Thursday, October 29, 2009

1915 NZ Diary No.56

A couple of weeks ago I bid a couple of bucks and got this old diary.

It is leather bound, about 125 x 80mm (5 x 3 inches), one page per day and has a pencil holder sleeve down the length of its spine. It is a New Zealand pocket diary No. 56, from 1915. Considering it is fast approaching being one hundred years old it is in excellent condition.

Not much is written in it, mostly just hours worked by a man who appears to be some sort of rural labourer, travelling around a nearby province clearing forested land for pasture, and doing other farm labours. Although he has a “home” he frequently lives “in camp” for weeks at a time, hunting for his dinner, noting his daily-bags of rabbits, hares, birds and pigs, including on one occasion “shot a pig with no ears!” Another occasion notes a trip to town to purchase suit, hat and teeth.

I bought the diary for its advertisements. They are just plain black and white, very simple and basic. Here’s three I like.

'The Cheapest Shilling Dictionary In The World.' It costs one shilling. So, umm, some ‘shilling dictionaries’ don’t cost a shilling? They cost more?

A very basic ad for one of the world’s leading prestige pen brands.

“...neither too large nor too small, too thick nor too thin, but just right.” The perfect mechanical pencil?

Monday, October 26, 2009

Rotring Tikky Mechanical Pencil Review

Rotring Tikky Mechanical Pencil Review

The German company Rotring is one with a proud heritage, a name that has long been synonymous with superior technical drafting equipment, including mechanical pencils. In more recent times though they have become one of the Sanford brands and undergone some changes that have at times left many onlookers confused and surprised. A large number of their products have been discontinued but one of the survivors is the subject of this review, the Rotring Tikky mechanical pencil. In the Rotring 2008 catalogue, aside from the Rotring 300 clutch pencil, the Tikky is the only mechanical pencil featured and in fact it is shown logoed as the “Papermate Tikky by Rotring”. As at the time of writing this review the Tikky and the 300 are the only mechanical pencils on the Rotring website. Unlike the catalogue, on the website the Tikky is shown branded solely as Rotring. If you search the web you will also find what certainly appears to be the Tikky available as the “Papermate Precision” mechanical pencil. Like I say, a mix when it comes to Rotring.
Rotring Tikky mechanical pencils
The Rotring Tikky mechanical pencil is currently available in four different lead diameters, labelled as 0.35mm, 0.5mm, 0.7mm and 1.0mm. Don’t be confused by these lead diameters, Rotring are using some less common designations and the 0.35mm is the lead that most others call 0.3mm, and the 1.0mm is what is usually called 0.9mm. So to re-state that, the Tikky is available in 0.3mm, 0.5mm, 0.7mm and 0.9mm, despite what’s printed on the pencil itself, and what the true diameters of the leads are.
mechanical pencil line thicknesses

Rotring Tikky 3-pack mechanical pencils
As well as selling by the individual pencil, Rotring offer a Tikky three-pack of 0.35/0.5/0.7mm which is what I have for this review. As you might expect, the pricing on the three-pack is advantageous compared to the singles. Now that I’ve become aware of this three-pack I think it’s a pretty good marketing idea and I’m surprised other brands don’t offer something similar.

The Tikky is a fairly attractive looking pencil. The base colour is black, but it’s got a hint of brown in it in some lights. The whole package of chrome appointments, glossy black/brown upper body, white logo printing, red Rotring ring and interesting grip section all combine to make a visually pleasing whole. For those of you who like lighter colours, some versions of the Tikky are also available in a wide selection of other colours.

The grip section is the most eye-catching aspect of the Tikky. It is a hard grey rubber, moulded around rectangular sections of the body. Overall the traditional Rotring Tikky wave profile is kept but a rather visually intriguing pattern is created. The grey rubber is very hard and not particularly grippy, so whilst the grip looks good, it is only average in actual use. Weighing in at about 12 grams, the Tikky is a medium weight pencil but it is balanced towards the tip. The weight, balance and grip zone combine to make it feel quite good in the hand.
Rotring Tikky grip zone
The pocket clip on the Tikky is a rather impressive affair. It is very firm clip that won’t be coming accidently loose from whatever you attach it to. I really like the clips long flowing profile. The clip is attached to the body by two wings that are folded around and onto the body – it’s a class act that shows some genuine quality of manufacture.
Rotring Tikky mechanical pencil pocket clip
The lead diameter of the Tikky is indicated by a coloured section up near the top of the pencil. Yellow = 0.35mm, brown = 0.5mm, etc. The lead size is also printed on the barrel. Well, the lead dot colour indicator is a nice idea, but I’m not particularly convinced of its practicality. The Tikky is advertised as a “technical writing” pencil so far more useful to me would be a lead hardness indicator, which the Tikky does not have.
Rotring Tikky lead size indicator

