Monday, February 18, 2008

Pelikan Souveran D400 Mechanical Pencil Review

Pelikan Souveran D400 Mechanical Pencil Review

The ‘Souveran’ (‘Sovereign’ in English) series of writing instruments are arguably Pelikans signature line. The many models within the series are primarily differentiated by size, but there are some stylistic and other differences. Each member of the series is generally available in multiple writing formats – fountain pen, ballpoint, mechanical pencil, etc.

This review is of the D400 0.7mm lead mechanical pencil, one of the smaller to mid-sized instruments in the Souveran range. Unlike many other Souveran pencils, this one is a push-top ratchet mechanism with a push-top button in the traditional ballpoint pen style. 10 clicks of the button will get you 9 almost 10mm of lead. You pull the top button off to reveal a small eraser, and under that the lead refill magazine. Down at the other end of things, the pencil tip is conical and fixed in position so this pencil is for writing and not particularly pocket safe, although the cone isn’t that sharp. There are no special grip enhancements and I’d rate the grip as average considering the body diameter and material.The D400 has a plastic body and is fairly lightweight. Technically the balance point is quite high up making it top heavy but its light so you don’t really notice. It’s very subjective but somehow being lightweight detracts from my overall impression of the D400. Weight = value for money? The weight just doesn’t seem to fit with the price tag and my expectations.

The lower half of the body is plain glossy black plastic, but the upper half is green with black stripes. Pinstripes if you will. Now, unlike the Parker Duofold, I don’t think these pinstripes are a moulded in feature of the barrel. The more I look, the more I am convinced that they are printed on a sheet which is then cut to size, wrapped around and affixed to the barrel, and that there is a clear glossy outer coating or overlay on top. This looks fine, except on closer inspection, when you can see some mismatch at the join of the pinstriped sheet.

Whilst you can probably tell I’m not overly impressed with the body of the Pelikan, there are couple of redeeming features, namely the trims. The black push top button has a very nice gold coloured Pelikan logo printed on top.The gold plated metal trims seem very good. The central gold band between the upper and lower body halves has “Pelikan Souveran Germany” stamped into it. I always wish that manufacturers would put just a little bit more information on such things, like the model number. The piece de resistance though is the pocket clip, something that Pelikan are well known for. It is a strong metal clip, and quite functional, styled on the beak of a pelican. At the top there are two eyes and the beak (clip) then narrows and expands back out as it sweeps down to the end. Very nice indeed. Very pelicanish. The Pelikan presentation is box is quite nice, I really like the light blue swirl on the top. Now we all know that I’ve bought more than my fair share of ridiculously overpriced luxury pencils and been very happy about it. This time though, something just doesn’t gel, I am left with a sense that I didn’t get value for my money when I bought this pencil.

  • Best Points – Love that pelican beak.
  • Not So Good Points – Something just doesn’t gel – it’s too small or light or something.
  • Price Range – High.

Dimensions – Length 136mm, diameter 10mm. Balance point about 80mm up from the tip.


Glen Mullaly said...

Hi Dave!

Just a quick note to say that despite my lack of recent comments I'm enjoying all yours posts as always.

Keep up the always great work!


Anonymous said...

If you want a better pencil, get the Autopoint you describe below. Older ones are plentiful on eBay in the U.S. I have three Autopoints from the 1920s and they work perfectly. New or old, they are a fraction of the cost of your Pelikan example.

Autopoint pencils are still in production, though by a different company that has retained the Autopoint name:

For interesting Autopoint history, see:

Anonymous said...

Dave already has a link to the Bolin site on his sidebar. ;)

I'm also expecting Wilson, who seems to enjoy luxury pencils, to chime in :-)

I think Dave is being very nice in using the word 'series' - many would say that Pelikan is a great fountain pen maker, period (translation: full stop), and that their pencils, ballpoints, and rollerballs are basically accessories.

The problem may be - there is little or nothing of pencil innovation or pencil culture in this pencil. i.e. a very capable company has put their energy into the nibs and feeds (apparently top notch) of their FPs, which is great, but little into the accessory writing implements (which nonetheless share a premium pricetag).

Still, an enjoyable review, and I couldn't stop chuckling at the Australian Pelican and Tuna tin backgrounds.

Anonymous said...

nice pencil dave!! kudos!!

Unknown said...

I broke several push buttons. To replace it, you have to sent pencil to repair shop. When I asked to send only broken buttons, no only complete pencil. So when I sent and two weeks with out pencil. Sometimes send you back with wrong color.
In general no bad pencil.

J Ferguson said...

I have a high-end Pelikan fountain pen with the same weight=quality type issue. Also, the same printed logo on the end cap, which to me should be lightly engraved in the plastic, as I expect the stamping to wear off eventually. Even more so if it's on the button on a push-button MP.

Anonymous said...

One oft my favourite pencils!
Those stripes are called "Stresemann", former foreign Minister oft Gertmany in the 20ies, he invented a new type oft striped trousers.

You'll be suprised and impressed how complicated the manufacture oft this striped part in pen & pencil is:

Kind rege & compliment for Your nice pages

Kiwi-d said...

Great video. Thanks Thomas.