Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Mitsubishi Pure Malt Pencil Review

Over the years of this blog I have made quite a few pencil-friends. Somehow, my correspondence with several of these pencil-friends rapidly turned to drinking...tea that is...so it should therefore come as no surprise that when I was first in contact with Ricardo from Portugal he quickly reminded me that I drink tea because my cultural heritage has strong roots back to Britain where, in the later 17th Century, tea was first popularised by the young Portuguese royal, Catherine of Braganza, the queen consort of King Charles II of England, Scotland and Ireland. But tea is not the only beverage of importance in the world, for instance there is also whisky, 'uisge beatha' - 'the Water of Life'. Far, far away from its origins in Scotland and Ireland, that Water also has its place in Japan, where they also take their tea seriously. One day as I sat at my wintery Antipodean window sipping tea, an email arrived from sunny summery Portugal, where Ricardo was no doubt shading himself as the ice clinked and the Water was cool and refreshing. Here then, is a guest review by Ricardo from Portugal on one of his favourite mechanical pencils, a pencil steeped in Watery tradition.

Mitsubishi Pure Malt Oak Wood Premium Edition [M5-5015] - 0.5mm Mechanical Pencil Review

The Mitsubishi Pure Malt Oak Wood Premium Edition range of writing instruments were released on Monday, October 29, 2001 in Japan by the Mitsubishi Pencil Co. Ltd as the high-end series of the Mitsubishi Oak Wood line of writing instruments. Available only in the Land of the Rising Sun this line of products is composed of ballpoint pens, a multi function pen, 0.5mm mechanical pencils and a 2mm lead holder. Here's a description of the entire line:
  • Mitsubishi Pure Malt Oak Wood Premium Edition [M5-5015] 0.5mm mechanical pencil.
  • Mitsubishi Pure Malt Oak Wood Premium Edition [SS-5015-P10] 1.0mm ballpoint pen.
  • Mitsubishi Pure Malt Oak Wood Premium Edition [MH-3005] 2.0mm lead holder.
  • Mitsubishi Pure Malt Oak Wood Premium Edition Multi Pen [MSE-3005] 0.5mm mechanical pencil and 0.7mm black & red ball point pen.
  • Mitsubishi Pure Malt Oak Wood Premium Edition [M5-2005] 0.5mm mechanical pencil.
  • Mitsubishi Pure Malt Oak Wood Premium Edition [SS-2005] 0.7mm ballpoint pen. 
All these products have one thing in common, the high quality materials they are made of - chrome plated stainless steel and recycled dark oak wood. Mitsubishi claims the wood is over 100 years old and I read an official press release that says it's 150 years old and was used before in the form of casks to age whisky for at least 50 years, which is why the wood is so dark - no pigments, dyes, waxes or varnishes of any kind were used to achieve this rich dark brown hue, just time and The Water of Life (lots of both). It then took another 50 years for the wood to get completely dry and to be free of the characteristic whisky smell - the wood is completely odourless. This pencil is then a unique and magnificent combination of very old and space age materials!
mitsubishi pure malt m5-5015 0.5mm mechanical pencil

The subject of this review, the Mitsubishi Pure Malt Oak Wood Premium Edition [M5-5015] 0.5mm mechanical pencil is the top of the line and its appearance is striking. To me it is one of the most beautiful mechanical pencils I have ever seen and one of the best I've had the pleasure to use. It can easily be mistaken for one of those luxury products that cost a small fortune, it was marketed as such and really is a luxury product, but it is just not that expensive because there are no precious materials in its composition. The quality of construction is superb, Mitsubishi did an amazing job. I don't know if capped mechanical pencils like this were invented by Pentel or even if the Kerry was the first of this kind but I can only say without a doubt that Mitsubishi went a step further and improved it in a way I never thought possible.
mitsubishi pure malt and pentel kerry mechanical pencils
Mitsubishi Pure Malt Mechanical Pencil & Pentel Kerry
mitsubishi pure malt and pentel kerry mechanical pencils uncapped

