Thursday, November 12, 2009

Cross ATX Mechanical Pencil Review

Cross ATX Mechanical Pencil Review

The Cross ATX mechanical pencil appeals to my personal tastes. The body is a gently tapering shape and the pocket clip flows onto the body, continuing the smooth elegant lines. Classical simplicity. Mighty attractive.
Cross ATX mechanical pencil
My ATX mechanical pencil is the cyanic blue with chrome trims colour option. The cyanic blue is a very dark shiny blue lacquer type finish which shows many fine striations when the light hits it in a certain direction. Apparently this is actually reflections from the brushed metal finish of the main body beneath the lacquer. The ATX is a reasonably substantially sized writing instrument, but at 25 grams and with a fairly central balance point, it is somewhat lighter in the hand than its size and dark colouring might otherwise suggest.

Down in the general area where most would grip the pencil the diameter is about 8 – 10mm. The lacquer finish is smooth and shiny, but as far as such finishes go, and combined with the reasonable body diameter, it provides an acceptable level of grip.

The lead advance mechanism is twist top ratchet. The top half of the body is rotated to activate the lead advance one increment and then it springs back. If you have good dexterity then you can operate it one handed, but many would need to use both hands. There is quite a bit of rotation before the lead advance mechanism is engaged which means there is an amount of play between the two halves of the pencil and at times there is some intermittent wobble noise when writing with the pencil. Ten activations of the mechanism will advance about 6mm of the 0.5mm lead.
Cross ATX pencil tip
The lead sleeve is a short 2mm long pipe and it is a fully retractable sliding sleeve so the pencil as fully pocket safe as you would expect from a luxury writing pencil. If you twist the top half of the body the opposite direction than that which advances the lead, then the twist mechanism locks and the lead and sleeve can be pushed back into the body. This twist and lock feature of Cross mechanical pencils was pointed out to me by a commenter on this blog earlier this year. Just like push top ratchet mechanisms you can of course also push the lead and sleeve back into the body when the mechanism is at held twisted at its maximum lead advance position.
Cross ATX mechanical pencil lead refill

The top half of the body pulls off to reveal a small eraser, which in turn pulls out to allow access to the lead refill chamber. The mechanism housing is clearly marked “PAT. 5,662,424”.
Cross ATX mechanical pencil patent
Now, if you look that up on Google Patents, you will see that it is for a “ ‘Mechanical Pencil’ Assignee A. T. Cross Company, Lincoln, R.I. Inventors Kageyama Shuhei; Ebinuma Tadayoshi, both of Saitama-ken, Japan; Thomas Clem, Lincoln, R.I.” Now, those first two names and their address didn’t exactly fit with A. T. Cross and it piqued my interest. This patent lists two other patents in its citations section, so I thought I’d follow through to them. The first of these is “ ‘Rotary knock type mechanical pencil’ Inventors: Hidehei Kageyama, Robert V. Lozeau Assignees: Kotobuki & Co., Ltd., A. T. Cross Company” Ahhh, Kotobuki, now there’s an interesting relationship revealed. Anyway, I won’t rush off on that tangent any further…for the moment.
Cross ATX clip
“CROSS” is marked clearly on the pocket clip. The pocket clip is strong and will certainly keep your pencil attached to whatever you clip it to. It’s very hard to see, but “CROSS” is also marked on the top half of the body, near the centre ring.

My ATX pencil was purchased a few years old and it states on the protective packaging sleeve “Assembled in USA with US and foreign components”. I don’t know what country of origin statement is on the mechanical pencils currently shipping from the A.T. Cross company distribution centre.
• Best Points – The looks.
• Not So Good Points – That occasional rattle noise can be annoying.
• Price Range – Mid.
• Does this pencil make it into the Top 5? - No.

Dimensions – Length 141mm, diameter 12mm at widest point. Balance point about 75mm up from the tip.

But wait, there’s more! (Though no free steak knives)

Back on 9 September, ‘Benjamin’ left a comment on this blog suggesting I review the Cross ATX mechanical pencil, and also compare it to the Lamy 2000. Now, I don’t normally do that sort of comparison thing, but without establishing a precedent…here are a couple of photos of the Cross ATX and Lamy 2000 so you can get more of a direct comparison between the two.
Cross ATX and Lamy 2000 mechanical pencils
18 grams for 2000, 25g for ATX.
Cross ATX and Lamy 2000 clips
Clips - sprung and not sprung.


Benjamin said...

Hi Dave,

thanks for following my suggestion. Funny thing is that I actually switched to the Lamy 2000 pencil about two months ago, mostly because of the favourable review here. As expectet, the grip on the Lamy is truly outstanding and the low weight was somewhat surprising when first held. However, it should be noted that the Cross ATX grip strongly depends on the finish - I have a black matte one, which offers somewhat more grip compared to the laquered versions offered (tried both in comparision to the Lamy 2000 recently).

Keep the good work up...


Michael J Corry said...

The ATX pencil is now down to 3 finishes - matt black and shiny or matt chrome. So many makers seem to be reducing their pencil ranges

Anonymous said...

The Achilles heel of most twist-advance MP's is the inconvenience of refilling them with lead, a point you don't address in your review, Kiwi-D. Is this one a typical breech loading design?

Kiwi-d said...

Well new leads auto-feed like other ratchet advance mechanisms. To refill the lead chamber you pull the top half of the body off, then the eraser and stick more leads in, as pictured in the article. I thought this was all quite clear, but upon reading and looking again, OK, I'll try to better next time.

"Breech" loading was common decades ago, but these days generally only used on the quite uncommon screw mechanisms. I don't think it is "typical" at all, except when refering to vintage pencils.

Kiwi-d said...

Yes well, on even more reflection, you'd better define what you mean by breech loading as we might be talking different things.

Germ said...

Not a bad looking pencil at all.

Michael J Corry said...

I think the anonymous commenter might have confused his breech with his muzzle :-)
Cross pencils used to have a 'cassette' system that included 0.5mm leads in a tube with an eraser on the end. Pull out the old cassette and push in a new one. The leads remain untouched by human hands (or vice versa). They still supply the cassettes but I've never actually owned a pencil that used one.

Kiwi-d said...

Yes, possibly. In any event it has prompted me that I need to make progress on my long term goal of having some "definitions" of mechanism and sleeve types so its clear what I mean when I describe something as an XYZ mechanism, etc.

Anonymous said...

Sapphire is right, I meant muzzle-loading. But, thank you, Kiwi-D, for clarifying that the ATX is in fact breech-loader rather than a screw type. I confess I haven't used a twist advance MP since I hung up my musket. So, perhaps I should get reacquainted with them.

Kiwi-d said...

Alls well that ends well.

Michael J Corry said...

Muskets use a different kind of lead,

Sorry - I'm in a silly mood today.

Florin said...

The pen is a little thicker at the part where you keep it between fingers and I think that part had to be of another material to not slip your fingers if you sweat.