Saturday, June 02, 2007

Pilot Rexgrip and Pilot Rexgrip BegreeN Mechanical Pencil Review

Pilot Rexgrip H-105-SL and Pilot Rexgrip BegreeN HRG-10R Mechanical Pencil Review
Firstly, whats the difference between these two mechanical pencils, the Rexgrip and the Rexgrip BegreeN? Visually, the answer is nothing. They are the same. The difference is that the Rexgrip BegreeN is from Pilots ‘green’ environmental range, and the Rexgrip is from their ordinary range. They are the exact same pencil, just the materials and/or manufacturing process of the BegreeN version supposedly make it better for the environment.
The Rexgrip is apparently only available in 0.5mm lead, which is a little unusual by todays standards. It’s an all-plastic body, so is quite lightweight as you would expect. It comes in a small selection of transparent colours, my red one is a nice bright colour scheme. You can see inside the body with some back-lighting. I’m not totally happy with the look of the rubber grip section though. It is smoothly integrated into the contour of the body, but it has some little cut-out sections in it which I find a little annoying when “under the finger”. I basically don’t like such discontinuities. The rubber grip itself is a fairly hard compound so there is little to no cushioning effect. There is a small amount of extra grip from the compound, but nothing spectacular. Pilot state the Rexgrip has a “soft integrated grip”, well if that’s their idea of soft, then they would have to call many other manufacturers grips an “extra super mega soft grip”. Moulded into the body in small letters is “Pilot Japan” so one assumes they are made in Japan.

The Rexgrip uses a standard push top ratchet mechanism, 10 clicks advances 6mm of lead. The short metal sleeve is retractable for pocket safety. There is a small eraser under the clear top cap. It is 14mm x Ø5mm, but because of the housing, only about 5 mm of length is easily usable. The pocket clip is in a contrasting colour, and is a reasonably good one for a basic plastic clip. “Pilot Rexgrip 0.5” is printed on the clip.

Overall I haven’t got much to say about the Rexgrip. It strikes me as just an ordinary everyday economy grade pencil. It’s a good pencil, there’s nothing particularly wrong with it, it’s just there’s nothing particularly noteworthy about it either.

  • Best Points – I quite like the look and colour scheme.

  • Not So Good Points – The metal lead sleeve sometimes doesn’t retract 100% back into the tip.

  • Price Range – Economy.

Dimensions – Length 147mm, diameter 10mm at grip section. Balance point about 80mm up from the tip.

Right, well, that’s the pencil as a pencil. Up above I said “…it’s just there’s nothing particularly noteworthy about it either.” Well, that’s not quite the case for the Rexgrip BegreeN, since it is claiming “green environmentalness”, and all those warm fuzzies you get by association.
So, what exactly are the environmental credentials of the Rexgrip BegreeN? According to Pilots literature, the BegreeN range of products are made from recycled materials. To be more specific, the claim is that 100% of the plastic content of the item is recycled, so Pilot state 65.7% recycled for the Rexgrip BegreeN, meaning the recycled plastic parts make 65.7% of the pencil by weight, and the other 34.3% of the pencil is non-recycled metal, eraser and other non-plastic componentry. Furthermore, Pilots operations are certified to an ISO 14001 Environmental Management System by the Japanese Standards Association, to give us some independent verification of their claims.

What does all this environmental stuff actually mean? Well the cynic in me is always suspicious, but this does mean something, probably something good. But these things are so complicated, it’s hard to get to “the truth”. People with vested interests create all sorts of smokescreens and scams and dress them up in an “environmental” label to try and hide the fact they are just spinning us. A current example would be the “Food Miles” thing – absolute bogus nonsense wrapped in a smokescreen of science and environmentalism. Long-time readers of this blog might have picked up on a hint of “Greenie” about me. It’s true, I do consider myself a bit of a greenie. We inherently want to believe that recycled plastic is better environmentally than new virgin material made from oil. But it’s often not quite that easy. Think of the carbon emissions from all those trucks operating suburban curbside recycling schemes. You put your plastic out on rubbish day, a truck (diesel powered) collects it, it eventually ends up at a processing plant and is turned into recycled plastic moulding material (using electricity generated by… coal/gas/oil fired power station?). All this assumes its locally recycled as well. What if your recycled plastic is actually exported to the third world somewhere for processing and then shipped back? I’m not saying this happens in this case, or that recycled isn’t best, I’m just saying there can be more to it than just “Recycled = Better than Not Recycled”.

Back in the 1980’s when I specified what plastic materials my companies products were moulded from, I was keen to use recycled material, but it was more expensive than virgin material! To add insult to injury, recycled material also had inferior properties, wasn’t certified for food contact, and so on. A lot of advances have been made with recycled material, the price of virgin vs recycled material has changed, so things are different these days, but still, I take all “recycled” scenarios with a grain of salt. Things are not always what they seem.

As I say, I’m a cynic, but nevertheless I commend Pilot for their BegreeN range. And we can have some confidence in their claims because of their independent certification by the Japanese Standards Association. Obviously they have done this because of commercial interest, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t the right thing to do.

Footnote: Coming soon, some words on Pilot BegreeN 0.5mm Leads.

Disclaimer (and Free Advertisement?): My Rexgrip BegreeN (but not ordinary Rexgrip) was given to me free of charge by
Cult Pens in the UK.

Lots of people on the environmental bandwagon these days. Here's some Australians trying to get us New Zealanders to buy their wine and they will donate some money to help save endangered NZ birds and habitats.


Mr Thom said...

I can't wait for your review of the Pilot Clicker that I saw pictured in your Japanese sampler. It's my favourite pencil and I was beaten to the punch, as I had secured one to send through to you. Bonus for me!

J Ferguson said...

I agree that many consumers take "green" statements too literally, for instance, with electric cars. Where does the electricity come from?