Thursday, August 21, 2008

Lamy Spirit (Model 163) Mechanical Pencil Review

Lamy Spirit (Model 163) Mechanical Pencil ReviewHere we have another rather unusual offering from Lamy of Germany. The Spirit mechanical pencil comes in two variants – model 161 in high gloss stainless steel and model 163 in palladium. My pencil is the palladium variant, and it is palladium plated rather than pure palladium, because, well, palladium is really expensive. Rough ballpark figures, but depending on the grade, US $10 would get you something like 1 or 2 kg (2 -4 lbs) of stainless steel or alternatively you could exchange your US $10 note for about 0.001 kg of palladium. Thus I feel comfortable with my theory of palladium plated rather than pure palladium.

The Spirit is clearly intended for storage in confined spaces – inside a compendium, cheque book, purse pocket, etc. Its construction is reasonably simple, the whole pencil consisting of two major assemblies, which I think of as the “mechanism” and the “body”. The “body” starts out as flat sheet metal punched to the correct shape. The edges are then folded up and around to make the traditional round body and the end folded over to form a pocket clip. The "mechanism" (including tip section, etc) is then secured inside the body and the pencil is essentially complete. You can see the join where the two wings of the body are folded around to butt up against each other.In the past questions have been raised about some expensive pencils having push top mechanisms whereby over time the push top will scratch and wear against the body thus becoming unsightly. I am pleased to report that Lamy have placed a plastic sleeve inside the top folded section up by the pocket clip so that the push top button should not scratch and wear over time as it is clicked up and down. You can hopefully make out the black plastic sleeve in the photo below.The whole central column is the “mechanism”, and moves up and down when you activate the push top ratchet lead advance mechanism. You can’t hold that section when you push the top button or it won’t “push”. Ten clicks of the mechanism will get you about 8mm of 0.5mm lead.

Beneath the push top button is one of the smallest erasers around. On the other hand they give you quite a long length which you can adjust up as required. There is also a needle for clearing lead jams. (No, I will not be putting the Spirit onto my list of mechanical pencils with extendable erasers.) The tip section is a fixed short conical sleeve. General writing purposes only and only semi pocket safe. Up at the other end of the pencil the pocket clip is quite strong and flexible. Its does a good job although the ball on the end of it didn’t always facilitate an easy slide on to papers or pocket.The rows of tiny holes punched in the main central grip section of the body provide an interesting aesthetic element. To one degree or another they must also help improve the grip. However, this pencil is narrow, thin even. At only 6mm (1/4 in) diameter the main grip section is not going to win any awards for comfort. You’ll never see one of those “Recommended by the Arthritis Foundation” stickers on the Lamy Spirit. For a person like me who has a medium sized hand and good dexterity the Spirit is perfectly fine for short duration occasional use. Taking some notes at a meeting, scribbling a list in a notebook on the run – no problems; but regular daily use for lengthy durations at a time, well, I suggest you look for another pencil. That is not what the Spirit was really made for. To give you an idea just how thin the Spirit is, here below it is pictured with a Forest Choice woodcase pencil, a Lamy Scribble and a Lamy 2000.The Spirit is an all-metal mechanical pencil, and despite being so narrow it weighs in at 15 grams and outweighs many a much bulkier plastic pencil. The balance point is obviously down towards the tip and that combines to make the Spirit feel surprisingly substantial in the hand. Deep in thought? Need something to help keep those mental cogs turning, well I thoroughly recommend this pencil when it comes to twiddling around with in your fingers.

Thought for the Day: Imagine the shock if Lamy produced an “ordinary” mechanical pencil. Now that would be radical.
  • Best Points – Unusual looks without looking cheap or fragile.
  • Not So Good Points – For its intended role as a compendium type pencil there aren’t really any bad points that i want to mention.
  • Price Range – Mid / High.

Dimensions – Length 143mm, diameter 6mm at grip zone. Balance point about 65mm up from the tip.

Note: I have tagged this posting with the mini pencil label because although its length precludes it from being a true mini pencil, the Spirit is intended for many of the same applications as a mini pencil.


Anonymous said...

