Saturday, January 26, 2008

Pelikan Pura Mechanical Pencil Review

Pelikan Pura Mechanical Pencil Review

If you are a pencil person then you have got to give Pelikan a lot of credit. These days many of the prestigious writing instrument brands offer very few pencils, but Pelikan still offer a pencil option for most of their models. For those of you who may not be familiar with Pelikan, they are a German company, founded in the 1830’s, and today they produce a full range of prestigious writing instruments as well as art supplies and everyday office stationery and equipment. I have been very remiss in not previously reviewing any of their pencils. So, today we kick off with a review of the Pura, one of the models in their more mid-priced range of ‘metal writing instruments’, the level below the models of ‘fine writing instruments’.
The Pura has a lot of aesthetic elements that I like. I believe it’s a available in a ‘silver’ option but mine is the ‘blue’ option. The blue and mirror chrome go well together, a very classy techno sort of look. Man, that chrome is shiny. Real shiny. The blue is a more subdued semi-gloss finish. I like how they have used the chrome to frame a large rectangle of blue on the lower half of the body. Reminiscent of the geometric art deco styles. Overall it’s a fairly substantial yet sleek looking pencil.

The pocket clip is one of the more interesting features of this pencil. It’s a thin piece of sheetmetal, curved laterally so it conforms to the outside circumference of the pen body. There is absolutely no gap between the clip and the body. The clip is spring loaded and mounted right at the very top of the body, which makes me think of the old style soldier clips. These were clip styles with the idea that when the your pen or pencil was clipped inside a uniform shirt pocket you could still button the pocket flap down and the pen would not show or interfere with your uniform. But then the Pura’s clip is probably too long and would still peak out from under the pocket flap and you’d get your name taken down by the drill sergeant.

Although the Pura looks quite substantial it’s an aluminium pencil and thus relatively lightweight in relation to its size. It feels cold when you fist pick up. There is no special grip zone or grip enhancements so you can hold it wherever you like. The blue finish has a little bit of friction to its surface so its not a super-slippery grip, but its not the best after an extended period of writing on a hot summers day. The tip is a tapering cone so this is a writing pencil, not draughting. The tip is not retractable so it’s not exactly pocket safe either. It appears the only lead size option in the Pura is 0.7mm. Lead advance is via a twist action ratchet mechanism – the whole top half of the body twists to click the lead out. The twist range is about 120 degrees to activate the mechanism - 10 twists will get you 9mm of lead. As usual a spring mechanism automatically un-twists the body when you hit the stop position and let go. For some reason I found this twist action a little harder to operate one-handed than other similar mechanisms, perhaps because the pocket clip doesn’t sit out and provide any assistance when grasping the top section. Despite the visually minimal pocket clip this pencil is a little top heavy in use.

To refill the lead chamber you…yes well, this is where it gets complicated. Firstly, as is so often the case, I didn’t receive any instruction sheet with my pencil. I’ll give Pelikan the benefit of the doubt and assume that this means the retailer just lost it, because it’s impossible for Joe Public to refill this pencil without instructions. Surely Pelikan include literature with this pencil. A quick search on the Pelikan website failed to reveal any instructions on how to refill the pencil, but maybe its there, just hidden a bit better than my quick look and search. So, here’s how you refill it:
1 = Pull the body apart. It’s quite tough, just pull hard. This reveals a fairly small eraser.2 = The eraser is push-fitted into a blind housing, so there is no “lead refill hole” beneath it. Instead you grab that black plastic section in the middle of the now exposed internal mechanism and unscrew it from the shaft.3 = Remove the lead chamber cap by pulling on the thin plastic shaft…hey presto, we’re there. Stick some leads in and reassemble. Seriously, they can’t expect anyone but a pencil-head like me to work this out for themselves? Can they? I mean it’s all a bit of a hassle. Now since so many readers are of the highly observant variety, there’s a good chance you are thinking “Hmmm, something familiar about that lead chamber cap”. Yes indeed, it appears Mr Pelikan is buying his componentry from Mr Schmidt, so the pencil mechanism is effectively the “Schmidt Converter” and I guess there’s a possibility Schmidt make the whole pencil on contract to Pelikan. Actually the Pelikan pencil insert is very slightly different from my featured Schmidt Convertor, but other distinctive details of it are the same so I’m sure it’s just a Pelikanised version of Schmidt’s standard production.

The markings on the pencil are “Pelikan” and “Germany” at the bottom of the upper body section, and that nice Pelikan pelican logo is engraved into the top of the top cap.

My pencil arrived in an interesting Pelikan case. It’s a small metal case, but the sides are mostly fabric, and it zips together. Something just that little bit unusual.
  • Best Points – The looks. Unusual pocket clip.
  • Not So Good Points – Lead refill procedure.
  • Price Range – High.

Dimensions – Length 139mm, diameter 11mm at lower body. Balance point about 80mm up from the tip.

