Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Franklin-Christoph Paradox Model 08 Mechanical Pencil Review

Franklin-Christoph Paradox (Model 08) Mechanical Pencil Review

Franklin-Christoph are not one of the world’s better known brands of luxury writing instruments, but they make a few interesting items. It appears they now primarily operate by a direct online sales business model, and in North America they also represent the stunningly expensive and equally well-known Ferrari da Varese range from Italy. (Their prices are scary)
Viewing the Paradox online, I wasn’t really sure I would like the colour scheme of those black and silver alternating sections. In the hand I was initially equally unsure, but it really grew on me, and now I definitely like it. It is certainly a rather unusual and unique decorative scheme.The black sections are plain smooth gloss, described as “lacquer” although I don’t imagine that’s the natural tree lacquer, rather the chemical factory lacquer. The silver body sections are sterling silver and have a sort of wave and chevron style pattern engraved into them. The pattern is not particularly deep so overall the look and feel is still generally smooth. Having said that, the pattern definitely works as a grip enhancement, and I’d say Franklin-Christoph have definitely got this aspect of the pencil correct. One thing I do find a little curious is that only the body sections are silver. The other “silver” metal trims - pocket-clip, tip section and end cap & button - are chrome. At first I found this surprising and incongruous, but I got over it. Still, overall I think all silver might be better.Franklin-Christoph don’t over-advertise themselves on this pencil. Their name is lightly engraved into the tip section, and their logo into the top of the top-button. A very small hallmark is stamped into the lower silver section, but not the upper one. Whilst I’ve got some familiarity with UK hallmarks, I don’t know anything at all about this presumably US (or maybe EU) hallmark. Feel free to educate me. Its 925 in an ellipse which obviously means sterling silver. The rest though is partially stamped into the patterned area and very hard to read, even with my 10X jewellers eyepiece. It appears to be something like a five-pointed star and then the lettering 105/MI all inside an elongated hexagon which is presumably the maker / inspectors marks.

Despite this pencil being a luxury item, I feel it has certain design elements reminiscent of a technical draughting pencil. The sharp deliberate step into the tip section, the stepped shaft of the push top button and the plain but sword design pocket clip. These definitely impart a design office look. Well, at least to my eyes they do. A draughting style lead sleeve would have completed this look, but actually it’s a non-retractable tapering come.Picking it up, the Paradox is heavier than anticipated, and top heavy to boot. The grip is on the narrower side of town, but overall it looks and feels good in the hand.

The lead advance mechanism is a standard push top ratchet. 10 clicks will get you about 9mm of the 0.7mm lead. The action is quite a long stroke, and doesn’t feel particularly smooth. Only light pressure is needed. Taking my cue from previous commenters, the shaft of the top button definitely feels like it is metal on metal when you push it down so I imagine it will scratch up over time. Disappointing. A simple plastic sleeve inside the body would presumable greatly alleviate this problem.

Now, this is something I am really getting sick of, and I imagine you are getting sick of me going on about it. No refill instructions yet again!!!!! I couldn’t find any instructions on the FC website either. One would be forgiven for assuming it was an ordinary end refill system – just pull the top button off and stick some leads in. But no, that top button is stuck on good, not going anywhere. Obviously no tiny eraser under there! That then leaves only the annoying tip refill. Yes, you unscrew the tip section from the body and refill the lead chamber. You also have to have the top button in the correct position when you reassemble otherwise the push top ratchet system won’t work. It is just plain old unacceptable that you don’t get instructions explaining all of this. Whilst we have the pencil disassembled, you can see the words “Schmidt” and “Made in Germany” amongst the markings on the working innards.

The Paradox comes in a black presentation case – fake crocodile skin, but it looks quite nice. Their FC logo blends in well on the inside.Why did I buy this pencil? Basically I was rather intrigued by the look of it (those alternating silver and black sections), and I was interested in adding something from the Franklin-Christoph stable to my collection. Am I happy with my purchase? Yes.
  • Best Points – The combination of technical and luxury looks.
  • Not So Good Points – Refillings a bit cumbersome.
  • Price Range – High.

Dimensions – Length 142mm, diameter 9mm. Balance point about 75mm up from the tip. Note - The Paradox MP was discontinued during the preparation of this review. From the Franklin-Christoph website, “The Model 08 Paradox was our flagship writing instrument from 2001-2008. It was available in a click ballpoint, and .7mm MP from 2001-2007, and a .5mm MP briefly in 2008”. However, I’m sure eBay and other sources will supply all your Paradox needs for a while yet. The 5.6mm sketch pencil model is still available.

Note – I try to stay away from commercial endorsements, but as an “international customer”, I was pleasantly surprised to note the free international shipping on the Franklin-Christoph website. Pity I paid for shipping ages ago when I bought my pencil from another retailer! Them’s the breaks.


Germ said...

not terrible price, really. decent looks. not my cup of tea however. I like a more technical look or whimsical. the paradox is mroe classical in its lines and form, IMO.
that metal on metal contact would probably bother which is the same problem with the Ohto Sp505m.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the review.

It looks nice to me.

Does the lead chamber of the inner cartridge hold multiple lead pieces at the same time? I hope it would, given the inaccessibility of the mechanism.

Kiwi-d said...

Hello Stephen. Good thinking. Yes, you can get a few spares in the lead chamber.

Anonymous said...

The wave scheme,seems to be a tradition on Franklin pencil since ne century at least!!
(look at their pencil sharpener 1889,etc..).