Rotring Tikkys
The Tikky is a standard push top button ratchet advance mechanism pencil. Ten clicks of the 0.5mm model will get you about 8mm of lead. The lead sleeve is a 4mm thin metal pipe so definitely suitable for draughting work, although I imagine that’s ‘drafting’ in the Sanford lexicon. The Tikky’s sleeve is a fixed non-retractable sleeve, so it’s not pocket safe.
Rotring Tikky mechanical pencil tip
As you might expect, there is a small emergency use eraser under the push top button, and you pull that out to access the lead refill magazine.
Rotring Tikky end cap
Rotring is stamped into the pocket clip.
Rotring name
Markings printed on the body.
Rotring Tikky markings
Despite the recent changes and other carry on with the Rotring brand, the Tikky is a class act and I’m tempted to think this latest incarnation is an actual improvement on it predecessors. Product evolution as it should be.
  • Best Points – It looks good, especially the grip and pocket clip.
  • Not So Good Points – Nothing really bad, but I would swap the lead size indicator for a hardness indicator any day of the week.
  • Price Range – Low.
  • Does this pencil make it into the Top 5? - No.
Dimensions – Length 141mm, diameter 9mm. Balance point about 60mm up from the tip.

Further Reading : Old & new Tikky's - Tikky 1 2 3

The Fine Print
The set of three Rotring Tikky mechanical pencils featured above were given to me by Euroffice, an office supplies specialist in the UK, in exchange for a review of the pencils and this acknowledgement.

Tikky 1 2 3

The Rotring Tikky mechanical pencil has been around for many years and undergone many changes since it was first released. I’m not a Tikky expert so I can’t detail the various changes it has undergone, but if my memory is correct I recall that the author of the now deleted Pencil Box blog stated he had something like 30 or 40 different variants of the Tikky.

The latest incarnation of the Tikky mechanical pencil is significantly different from its immediate predecessor, so I’ll point out a few of the main changes below.

I have two older Rotring Tikky’s dating from the early to mid 2000’s. The white 0.9mm is logoed as a Rotring Tikky II (1.0mm) and the brown 0.5mm as a Rotring T. Apart from the name, there’s no obvious difference between them upon visual inspection. They are pictured below with the current Tikky.
old and new Rotring Tikky mechanical pencils
Comparing these two older Tikky’s to the current Tikky, it’s fairly obvious that the apart from the name “Tikky” and concept of the wave grip zone the current Tikky has virtually nothing in common with the old Tikky. Maybe some or all of the internal components are the same, but externally they have little in common.

Completely different pocket clips.
Rotring Tikky pocket clips
Different end caps. Also note the method of pocket clip attachment to the body.
Rotring Tikky end caps
Different tip sections, and grips, although conceptually similar.
Tikky tips and grips
Old Tikky has a round upper body whereas new Tikky transitions from a round lower body to a sort of rounded trapezium shape up at the end.
Tikky ends
Note the old Tikky had “Made in Germany” moulded into it.
Rotring Tikky made in Germany
The new Tikky has no country of origin either on the pencil or the packaging. It states distributed by, but not manufactured by or in.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Pentel P205M Sharp Limited Edition Mechanical Pencil

The Pentel P205M Sharp Limited Edition has been available from the Pentel USA online store for a fair while now, and a few months ago I finally weakened and handed over the dosh for some pencils. I had held off from buying them because I didn’t think I’d like their colour scheme, and now that I’ve got them, I was right. Camouflage isn’t really my sort of colour scheme. They are all a bit dull really. Still, if you are a Pentel person then you sort of have to get them.
Pentel P205M mechanical pencil

Shown below are the three different colours I bought, plus a standard black P205. There is also a red P205M, but I didn't purchase that one.
Pentel P205 and P205M

Thursday, October 15, 2009

eMicro Jedo M105

Before the internet, finding and communicating with fellow mechanical pencil collectors was a near impossible task. Over the course of this blog I have had the pleasure of communicating with several Korean pencil-folk. There are quite a few Korean manufacturers and brands of writing instruments, but it seems most are not generally regarded by Koreans as particularly good quality, which surprises me. I think Korean manufactured products generally have a reasonable reputation, that there is some value in “Made in Korea” Sure, it’s not “Made in Japan” or Germany, but it’s better than many.