Next review will be a "P for Parker" posting.

Friday, January 25, 2008

P is for?

I’m struggling. Maybe it's the weather?

That big long blog free break over Dec/Jan has taken its toll. I want to get back into it, just can’t quite seem to get around to it. I’m typing this as part of the programme to force myself to get on with it.

The rest of January and then February will be featuring the letter “P” - that’s P for the long neglected Pelikan, and also for Parker and for Pentel. It will also be P for pen.

Just to whet the appetite, heres a little something from Pelikan.
That long black thing in the centre of this shot of the dump that I call my desk, is the Pelikan 'two-pen pouch'. It’s very nice supple black leather, keeps those pencils from taking a beating in your briefcase, etc. Well worth the investment. The big long flap folds over the top and tucks in through a belt loop type arrangement to secure it shut.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Pentel Pen Set - RK10 + P1135

Nice presentation case.
Open it up and here’s a Pentel pen & pencil set I got at auction late last year. The rollerball pen has “RK10” on its cap, and the pencil has “0.5 P1135” on its cap. The set is in excellent condition.
I don’t know anything about either the RK10 or P1135, but from their looks I would say they’re from the 1980’s or so. They are fairly slimline type designs by today’s standards, and the pocket clips look a bit “retro”. When in use, the metal caps are obviously intended to be posted on the end of the body, particularly with the pencil.The top end of the pencil body has this rounded button on it.When the metal cap is posted on the end of the body it forces the metal cap push-top button out so you can then click it to advance the lead. Rather similar concept to the current Sharp Kerry.
Overall I’d say this was a pretty good score, one of those nice surprises from when you take a chance and bid on an auction with a poor picture, a vendor who claims to “know nothing”, etc. Balances out the disappointments of so many other auctions when the goods turned out to be not quite as good as you had hoped for.

So, if anyone knows when the P1135 dates from, then please leave a comment.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Manufactum Druckstift Feinstrichmine Mechanical Pencil Review

Just to set the scene, Manufactum are a German company that sells a wide range of products, from food and clothing to furniture and office supplies, via the web and their good old fashioned hardcopy catalogue. I’ve got a few pages of their hardcopy catalogue and they are great. I really like browsing these sorts of things. I particularly like the featured page with all its fancy globes, compasses, altimeters, etc. The company by-line is “The Good Things In Life Still Exist”. I obtained my pencil the easy way, that is, someone very kindly just sent me one, namely Gunther from Germany. Anyway, enough introduction.

Manufactum Item 1765 1830 “Druckstift Feinstrichmine” 0.5mm which is apparently a rather fancy and somewhat unusual way of saying “Fine Lead Propelling Pencil”, which is what the English version of the catalogue says.
It’s an all metal, smallish pencil, rather subdued in its looks. The main body is a brushed satin finish and the trims are polished. In comparison to many other pencils it seems to be a little in-between size wise. By that I mean too big to be a mini-pencil but too small to give the impression of being full-size. Ladies size is the sort of description that comes to mind.

Much to my surprise, this is a vanishing point pencil. You push down on the top button to advance the lead holding sleeve out of the body and it locks into place. Then short clicks of the top button activate the ratchet lead advance mechanism (10 clicks for 6mm of lead), and a hard push will release and retract the point back into the body. The spring mechanism controlling this vanishing point seems pretty strong and powerful. One minor little quibble I have is that when retracted, the end of the lead sleeve is only just inside the body, so if your lead was a little longer than average it will be left sticking out of the end of the pencil body. Overall though, the vanishing point provides the ultimate in pocket protection, and combined with the smallish size, I think this pencil would be well suited to slipping inside a pocketbook, notebook, purse, compendium, etc. The pocket clip also ties in with this theme. It’s a small flat but quite strong piece of steel.

As you can see in the photos, the grip section is a very fine diamond cut pattern. Despite it being a very fine smooth cut pattern, I did find it a little uncomfortable and abrasive on the skin after longer periods of use. But maybe I’m just a wussy. On the positive side though, there’s no chance of losing your grip! The grip is a fairly narrow one (ladies size remember) so probably not really suited to those who wear size extra-large gloves.

The lead sleeve is a 4mm long thin tube so despite my earlier statements about it being a notebook pencil there’s no question it’s also suitable as a draughting pencil. However, like most vanishing points, there is a very small amount of play in the tip, so that might worry the super-precision folk amongst us. There is a small eraser under the top cap, which as expected covers the lead refill chamber. It appears only a 0.5mm lead version is available.

