Thursday, August 03, 2006

Sensa Carbon Black Mechanical Pencil Review

Sensa Carbon Black Mechanical Pencil Review

A Sensa, the “King of Rubber Grips”, my own personal Everest in the quest to overcome my aversion to rubber grips???

With that great big bulbous contoured grip, the Sensa Carbon Black mechanical pencil certainly looks rather unique. I am not normally a fan of that sort of look but I must admit that the Sensa manages to get away with it. I think because it’s just a simple rather plain austere look in black and chrome, but with the “SENSA” name and styling adding a slightly exotic, almost oriental look.

You would expect this to be a push top ratchet pencil, but actually it’s a twist ratchet mechanism. You twist that small section above the pocket clip. As expected there is a small eraser under the top cap. The pocket clip is a sturdy springy variety, good and workable. The lead sleeve retracts so this pencil is reasonably pocket safe - only the tube part of the sleeve retracts, the upper cone part of the sleeve remains extended. You can get the Carbon Black in 0.5 or 0.7mm versions.

When I bought this Sensa I thought I had read somewhere that it was an auto-advance mechanism, but there is no mention of it in their literature or on their website. Well I was wrong, it is not an auto-advancer, it's a sliding or retracting sleeve, but not a particularly good one. It just doesn’t really retract back easily enough. The tip of the metal sleeve indents the paper as it scrapes along and your writing becomes very light. Because of that scraping it’s not really comfortable to write while it’s retracting. You can see indents or scrapes when the tip moves through an already written part of a letter. Actually it’s better if you like light writing and press softly onto the paper, but I tend to be a bit on the heavy-handed side of town. So as usual its best to keep manually advancing the lead and just let the sleeve retract to get out those last few letters if you are in a hurry.

I know you’ve been waiting - so what about that great big grip? The much vaunted “plasmium” grip is really what the Sensa brand is all about. They claim it flows and moulds to your fingers to provide the ultimate in comfort and grip, and that it virtually eliminates fatigue and cramp. The most comfortable pens and pencils in the world! Well I got a finger cramp within three minutes - the first writers’ cramp I have had in years, I can’t even remember the last time I got a cramp! So first things first. This plasmium grip absolutely does flow under your fingers, and within a few minutes has moulded to their shape, and that’s some surprisingly weird shapes! You can actually feel the grip flowing and moulding under your fingers, and I think that’s the cause of my problem. I would have to describe myself as one of those people who really hold on tight to their pen or pencil. I used to have a huge callous on my middle finger where my pencil was pressed into, but I’ve managed to loosen up a bit over the years and its now a more “normal” sized lump. But because that plasmium grip isn’t solid, I think that I just automatically kept on squeezing, and it flowed, so I squeezed more, and it flowed more, so I squeezed …..I think you get the idea, and can work out how I ended up with cramp in a few minutes. Also I tend to take “micro-breaks” and frequently rotate the pencil in my fingers. Now with a grip specially moulded to your fingers you can’t rotate every minute or so because then your finger depressions are in the wrong place and you start the whole moulding process over again.

There is no doubt that the Sensa plasmium grip really improves your grip on the pencil, but it tends to lock you into one place, and it’s obviously better with lighter finger pressure. I can certainly imagine that people with hand problems like arthritis would think the Sensa was great, but I would strongly advise anyone to “try before you buy”, much more so than with any other mechanical pencil. You may need to train yourself in how to grip it. Just another comment for people with hand problems – the twist mechanism for lead advance might prove a bit of a problem.

Sensa ship the Carbon Black in a colourful cardboard package. Your pencil is then inside a transparent blue plastic clamshell type presentation case which they have certainly put some thought into. As a clamshell it is a protective travel case. Inside is a business card holder recess. You can place your pencil inside on the supports, or on the top of the closed clamshell where there is a depression for it to rest in. Great idea, but personally I unfortunately don’t like the transparent blue crystal plastic look. Also your pencil arrives with a great little bonus, a tube of replacement erasers; they are Pentel PDE-1’s. I really do wish more of the premium writing instrument manufacturers would go that little bit extra and give you a spare eraser or something, so kudos to Sensa and the others who do.
  • Best Points – The looks actually grew on me. The presentation case, or at least the idea of it. The plasmium grip.
  • Not So Good Points – One of the more difficult twist mechanisms to operate. The plasmium grip (yes, its good and bad!)
  • Price Range – Mid.

Dimensions – Length 148mm, main barrel diameter 9mm, but 12mm at widest part of grip. Balance point about 70mm up from the tip.

Rather surprising recent front page of a local newspaper. "Newly discovered documents". Perhaps the plan was never put into use because of a USMC Major noting that the design and frequency of fencing in the residential areas of Auckland could significantly hinder cavalry operations!?!!? No word yet on whether it is all just a "hoax" document. Don't you just love history? The battleships are the visit of the US "Great White Fleet" to NZ.


Penmaniacs said...

i have that sir edmond hilary book i was him for my bio fair last year. He is a cool kiwi. A shame he passed away 2 years ago,he is a hero.

Anonymous said...

How do you add lead to the pencil??

Anonymous said...

Pull the top cap off, pull the eraser out and stick some lead in.

Anonymous said...

I like my Sensa pencil very much, but I cannot figure out how to refill the lead. I've tried and tried to get the top cap off with no success. The eraser comes out, but that doesn't provide access to the lead chamber. ??????

Kiwi-d said...

My Sensa instruction booklet reads thus

1 - Unscrew grip from barrel
2 - Remove brass cap from lead chamber
3 - Fill chamber with a maximum of 5 lead sticks