any brands carry the weight of Rotring. Since being taken over by Sanford, (part of Newell Brands) back in 1998, Rotring has had its fair share of changes with many products being discontinued or converted to other Sanford brands. Luckily for us fans of mechanical pencils, Rotring have continued to sell a good range of high quality technical or drafting mechanical pencils, although they are now mostly Made in Japan rather than Germany.
rotring 800 mechanical pencil
Rotring. Life long favourite of many an architect, artist, designer and engineer.
The Rotring 800 really looks the part - hexagonal body with round sections at each end, red printing on black with gold highlights…very technical, efficient and classy looking. In the hand it feels as you would expect – heavy, hefty and solid, but well balanced. That’s the all-metal body for you. If you like a heavy mechanical pencil, then the 800 is your sort of pencil.
rotring 800 mechanical pencil tip retracted
The 800 is also available in silver, and a 800+ variant which features a touch screen stylus. Note the clear model identification and lead size
Down at the sharp end the 800 has a standard technical drawing style 4mm lead sleeve. The whole tip section is retractable. To extend or retract the tip you twist the knurled section up at the other end, just above the pocket clip. It is quite a positive twist action, clicking firmly into place, and springing back when released.

The grip zone is 8.2mm diameter so a reasonably average thickness and it is knurled to enhance grip. The knurling is very fine, about as fine as you will find on any writing instrument. Personally I find this sort of knurling the best. It’s easy to make coarse rough knurling that will rip your skin with extended use, so Rotrings super fine knurling should provide excellent grip without skin irritation over many hours of use.
knurled grip
A good grip is always important.
The lead advance mechanism is a standard push top ratchet, and ten clicks will advance about 7mm of 0.5mm lead. However, the first click basically doesn’t count as virtually no lead will ever appear out of the sleeve with your first click. The other aspect worth mentioning is that the clicking is a very squishy one, definitely not a sharp precise experience. The first millimetre of the action is without resistance and you are pushing the entire mechanism and tip forward until they meet their end-stop, and then the lead clutch mechanism is engaged by your continued push. As I said, it is a very squishy experience. Those of you who like a good solid and audible click will not like the 800 experience.

When the tip is retracted, the lead advance mechanism is disabled.

Beneath the push top button is a small emergency use eraser. There is also a lead clearance rod which is an increasingly rare accessory these days, so good on you Rotring for including one. You remove the eraser to access the lead refill magazine.
roting 800 pencil top cap
Rotring and Wei├čerPunkt?

The Rotring 800 mechanical pencil has been around for a while now, and whenever it comes to discussion of its features there is a heffalump sitting quietly in the corner… tip wobble.

High end metal bodied Rotrings like the 800 are heavy pencils and whilst 4mm long lead sleeves are strong, if you drop your Rotring from a reasonable height onto a hard floor then there is a good chance that your long slim 4mm lead sleeve is not going to be straight anymore and that’s probably the end of your mechanical pencil. The retractable tip, or vanishing point mechanism as I like to call it, is then the Rotring 800’s standout feature. Retracting the tip makes the pencil pocket safe and far less likely to have its lead sleeve accidentally damaged. But, there is a price to pay. A retractable mechanism is a moving mechanism, and movement generally means things are not as rigidly fixed as they could be, so the 800’s standout positive feature is also its standout negative talking point. So, how much tip wobble is there? Well, there is certainly some, enough to be noticeable if you are aware of it but perhaps not enough that you would notice it if you did not know about it in the first place. Various forums discuss this matter at length, and possible ways to reduce wobble using tape, etc. For me personally it is not that big a deal, but some people value extreme rigidity and precision, and so for them, it is.

The pocket clip is very strong, possibly too strong for easy clipping to paper. The hexagonal body and pocket clip combine to limit rolling on your desk.
Rotring, for designers now and into the future. If you look really hard you can find the word "Japan" on your pencil.
In summary then, the Rotring 800 mechanical pencil is a worthy member of the Rotring pantheon. If you like a heavy metal bodied pencil, like the idea of a vanishing point mechanism and do not place extreme importance on tip rigidity or positive clicking, then the 800 is most definitely worthy of your consideration.

•    Best Points – Vanishing point mechanism
•    Not So Good Points – Tip wobble
•    Price Range – Mid
•    Does this pencil make it into the Top 5? – It’s a contender, but No

Dimensions – Length 143mm extended, diameter 8.2mm across the grip section. Balance point about 75mm up from the tip.

Disclaimer: For the purposes of this review, the retailer Pen Heaven provided this Rotring 800 mechanical pencil to me free of charge.


Evan said...

Would love to own a 800 someday. I understand the hole in caps is to protect accidental swallowing/choking, but tbh I like a solid cap as it lets me get rid of the little eraser. I guess I'm just afraid with repeated removal the eraser will eventually break off.

Anonymous said...

I think Rotring have improved the tip wobble over the years. New ones are much better than ones from many years ago.

2nd_astronaut said...

Pen Heaven was right, that this review was missing here! ;-)
I have to admit, that I don't have an 800, oops. Maybe I should get one, as long as they are in production. I also thought long time about getting a Newton Lava, but never did. Now they are expensive as hell :-o

Kiwi-d said...

Yea, Lava is as hot as hell :)

Cytherian said...
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Cytherian said...
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Cytherian said...

The sad, unfortunate thing with the rOtring 800 release is that some things changed from the 600G. The most notable was the tip opening diameter.

As a result there is some side-to-side movement that can appear as "tip wobble". It's not 100% guaranteed, but due to production machining variances, some 800 pencils will demonstrate this more than others. However, there is a remedy -- simple clear tape, carefully cut and applied. You can also use an o-ring that helps add stability. Here's an annotated photo to explain it better:

After doing this, the tip on my rOtring 800 is nearly rock-solid, maybe 99.5% of the way there. Plenty enough not to feel it any longer when writing. Naturally, there may be some gradual erosion and the tape would need to be applied again, but I don't foresee this being a regular occurrence. Even still, once you do this fix it's a cinch to apply again in the future if needed.