As far as I can tell there are no markings or other identifications on this pencil. It is the ultimate generic, so generic you might just find it being sold by all sorts of crowds. For instance, go looking on the Standardgraph catalogue [Broken link removed] and you will find item 571421, which is the exact same pencil. Generic or not though, this pencil seems to be pretty good quality.
  • Best Points – Vanishing point.
  • Not So Good Points – No identification markings. Diamond grip can be a problem for some.
  • Price Range – Low/Mid.
Dimensions – Length 135mm with tip out, diameter 7mm. Balance point about 75mm up from the tip. Weight 16g.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Sad Day

Sorry pencil people, I will actually publish a real pencil item real soon, but I’m compelled to put this up now. Sir Edmund Hillary died today, aged 88. A sad, sad day for us Kiwis, for the greatest of us has gone. Mountaineer, adventurer, philanthropist, and regular guy next-door. In early life he was an apiarist, so like me I’m sure he enjoyed a nice bit of toast and honey. I never met him, although I well remember the day my friends had too much to drink, looked his address up in the telephone book and stumbled on round to talk to him. He was very gracious to the drunken yobs.

Some quotes I like,

* On being the first to climb Mt Everest, reaching the summit with Sherpa Tenzing Norgay:
-- "We knocked the bastard off."
* On the 50th anniversary of his climb:
-- "I like to think that I am a very ordinary New Zealander, not terribly bright perhaps, but determined and practical in what I do."
* On being knighted by the Queen, “Sir Ed”:
-- "It was a tremendous honour, of course, but I had never really approved of titles and couldn't really imagine myself possessing one."
--"I could see myself walking down Broadway St, Papakura, in my tattered overalls and the seat out of my pants, and I thought (now that I’m a peer of the realm) `That's gone forever. I'll have to buy a new pair of overalls'."
* On being a New Zealander:
-- "In some ways I believe I epitomise the average New Zealander. I have modest abilities, I combine these with a good deal of determination and I rather like to succeed."
* When asked by an Indian reporter if he knew many people saw him as a god:
-- "Well I know I'm not, so it doesn't bother me."
* On ascending the summit of Everest, from his book ‘View From The Summit’:
-- "I continued cutting a line of steps upwards. Next moment I had moved on to a flattish exposed area of snow with nothing but space in every direction. Tenzing quickly joined me and we looked round in wonder. To our immense satisfaction we realised we had reached the top of the world."
* On reaching the Polar Plateau after leading the first vehicles overland in Antarctica to the South Pole in 1957 and wondering "whether I was heading in the right direction".
--"I thought, `well Ed, me boy, we've done it'."
* On why he wanted his ashes scattered in Auckland's Waitemata Harbour:
--"To be washed gently ashore, maybe on the many pleasant beaches near the place I was born. Then the full circle of my life will be complete."

I just had to sneak Sir Ed into a pencil review.

Friday, January 04, 2008


Rather than getting straight back into penciling, I'm slowly easing myself back into the blogosphere, and thought I'd start with something holiday seasonish instead - but I have managed to get a pencilish link into it, however tenuous. I was playing with my new camera and thought I’d try a few shots of pohutukawa trees and then this blog posting sort of came to mind.

Pohutukawa, pronounced Po’-hu-tu-ka’-wa :-
Po rhymes with Jo
Hu as in Who
Tu as in 2
Ka as in Car
Wa rhymes with Ka / Car

OK, it’s a tree, often called our “Christmas Tree” because of its deep red flowers over the December-January period. It’s primarily a coastal tree, growing right on the edge of the beach or precariously out of impossibly small ledges or cracks in shear cliff faces. It’s quite a large tree, growing to maximum of about 20 metres (70ft) tall but very wide spreading, perhaps up to 50m (160ft) canopy diameter. Most trees though are probably about half that size. Its one of those trees that hates straight lines. Why grow a straight branch when you can grow one that twists, curls, bends, corkscrews, and generally wriggles about instead? And you can even throw in an elbow or a U-turn just for fun too!

A specimen tree planted by the council on the grassed coastal strip.
A suburban neighbourhood tree in full flower. Pohutukawa are quite popular trees, and many people will go to considerable lengths to accommodate them on their property. For example, holes in fences and walls to let the tree grow through are quite common.Pohutukawa trees do have more than scenic value. Those big twisty branches were quite useful in days gone by. The wood was much favoured by early European boat-builders as it was very resistant to seaworms, and all those natural bends were ideal for boat construction. The ribs of the largest wooden sailing ship built in NZ, the 409-tonne Stirlingshire were made from pohutukawa. The flowers are big hairy puff-ball sort of things, and you end up with carpets of the “hair” under the tree. Damn nuisance most of the time.

My wife got a bit floral arty and made a 'pohutukawa flower and red rose' arrangement for the Christmas dining table.
It’s a limited crop and rather expensive, but in this part of the world pohutukawa is generally regarded as the premier honey. Very light and creamy but with a distinctive taste. Mmmm, yum, there were 2 jars in my Christmas stocking, and a new honey-spoon.

Now for the pencil link. Well, the wood has some popularity with wood-artists, so here’s a pencil-holder made from pohutukawa with a paua (mother-of-pearl) inlay in the centre-top.