Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Lamy Al-Star Mechanical Pencil Review

LAMY Al-Star Graphite Mechanical Pencil

The first thing you notice about the Lamy Model 126 Al-Star graphite mechanical pencil is the pocket clip. At first I didn't think it looked all that good, but its grown on me. Its not spring loaded but it still works well enough. The main body of this Al-Star is a shiny "graphite" colour which seems appropriate for a pencil. Overall its a generally pleasing look, apart perhaps for the clear grey tinted grip section - I'm not entirely convinced by that. But its a minor quibble. I really do like the way "LAMY" is imprinted into the barrel.

The Al-Star is a good length and body diameter, but a little lightweight for its size. But hey, its mostly aluminium so what do you expect? The plastic materials seem to be good solid, hard, scratch resistant compounds, as you would expect from Lamy.

Although the body is round in cross-section, the grip section is triangular, but not really triangular enough. The triangle sides are still somewhat rounded, and its fairly easy to end up gripping it across the points of the triangle rather than across the sides. Its a push button top ratchet mechanism and I feel they have missed the chance to put a decent sized eraser under that large button top. Instead its just a normal sized eraser of normal (limited) efficency. The Al-Star takes 0.5mm leads and lead holder sleeve is retractable. It is supplied in an interesting small cardboard package.

  • Best Points - The looks.
  • Not So Good Points - The triangular grip section.
  • Overall Rating - Mixed feelings, I somehow expected more.
  • Price Range - Mid

Dimensions - 144mm long, 11mm diameter body. Balance point about 85mm up from tip.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Yard-O-Led Deco 34 Mechanical Pencil Review

Yard-O-Led Deco 34 Mechanical Pencil

The all silver square body and uncommon looks of this mechanical pencil make it stand out from your everyday office pens and pencils.
Twist action top to advance or retract lead. Extra leads stored individually inside the body, 12 x 3 inch leads making the “yard of lead”. It’s a bit of an effort to replace a lead. Each one has to be manually replaced, no automatic loading of a new lead like most pencils. The lead is 1.18mm, very thick by general writing standards of 0.5 and 0.7mm, but by frequently turning the pencil as you write you can keep it fairly sharp. One advantage is 1.18mm leads don’t break easily, but I would prefer a thinner lead.
The pocket clip looks nice but is a bit stiff, particularly compared to modern spring loaded clips.
The long tapering grip section is very good. This pencil really “fits” your hand, whether writing or just holding it loose in your fingers while you use the computer mouse. It has good balance and length. Its great! However, if you have a large hand you may find it a bit on the short side.
There is a nice presentation box, leather pouch and polishing cloth with the pencil. Being silver you have to give it the occasional polish to keep its shine, and the tarnish at bay.
Overall this pencil is excellent. Its not perfect but it feels and looks fantastic. Price to match! All those years of Yard-O-Led history are evident in this pencil.

  • Best Points – Looks, and the way it feels in the hand.
  • Not So Good Points – Lead diameter and replacement procedure
  • Overall Rating - Excellent
  • Price Range - Stratospheric

Dimensions – 126mm long, 8 x 8 mm square body. Balance point about 80mm from tip. Handmade solid sterling silver, “barley” pattern finish.

The Start

Here it is, the one that started (or confirmed?) my interest in mechanical pencils. Back in the mid-1980's I had not seen or used anything other than cheap basic pencils, and then I saw this one. A mechanical pencil masterpiece from Pentel!
After all these years it is still in great shape. A bit of brassing on the clip, but I have never had any problem with the mechanism. But you know, I don't even know what model Pentel this is - so if you know I'd really appreciate you telling me.
When it comes to relatively inexpensive pencils, I say stick to Pentel. Having said that, I now generally use something a bit more "up-market". See the Reviews for some.
If you like to use or collect mechanical pencils then I would be interested in hearing from you.