Friday, September 24, 2010

0.5mm Timeline

I've been trying to document the introduction of 0.5mm and other thin lead mechanical pencils. I've got about as far as I can go, so am publishing this draft in the hope some of you out there may be able to fill in some of the gaps. You can leave a comment or email me via the My Profile link in the sidebar.

The Rise and Rise of Zero Point Five

A Timeline of the Introduction of 0.5mm Mechanical Pencils and Other Related Stuff!

• Mitsubishi Pencil release 0.9mm and 0.7mm screw mechanism pencils (suspect this is ceramic lead)

• Pentel release the world’s first 0.7mm and 0.5mm polymer leads, and pencils. (Pencil model number? Possibly Pentel Sharp 350?)

• Faber-Castell release the worlds second 0.5mm polymer lead, and their first 0.5mm pencil "A.W. Faber Castell TK 9501".

• Pentel release the world’s first 0.3mm polymer lead, and pencils (Pencil model number?)
• Mitsubishi Pencil release 0.5mm ratchet mechanism pencils (Pencil model number?) (Note the seven year time span from 0.7mm screw mechanism to modern 0.5mm ratchet)

• Staedtler release their first 0.5mm polymer lead and pencil "Micrograph 770"
• Chitose Kagaku Kogyo Co. Ltd (OEM lead manufacturer) founded by Sekiya Takashi, former Pentel employee and developer of their polymer leads.

• The Japan Stationery Company Ltd changes its name to Pentel, which it had been using as a product brand name, and as a company name for some overseas subsidiaries.

• Pentel release the world’s first 0.2mm polymer lead and pencils. (Pencil model PS1042 ?)

From now on 0.5mm continues to increase market share and by the mid-1980’s it dominates the mechanical pencil industry.

For some illustration of the rise of thin lead mechanical pencils, here are some examples from some pencil catalogues. A simple measure of how many catalogue pages are devoted to traditional 2mm clutch pencil type leadholders compared to thin-lead mechanical pencils.
(Catalogues are either my own or as viewed on {Broken link})


1969 Staedtler Mars Catalogue, English language.
• Leadholders only, no MP.

1977 Staedtler Design Mars Group Catalogue, English language.
• 2 pages Leadholders, 2 pages MP

1987/8 Staedtler Catalogue, German language
• Less than 1 page Leadholders, 3+ pages MP

2005/6 Staedtler Catalogue, English language
• Less than 1 page Leadholders, 3 pages MP

2009/10 Staedtler Catalogue, English language
• Less than 1 page Leadholders, 7 pages MP


1980 Koh-I-Noor USA Catalog
• 1 page Leadholders, ¼ page MP

1985 Koh-I-Noor Rapidograph USA Catalog B
• 1 page Leadholders, ½ page MP
• Note the Rapidomatic MP rather than a Leadholder is described as “the professional’s ultimate choice for drafting”


Henrik said...

Interesting article. I found some additional information from various sources:

From Staedtler’s “The mechanical pencil”: (Product information):
In 1959, first publications began to appear in specialist journals on flexible carbon fibres.
In 1961, Shindo provided the scientific background on the carbonisation process - i.e. the transformation of high polymer, organic substances such as cellulose into carbon – and it is on these findings that the manufacture of the Mars micro carbon lead is based.
The Mars micro carbon lead (formerly Marsmicro Polycarbon) was launched onto the market in 1976.

According to Pentell’s manga (the Pentel Comic), Yukoi Horie had the idea for polymers from a burnt meal in 1960. Still according to this, the “Pentel Sharp” and the “Pentel Pencil” went on the marked the same year as the first 0.9 mm thin lead pencils.

However, if you look at some of the vintage auctions on the www, you will find that Sheaffer, Parker and Eversharp had 0.9 mm models at least in the 1940ies (i.e. the “51” Parker pencil).

BTW. Pentel also claims to have invented the push ratchet mechanism - but as far as I know it was invented in Düsseldorf, Germany in 1933 (by Mr. Leistenschneider) and was put on the market in 1933 in the MontBlanc Pix pencil.


memm said...

Great idea to collect this information.

Henrik, what Pentel Comic did you refer to? Is there a comic with Pentel's history?

Kiwi-d said...

Henrik refers to this Pentel manga, hosted in various Pentel sites, e.g
It is not without errors, e.g. 1838 Eversharp

Henrik said...

Yes there's a manga style cartoon called "every product tells a story" - fun, but not quite reliable with the facts. I found it at Pentel europe's site - don't know if it's still there.

Michael J Corry said...

I have a Parker twist action 0.9/1.0mm from 1965 and another from 1972.
I still have a tube of leads bought for them in the early 70s and they definitely feel different from polymer leads.
I'd say they were ceramic so possibly leads of this size stayed clay based until at least the mid 70s.

Anonymous said...

Just while you wrote this a German comic-strip artist is bemoaning the loss of his 0.5 mm mechanical pencil he used since 1995 in a strip:

The text roughly translates as

"Since 1995 I sketched every, really EVERY drawing with this pencil.


There is probably no object I have touched more often in my life".


"oh no!"

"Thanks for everything apollo L 0.5"

Henrik said...

Re: der Flix and his pencil.
Luckily, another blogger "Lexikaliker" has generously offered him a replacement from his own collection.
That's what I like about this corner of the blogosphere!

Stuart said...

I have a Parker 51 pencil that takes "thin" leads, which are the same as 0.9mm leads. It was given to my father in 1941.

They may go back farther than that. John Vesey is the man to ask on this.

Ca++milk said...

Where is 1977 Staedtler Design Mars Group Catalogue? I want to see it but I can't find.

Kiwi-d said...

It's on my bookshelf.