Micro was one of the larger Korean manufacturers, but they went bankrupt quite a few years ago. However their legacy continues on under the name eMicro. Recently I have been in contact with Kent from South Korea who publishes PenciLog. I asked him a few questions about eMicro, the use of the term Jedo, etc and he accepted the challenge. Putting on his Sherlock Holmes detective hat, he picked up the phone and let his fingers do the walking, making some calls to eMicro and others. The answers were limited, but interesting.

eMicro was founded by former staff of Micro, but there is no legal relationship or continuation between the two. It appears that Korean companies consider the Korean word '제도' and its pronunciation as written in English as 'Jedo' are both proper nouns and thus not copyrightable. Kind of interesting. I wonder if the Japanese consider the English wording “Sharp” (for mechanical pencil) in the same way?

Well, that’s just another little snippet or two of information. Kent also sent me an eMicro Jedo M105 mechanical pencil. I actually already had one of these, purchased a few years ago at Morning Glory. Like the other Koreans I have communicated with, Kent was at pains to point out that the M105 was not highly regarded in Korea, but was common because of its very low price and variable quality.
eMicro Jedo M105 mechanical pencil old and new
I must admit that my original eMicro Jedo M105 mechanical pencil didn’t strike me as that bad. Just another Pentel P205 rip-off. Well, that’s another point. Is it a rip-off or is it a legally licensed copy? I hear both stories.
Pentel P205 and eMicro Jedo M105 mechanical pencils
Moving on, whilst my original M105 seemed reasonable enough, the more recent M105 sent by Kent is a shocker. Clearly eMicro suffer from wildly variable quality, or their quality has declined substantially over the past few years.

Take a look at the pocket clip. The original has some pitting but is otherwise acceptable.
Jedo pocket clips
Jedo pocket clips 2
But look, the recent one has a bent clip!!! Surely this would never make it out of the door at Pentel or Pilot.
Jedo mechanical pencils pocket clips 3
My camera, photographic skills and photo editing software are stretched to the limit, but note the differences in stamping in the pocket clips.
And the wording moulded into the body.
The real shocker though is the part line on the body of newer Jedo M105. The part line is where the two halves of the mould come together. If the two halves of the mould don’t match exactly together or if the edges are a little rounded and worn then you get a noticeable joint, a sharp little ridge of plastic, or in this case a “Yowie, almost cut my finger” type of knife edge of plastic. I’ve mucked around with the photo as much as I can to try and show the sharp part line below. It really is bad. In Japan, surely someone would lose their job over this.
eMicro Jedo M105 mechanical pencil part line
Just a note to finish with. Please don't think I'm picking on Korean brands or anything. No matter how good or bad these Korean pencils are, Korea actually has a pencil industry, which is a lot more than I can say about my homeland!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Uni Nano Dia Mechanical Pencil Leads

Uni Nano Dia Mechanical Pencil Leads

Earlier this year Japan’s Mitsubishi Pencil Company released their new mechanical pencil leads, Uni Nano Dia. As far as I can tell, basically their claim is that by mixing super small carbon based nano-particles (so called “nano-diamonds”) into the lead formulation, that friction will be reduced thereby creating a strong uniformly dense, dark, smooth writing lead with reduced wear. Diamonds...sounds great. Well then, let’s check these Uni Nano Dia leads out.
uni nano dia lead refills
uni nano dia diamond jewels
Uni Nano Dia leads come in a range of diameters and hardness grades. Currently in 0.5mm they come in 4H through to 4B, including F. I think they only have the one grade of HB, not the other two grades of HB that some Japanese brands offer.

