Monday, February 13, 2006

Porsche Design P'3130 Mechanical Pencil Review

When I first saw a picture of the Porsche Design P’3130 Micado mechanical pencil I knew I had to have one. That whole twisting rod design just really appealed to me.

The P’3130 looks like no other mechanical pencil. Basically 17 stainless steel rods slowly spiral around to form the body, and two end caps secure them and complete the pencil. The rods are the dominating feature and you grip them when you write. There is something good about the feel of the cold hard steel when you first pick it up and idly roll or twirl the pencil around in your fingers. But when it comes to actually writing, the grip is not the best. I often want to grip where the rods join into the front cap, but that’s not a comfortable place. The rods are actually quite comfortable, and good and sturdy, but after a little while my grip starts to slip and I have to start squeezing tight to stay in place.

I did have a thought about dust and dirt and other things getting stuck down in the rods and causing problems, but I don’t think its really anything to worry about.
Porsche decided against an in-built eraser on this mechanical pencil. The spring loaded pocket clip is very practical, and removable. If you choose to remove it a small raised dome on the end cap stops the pencil rolling. That’s good attention to detail.

This is a twist action ratchet mechanism pencil taking 0.7mm leads. The metal sleeve point is not retractable, but is not too sharp either so it’s not a problem. The twist action is of course twisting (actually un-twisting) the rods to advance the lead. Unfortunately this is basically a two handed operation. If you have good manual dexterity you can do it one-handed, but it’s not easy. Inside the body of the pencil, the leads are held in a cartridge which takes 5 leads. You refill the leads by unscrewing the front section of the pencil to get at the cartridge. I must admit to some initial trouble refilling it. The instruction “Open lead holder” was a bit beyond a simple person like me. “Open it how, where, which end?” perplexed me for sometime. The answer is that you pull the tight-fitting brass end cap out of the plastic tube.

This is a big bold heavy pencil, proudly, but not ostentatiously marked with “Porsche Design, P’3130, Germany”. I like a writing instrument that’s marked with its name and model, it says to me that it’s prepared to stand up and be counted.

Porsche Design are the heirs to a world famous design legacy. They claim to be “The epitome of unique design combined with technical and functional perfection. The uncompromising standard of ‘engineering’ products instead of just giving them a perfect look has paid off ”(sic). I am sorry, but the problems with grip, and the need to use two hands to advance the lead just don’t go with these claims of world class design excellence. Originally I had clich├ęd thoughts of “a triumph of form over function, style over substance”, but that’s being far too harsh. As much as I love the Micado pencil, I do not think they have totally met their own high standards.
  • Best Points – The rods, they are an amazing and totally unique idea, look and feel.
  • Not So Good Points – Lead advance mechanism, grip not the best.
  • Price Range – High to Stratospheric.

Dimensions – Length 147mm, diameter 12mm at the ends, narrowing to 10mm in the middle. Balance point about 85mm up from the tip.
Note – The Porsche Design range of pencils were designed for and manufactured by Faber-Castell.


Anonymous said...

That's a very fine photo;)

Penmaniacs said...

dave i am to recieve a 200-300 dollar pencil from family and are wondering which one to get

Kiwi-d said...

Wes, well I wish my family were as generous :-)
In this price range you are paying for looks and brandname, so I really don't think I can advise you much. The P3130 is mighty fine looking thing, if not 100% practical. Perhaps Caran d'Ache Varius is worth a look too?

Penmaniacs said...

thanks dave, i was looking at the tec flex porsche pencil. its also made of steel rods but they appear to be thinner

Penmaniacs said...

when i was at the porsche store i picked up and tried a micado and i personally thought the mechanism was really nice. probably not very practical but pretty cool. all porsche products were way different from the normal. They had a pen that to extract the refill you flick your wrist while holding it.

Anonymous said...

How is the platinized metal piece that front end of this pencil screwed to secured with 17 stainless steel rods? Are they simply glued? I have experiences with German pen and pencils that they use very strong glues but eventually it breaks off.

Unknown said...

I'm really surprised how many people like this pencil. I find it way too heavy and impractical for use. The Rotring 500 or Alvin/draftmatic aren't quite as fancy, but work just as well.

I'm waiting on my Tombow Carbon Fibre as the low-weight / luxury device.

Kiwi-d said...

font9a - not disagreeing with your assessment, but the P'3130 is just so cool.

BreezeAir said...

The P3100 has far better grip.

Lenscape said...

Porsche Design pencils look fantastic...but mechanism sucks..except the 3130.. is really one of my favorites..My pencil