Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Glen’s Customized Sanford Technician Mechanical Pencil

Here’s another guest article. Hacking away at my pencils is not something I’ve really done, but I have had quite a few emails from readers telling me or asking me about modifying their favourite pencil to make it even better. Glen is an illustrator and here’s his article on how he has customized his Technician pencils. (Dave)
Until the early 90's I had always used Staedtler Mars Lumograph wood pencils for my illustration work. I grew increasingly tired of having to sharpen and shape the ends though, so I decided to try mechanical pencils. With not a lot to choose from and my knowledge base limited (this was pre-internet for me) I settled on a Pentel Sharplet 300 that I used with the unwieldy cap / top half removed. It was short but it did the trick.
Photo - Pentel Sharplet 300 (many years of constant use, still works great but too short and bothersome eraser design), unknown ( XF202) short-lived second mp (eraser not up to snuff)

This lasted me until the late 90's when increasing frustration with the cost and bother of the short eraser style of the Sharplet started me looking for another mechanical pencil. I loved the Technician when I first found one in a small out-of-town stationary store in 1998. It had the perfect twist eraser for me (no more pulling out and reinserting short eraser bits every day or two), the perfect length and weight, but it also the hated rubber grip. For an illustrator with a tight pencil style this was unacceptable. So I decided to see if I could customize the Technician to my needs.

The first step was to find more of the pencils. Unfortunately Sanford had just stopped producing the pencil! (They later started manufacturing it again under the Papermate brand, but have since stopped producing it again! Apparently the Papermate Apex - with a much thicker barrel and large retracting tip - has replaced it.) After a fruitless search through local and Canadian suppliers I finally found four Technicians and four ProTouches from an art supply firm in the US and bought all their remaining stock.

To customize the Technician I first tried replacing the rubber grip with epoxy glue but this didn't work for me. I then tried hot glue that I let cool and planned to cut / sand to fit. Unfortunately the glue wouldn't sand well so I had to move on.
Photo - Staedtler 9505 (times 2) and a Sanford Protouch II. These were failed attempts at replacing soft rubber grips with something harder. Shaped hot glue = not so good.

I removed the rubber grip and replaced it with an appropriate length of barrel from a Pilot Fineliner felt tip pen that I cut to size. I used epoxy to fix it to the existing barrel. I then hand sanded the entire length of the pencil to smooth it out and even the two barrel sizes. I also sanded the slightly-too-sharp-for-my-taste top edge of the pencil where the eraser fits in. Lastly I sanded off about 1/3 of the length of the small metal tip that holds the lead because it stuck out further than I wanted.
Photo - A close up of the business end of the customized Sanford Technician II that I've drawn 98% of everything I've illustrated since 1998, the year I first bought and adapted this.
Photo - Three of my four back-up Technicians and my four back-up customized Sanford ProTouch II's. The ProTouch is essentially the same as the Technician from the grip up.

Perfection! Eight years of daily use (sometimes 12-14 hours a day in my hand) with no comfort issues, no mechanical problems and no breakages has proven this pencil is the right one for me.
Photo - One customized Technician ( left ) and my four customized ProTouch pencils. The ProTouch's have been sanded to smooth the rough grips and to reduce the length of the lead sleeve.
Photo - My five customized Techinicians. The one with the tape on the end holds a slightly harder lead (H instead of F) that I use occasionally depending on the paper I use.
Just in case you are interested, Glen’s pencils are 0.5mm, and he usually uses Pentel leads in H or F grade.

All photos by Glen. Check out Glen’s website here.

Also check out this earlier guest review of the “unmodified” Technician by Eric.


Anonymous said...

A "stationary" store? How convenient!

Anonymous said...

Hey, I was wondering where I could find the old Staedtler 9505("Integrity"), you know- the one without the clip. You can contact me at boombowers@yahoo.com.