Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Parafernalia Revolution Mechanical Pencil Review

Parafernalia Revolution Mechanical Pencil Review

If unusual looks and designs are your thing, then Parafernalia from Italy is your sort of writing instrument manufacturer. The Revolution is one of their iconic designs, exhibited at the Modern Art Museum in New York. The Revolution certainly has a very unusual look – those rods, all black except for the metal lead sleeve and the six screws on the ends of the rods, it really does look “modern”, “artistic”, “designer” and all those sort of things.

The main body is three metal rods held together in a triangular shape by four tie plates. This triangular shape means it certainly doesn’t roll around on your desk. You can grip the pencil anywhere you like, although to me it feels best down at the tip where you can feel the central mechanism housing in between the rods. When you are having a bit of idle downtime I like the feel of it threaded through my fingers, “rolling” the triangular shape around, although it does feel unusual. It’s also very interesting to feel the stresses and strains of writing – you can feel the rods and mechanism move under your fingers as you write.

The lead sleeve is not retractable, so this pencil is not pocket safe. It is a 0.5mm lead size, push top ratchet mechanism, and there is no eraser. The pocket clip is a rather thin piece of wire with a rubber knob on the end. It does actually work, but I think it’s a bit more decorative than functional. It really looks a bit flimsy and I would be interested to see a clipless version. The weight is about what you would expect, but again its unusual, it almost feels weightless when writing with it, but it does have weight if you concentrate on it. Perhaps it’s something to do with balance and the weight being concentrated at each end, but probably it’s all just some sort of mental illusion bought on by the whole unusualness of the design.

As usual, I was using the Revolution for a week long review period. As the week went on I started to find that the pencil felt more and more unusual in my fingers, rather than me getting used to it. Also I started to feel that the grip wasn’t really positive enough when I was just holding it in “pause” mode. That’s not writing with it, just pausing for a moment to talk or view a computer screen and the Revolution would slide down in my fingers – something about the rods just encouraged that. You sort of just have to relax your fingers a fraction and it slides. This actually became a bit annoying.

The Revolution comes in a simple cardboard box, but you do get a wooden presentation / desk stand, which is a very nice idea.

Italy is a major industrialised nation with a long tradition of superior artisan craftsmanship and is a true world leader in modern design. I went to the 1988 World Expo in Brisbane, Australia and the Italian Pavilion was a marvel, it just oozed quality and superior design. Now, Parafernalia make much of their design heritage on their website, and emphasise the Revolution as “entirely hand-made with 31 miniaturised metallic components and push mechanism”. Against this background I am truly disappointed in the workmanship of the Revolution. Firstly the four tie plates that hold the rods in place are plastic (not metal) and have tool marks on them, presumably from pliers or something similar when they are being assembled. Secondly the push button top has a slightly bent shaft so it doesn’t sit straight on the top of the pencil. Lastly the wooden presentation stand is just plain shameful. When you open the box that this pencil comes in, the very first thing you see is the large sawn-off end of the wooden presentation stand. They couldn’t even be bothered using a bit of sandpaper to remove the splinters and wood fibres from the groove cuts in the block. To a person like me who has a little bit of sawdust in their veins this is just truly appalling. With this quality of workmanship I would be ashamed to sell this product, and Parafernalia should be to.
  • Best Points – A truly unusual design, interesting feeling the pencil flex as you write.
  • Not So Good Points – Disappointing standard of workmanship
  • Price Range – Mid / High.

Dimensions – Length 141mm, 12mm triangular sides. Balance point about 80mm up from the tip.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for this detailed review, which I enjoyed reading.

It's disappointing to learn that the workmanship isn't of the same calibre as the design, as it looks like a very nice writing instrument.

Anonymous said...

I have two Parafernalia Revolution pencils, and neither has the defects mentioned in Dave's review. It is true that the triangular plates holding the body rods together are plastic, but I do not find that a serious drawback; and the ones on my pencils show no sign of scratches or marring. Also, niether of my wooden display stands had rough edges. Maybe Dave got a lemon, but I am very pleased with mine. The Parafernalia Revolution has the best looks and feel of any mechanical pencil I have owned.

Kiwi-d said...

Hi Gregory. Hey thanks for posting your comment. I'm really glad someone has stood up for the Revolution, and is happy with their one. It really is an unusual design. My disappointment was workmanship based so I guess you are right and I got a lemon. Certainly no problem with the ties being plastic, its just they state 'metal components' implying its all metal when it isn't, and of course mine were marked. As you can see in the photo my display stand was a rough job. I'm glad to hear they do know how to make a good one! Thanks again.

Time Waster said...

I never got a good look at this pencil wow is this thing weird I'm surprised it's not a Japanese pencil.

Anonymous said...

I just bought both a pen and pencil of the smaller version. They have a larger version and one made with wood on the tubes. they write well and fit well in my hand. One of the presentation stands had the flaws described earlier but the other does not. I like both the pen and pencil!