I really love the look of most of the Lamy mp range. Maybe it is because they are all kind of a minimalistic design? Industrial maybe? What am I talking about? I like this one though!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the review of this interesting pencil. – To me it looks like LAMY has tried to build up a contender against the Tombow Toom 707 ;-)

Anonymous said...

Hmmm... reminiscent of war droid IG88's gun in Star Wars?

Germ said...

ever get tired of it, send it to me. one of these or something similar in the lamy lineup is in the worx, but will be a long while.

Time Waster said...

You could use that thing as a weapon.

Speedmaster said...

Very cool, nice review! ;-)

Anonymous said...

I really, really like my Lamy Spirit pencil. I'd like to buy another one but none of the pen sellers in Sydney have any left. I've been told that LAMY is discontinuing the Lamy Spirit pencil.

Anonymous said...

Great post!
Anyone knows how to clean palladium and make it always shine?

Kept good work!

Anonymous said...

I don't think that it's a matter of the palladium being dirty. I think it's simply a matte finish.

It might be possible to polish it, but only if the plating is thick enough to allow that. Otherwise, you might just polish it right off the base metal underneath.

There are a number of polishes that might work. Simichrome and Flitz might be suitable. They should be widely available too.

I prefer Mother's Mag and Aluminum Polish for a lot of things because it is not as abrasive as some polishes. I don't know if it's available outside the US though.

I've heard good things about Metallux too.

Eric said...

Hey, I just read your review and I'd like to add some comments from my experience. I purchased a Lamy Spirit pencil (not the palladium though) and found two major problems with it.

1. Most mechanical pencils have a little rubber cone built into the tip that controls the amount of lead that comes out of the pencil with each click. The Spirit doesn't have this, so sometimes I'd click the pencil and get .5mm of lead, other times I'd get about half an inch or more! This drove me nuts, so I ended up ripping the rubber cone piece out of another pencil and cutting it to size and sticking it in the tip of the Spirit. Problem solved.

2. That tiny eraser is great, though not always that useful, but it has a little black plastic piece on each end. This is to ensure a good fit and to make sure the lead stored on the inside doesn't get jammed between the eraser and the interior wall of the pencil. Unfortunately one day I pulled out the eraser and the lower plastic piece was stuck inside! I was looking at a $40 pencil that I could no longer put lead into! Fortunately I was able to stick a piece of wire in through the tiny center hold on the plastic piece and pull it out, but its ridiculous that that could happen in the first place!

All in all I was terribly dissapointed. For $40 I expected a pencil that was virtually flawless, but those two OBVIOUS oversights really just ruined the experience for me. If I'm paying 10x more for your mechanical pencil to have a highly engineered pencil that will outperform all the other cheapies, I shouldn't have to invent fixes for clear design flaws.

Kiwi-d said...

Hi Eric
Thanks for your comments. It’s always good to get some feedback from long time users of a particular pencil, as my review period is usually only a week or two, so lack of durability is not something I can really cover. I’ve grabbed my Spirit to go through your comments.

1 – Mine certainly does have a lead retaining ring. I’d suggest that yours was designed to have one too, and that it was poor quality control that allowed your pencil to get through the manufacturing process without one.

2 – The eraser end cap coming off like you describe is rather unfortunate. As you describe, I see how it could happen. I do note that the end cap is slightly smaller diameter than the top cap, so that it is supposed to slide easily but securely down inside the lead chamber. Eraser materials are inherently unstable and I guess if the eraser core shrunk a little that might cause the end cap to come off as happened to you.

Well, I share your disappointment. It’s probably too late now but I would have tried to return it as faulty over the missing lead retaining ring. The eraser cap is another matter though. Again, thanks for your comment.

Anonymous said...

Very cool website.

Gilt Edged Promotions said...

Lamy have now started to make the Lamy Spirit Pencils again. We have them in stock at and we ship worldwide. Hope this helps.

r1chard said...

thanks for the very helpful review!
same is true for the comments here.

now i want one.

Pen Facts said...

The Lamy Spirit is an incredibly cool pen and pencil. I think the pencil is more impressive, but I like the pen as well. The pen seems to be more common but you can find the pencils now and then on ebay. Highly recommended if you can deal with the thin grip!