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.


Max said...

I really wonder why so many of the top brands still rely on a twisting mechanism rather than the push-button mechanism. It's so annoying having to twist it if you like me use my pencils a lot. Credits to Lamy (and Caran d'Ache Ecridor) for making high-quality pencils with push-button systems.

Anonymous said...

interesting pencil. nice lines i must say. probably won't ever get one, though. I'm more into techy looking MP.

dave, just get out 10 pencils, and do write ups on em. do it every week, and you will have most done in no time!!!


Anonymous said...

Staedtler released a new funky 1.3 mm mp at the paperworld fair.

Kiwi-d said...

Germ, you gone crazy man! Cabin fever from being snow bound in winter? :-)

10 a week!?! That's 2 every working day. I can hardly handle 1 every ten days.

Buliders have started destroying another part of my house today so pencils are all packed away - just 2 out for the next 2 weeks reviewing.

Anonymous said...

focus Grasshopper!!!!!

Unknown said...

Max: I tell you it's a conspiracy foisted upon us by Schmidt et al.

The twist mechanism has been around for a very long time. If you look at a lot of luxury ballpoint pens and pencils, they are mostly twist mechanism.

Given the Schmidt converter about which Dave has written, it makes a lot more sense to use economies of scale and make the same body for both pen and pencil. There is not a lot of complaint from people about twist ballpoint pens except for those habitual pen clickers.

I own a Caran d'Ache Metrub (among others) and the push button mechanism bothers me in one aspect. The nicely polished cap rubs against the inside of the hard metal body and there are scratch marks around the bottom of the cap that are plainly visible. Hardly the image of luxury especially since I paid USD 330 for it. Even a USD 100 Ecridor can suffer the same fate. I'm fine if that happens with a USD 5-15 pencil but not with something over USD 25.

Take the prototypical (although much hated) example of a Montblanc pen/pencil/thingie. If you were to convert it to a push button (like the old Parker 75 style), very soon that top half will slide over the bottom half enough times to mark up the surface of that relatively soft resin and leave a pretty ugly mess. Even if you were to line the inside of the top half with something like felt, the felt will rub and will mark the surface over time. Montblanc also shapes their pens and pencils so they are as close to the appearance of their fountain pen. It is their signature look. Using a standard push button mechanism does not fit that image.

If you want bizarre, take a look at Pelikan's Souveran 400 series. The 400 and 405 have push button pens and pencils while the 420, 425 and 450 have twist pens and pencils. All of the other Souveran lines have twist pens and pencils. If you look at their "look and feel" the twist pens and pencils look a lot more like their fountain pens than the push button ones do.

Unknown said...

I suspect people would glaze over this comment if I included it in the previous diatribe.

I actually like Dave's review pace. He writes very thorough reviews and takes a good look at design flaws, usability concerns and the other nitpicky details (lead wiggling, rattles, balance, weight, etc). It almost feels like I'm taking the pencil for a test drive without doing it. Certainly, I appreciate it when I consider buying a pencil online.

Take the Ohto Super Promecha. I bought it with reservation given Dave's review. I wanted one for the collection so I was going to get one anyhow but I wondered if it could be my main pencil. I could see the issues that he had raised and it is not my main pencil for some of the same reasons.

Kiwi-d said...

Hi Max & Wilson. Well Wilson's pretty much said it all - its a matter of pen/pencil styling and economies of scale. I'm sure most of the luxury brands just buy all their componentry from OEM manufacturers like Schmidt so that one body can take different itnernals to make a MP, BP, FP or RB as required. But like you Max, personally I do wish there were more luxury brand push-top pencils.

Thanks for the nice words about my reviewing style. I'm glad I manage to hold some peoples interest (in something so inherently exciting and dynamic as pencils) :-)

Anonymous said...

I love the looks of some of the high end pencils, but really do not like twist mechanisms, which are simply not practical for heavy use.

One other quibble: how many megabuck pencils have conical (vs. thin cylindrical) sleeves. For me, that is a dealbreaker.

Kiwi-d said...

Yes I agree it would be nice to have some more lead sleeve choices on the premier instruements. Still, all a matter of styling, of writing vs technical drawing, etc.

Michael J Corry said...

In a belated reply to Iron Mike .....
All my Cross pencils (except the Tech 3 multipen) have thin cylindrical sleeves, albeit shorter than a real drafting pencil. They're all twist action, though.
Parker's Insgnia (now defunct) also had thin tubes as did the Sonnet range until recently when they switched to an odd hybrid arrangement like the Jotter. Probably they share the same mechanism. As far as I know the Duofold still uses a thin tube.

Anonymous said...

Just want to tell you this explanation for how to change the lead saved my sanity. I've been trying to figure it out for a few weeks. Very well done, especially the pictures - John C.