The lead tubes are colour coded by hardness grade in very bright attractive transparent coloured containers. There are 40 x 0.5mm leads per container. The top slides to the side to let you get the leads out.
uni nano dia lead

Right then, time to put lead to paper. Currently Pentel Ain are my reigning champion of leads, so some comparison against them is obviously called for. Please remember that I am testing these leads by hand and by eye, so the results are highly subjective. In order to try and minimise the human factor I am conducting repeat trials, and they are blind tests in that I don’t know which lead is loaded in which pencil. Two Uni Shift 0.5mm mechanical pencils were used for all these tests - oneloaded with Uni Nano Dia 0.5mm HB and the other with Pentel Ain 0.5mm HB

First up, lets try laying down some lead and erasing it. Below is the test card, with Ain and Nano Dia erased by Staedtler Mars Plastic, Pentel Hi-Polymer and Faber-Castell PVC Free erasers. Effectively there’s no significant difference, perhaps the slightest hint of a little smearing with Nano Dia but basically it’s a dead heat.
uni nano dia + pentel ain erase test

Next then test for smearing. For some artistic purposes you might want a lead to be smearable, but for normal writing purposes I believe most of use a smear resistant lead. Again, as you can see below it is close, but I think Ain was a fraction more smear resistant.
uni nano dia + pentel ain smearing test

How about blackness. Well, both are quite similar in their darkness.
uni nano dia + pentel ain HB blackness test

As usual, I find there is little difference in darkness between HB and B. Personally I nearly always have to jump two or three lead grades to find a real difference. However I did definitely feel that Nano Dia B felt smoother when writing than did Nano Dia HB. I did not feel there was any real difference in smoothness between Ain and Nano Dia.
uni nano dia leads HB v B

OK, well now we have the final two tests. Personally I feel strength is the single most important characteristic of a thin lead, and by clicking out a short length and pressing slowly down on paper to break it, I believe the strength of these two leads is close, but there was a clear winner, and it was not Uni Nano Dia. So, I believe Pentel Ain remains the undefeated champion of strength.

Uni do claim that the Nano Dia formulation results in a low wear lead, i.e. you get to write more letters per stick of lead. So, that’s my last test. I clicked out a length of lead and drew ruled lines, as you can see. First with Nano Dia, then with Ain, repeat over and over, each time counting how many lines I could draw before the lead wore down and I hit the sleeve. Clearly this was a very subjective test as there was almost a 100% difference between the number of lines with the same brand of lead. One time I drew only 15 lines, another time 30, both with the same brand of lead. My procedure was to do the tests in pairs - I would draw a set of lines with one lead, swap pencils and draw another set with the other brand of lead. Now, here’s the thing, despite the huge variability, Uni Nano Dia never won a single match. Every pair of sets of lines was won by Pentel Ain. Sure, sometimes it was close, and sometimes it was a thrashing, but Nano Dia never won once. As subjective and imprecise as my test was I think the result was clear.

So, where does this leave me? Uni Nano Dia is clearly a good high quality lead, exactly what one would expect from a respectable Japanese brand, but I don’t think the hype matches the result and I will still be loading my mechanical pencils with Pentel Ain.

Let the controversy begin.
Togetherness, Uni Shift + Nano Dia - a beuatiful thing

Friday, October 09, 2009

Comments and Photos

I have read on some repuatble "Blogger Issues" sites that there are quite a few well known common problems with Blooger and comments. It appears that if you have the problem then many viewers will not be able to comment on blogs that use embedded comments like I do, and that others will have problems with the CAPTCHA letters not displaying for comment verification. So, leave a comment if you have problems commenting on this blog. Yeah, right. Anyway, if this problem is affecting this blog please let me know by emailing me at the contact address on my Blogger profile. Thanks.

Not sure if I have mentuioned it before, but I am now uploading most images in high resolution so chances are you can click on an image to view it enlarged in higher resolution should you so wish.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Uni Shift 1010 Mechanical Pencil Review

Uni Shift 1010 Mechanical Pencil Review

What to do about the sharp pointy end of the mechanical pencil? That’s a problem that has long exercised the minds of the designers and users of mechanical pencils. Many just ignore it and have a fixed sharp tip. Others protect the sharp end by having sliding retractable lead sleeves, or caps, or double action vanishing points, or extendable protective over-sleeves, or…well the list goes on. The subject of this review, Mitsubishi Pencil Co’s Uni Shift 1010 mechanical pencil uses something akin to a vanishing point mechanism to protect the lead sleeve when it is not in use.

When retracted (storage or carry mode), the Uni Shift looks like this.
Uni Shift Mechanical Pencil retracted
When extended or in writing mode it looks like.
Uni Shift Mechanical Pencil extended
The change is brought about by pushing the upper body section forward which in turn pushes the lead sleeve out of the fixed front section. Note the change in overall length of body above the grip, and the position of components, but there is only a minute change in total overall length.
Comparison of Uni Shift Mechanical Pencil

At the top and bottom of the body sections travel you twist it just a few degrees to lock it into position.

When in carry mode, the push top button does not operate so you cannot accidently advance any lead. The lead sleeve is retracted back in carry mode, but it’s tip is only just inside the front section, and if you had recently advanced the lead then it can be left protruding out the end of the front section. This is not a major problem, but it does mean it can potentially mark the inside of whatever you put your Shift into, and to be honest, I am slightly disappointed Uni didn’t eliminate this matter by having the sleeve retract just a fraction further back.
Uni Shift pencil tip
It doesn’t take long to get used to the idea of pushing the body section up or down to advance or retract the tip, but the little twist to lock it into position is slightly problematic. Whilst it is a fairly definite and positive action, it is possible to only half-twist, particularly when advancing the tip. This locks the tip in the writing position, but not securely, and a little later you can inadvertently have it unlock and spring back into carry mode whilst you idly move the pencil about in your hands when not actually writing. I accept that this matter is within the control of the pencil user, and it’s only a minor point, but I am again slightly disappointed that Uni somehow didn’t address this in the design phase.

The lead sleeve is a 4mm long thin pipe suitable for drafting work. I do note that the Uni Japanese website generally emphasises drafting pencils for precise writing of characters, rather than for any traditional drafting work. Although the sleeve is retractable it is not a sliding sleeve. So, when extended it is fixed in position and does not slide back up inside as the lead wears down. Having said that, it isn’t a fixed sleeve in the traditional sense and there is a very small amount of wobble, which ultra precise type users who demand rock-solid instruments will not find acceptable. Of course the actual sliding upper body section also has some wobble on the central shaft, but that shouldn’t really concern anyone.

The lead advance mechanism is a standard push top ratchet. As mentioned above it only functions when the pencil is in writing mode. Ten clicks of the mechanism will get you 6mm of the 0.5mm lead. The Shift is available in other lead diameters. As well as the black and red 0.5mm M5-1010 models shown in most pictures in this review, I also have the 0.7mm model, i.e. M7-1010, as below. It looks rather nice in silver and orange.
Uni Shift mechanical pencil silver orange
There is a small eraser under the top cap. Black. Very cool.
Uni Shift eraser
You pull the eraser out to access the lead refill magazine.

The pocket clip is a rather plain but springy and functional chromed metal.
Uni Shift mechanical pencil pocket clip
The grip is a diamond cut metal section. It doesn’t feel too abrasive on your skin and provides a good secure grip. It is a round grip, and straight sided, so you can hold anywhere and twirl as much as you like.

Uni Shift mechanical pencil grip and tip
Weighing in at about 19g the Uni Shift is a medium weight mechanical pencil and it is balanced towards the tip. The weight, balance and looks all combine to make the Shift look and feel pretty good in the hand.
Weighing Uni Shift Mechanical Pencil
Markings on the pencil are “Uni Shift” and the lead size on the upper body section. “Japan” is also moulded in small letters on the upper body section.

The lead diameter is also marked on the central body core and visible when in carry mode.

Note the sticker advertising this mechanical pencil is factory loaded with Uni Nano Dia leads.
Uni Shift Nano Dia label

Overall then the Uni Shift is a very nice mechanical pencil and worth having in a collection.
  • Best Points – The Shift mechanism makes an interesting change.
  • Not So Good Points – Not properly locking the mechanism.
  • Price Range – Low.
  • Does this pencil make it into the Top 5? - No.
Dimensions – Length 143mm, diameter 9mm. Balance point about 60mm up from the tip.

Thanks Isu.