With its short 2mm fixed sleeve this is a pencil suited for writing, drawing and sketching though it can also be used with some rulers and templates. As I said before the concept of this pencil is basically the same as the Pentel Kerry [P1035 AD], another favourite of mine (I actually carry a black one with me most of the time), but the Mitsubishi is way too precious to be carried around so it stays at home. By being slightly heavier and bigger than the Kerry, the Mitsubishi is a much better pencil in my opinion, also, because it is made out of wood it retains the warmth of the user’s body in a way plastic can’t. The wood polishing also provides a feeling to the touch very similar to silk without losing the wood's texture, so using it really is a very pleasant and unique experience. The grip has a concave design which works very well both for precise drawing and writing. There are no issues at all on griping this pencil, and just above the grip there's a metal ring which acts like a cap lock and works as a counter-weight when the pencil is used without the cap, moving the balance point to approximately 1cm above it, also, the only inscription on the pencil, the words Pure Malt, are embossed in it.

mitsubishi pure malt m5-5015 centre ring
At first I was afraid the ring would be very inconvenient as it could dramatically reduce the grip area and could interfere in the way I usually hold my pencils, but I was wrong, it actually helps when I need to use the pencil to make quick sketches or cover large areas with graphite. On such occasions I usually hold the pencil 2 cm above the centre of the grip, with the M5-5015 that's 4cm above the tip of the sleeve, precisely where the ring is located so I just hold it by the ring to obtain an optimal positioning of the pencil between my fingers. The conical shape of the barrel is excellent for rotating the pencil in order to keep the lead sharp if needed (no need for a Kuru Toga Turn Engine here). As I said this pencil also has a "writing mode", when posted (with the cap on) the centre balance is moved 7.5cm above the tip of the sleeve which is excellent for this task. The cap doesn't wobble when posted and the pocket clip, besides being very well designed and beautiful, is very robust and secures the pencil very well to most pockets as it has some springiness. Naturally as a capped pencil it is totally pocket safe. This pencil is heavy, 26.3g posted, so conveniently the mechanism has a very short incremental advance which helps prevent lead breakage. With the lead fully retracted the first 2 clicks will advance it by 1mm and 10 clicks gives approximately 6mm of lead.
mitsubishi pure malt m5-5015 0.5mm mechanical pencil disassembled

One final note goes to the presentation of this product, which is very complete. It comes sealed in a cellophane sleeve with a transparent acrylic tag attached to the pocket clip stating the model name, reference number, lead size, price and a couple more things written in Japanese which unfortunately I cannot read. The box is a matte black cardboard box with glossy imprints.

mitsubishi pure malt m5-5015 0.5mm mechanical pencil boxed
On the inside there's a detachable rectangular piece of corkwood cut with the shape of the pencil on one side and two identical ones on the other, meaning that two instruments can be stored in it. As well, an instruction manual and a small card written in Japanese that I assume to be some information about the Pure Malt line are also provided, along with a rectangular piece of black foam used to prevent the pencil from being loose when the box is closed.
mitsubishi pure malt m5-5015 0.5mm mechanical pencil display

I would dare to say the Mitsubishi Pure Malt Oak Wood Premium Edition [M5-5015] 0.5mm Mechanical Pencil is much more than a great writing instrument, as besides being one of the finest examples of Mitsubishi Pencil Co. Ltd. craftsmanship, it is also a work of art, of industrial design and an ode to mechanical pencils.

Technical specifications :
Composition : High quality chrome plated stainless steel, dark oak wood. Full metal mechanism and lead reservoir.

Size :
Capped: 135 x 12.8mm.
Pencil: 118 x 12.8mm.
Posted: 138 x 12.8mm.

Weight : 26.3g.
Lead Diameter : 0.5mm.
Eraser under the cap's push button.

posted mitsubishi pure malt m5-5015 0.5mm mechanical pencil
Mitsubishi Pure Malt Mechanical Pencil - writing mode - cap posted

unposted mitsubishi pure malt m5-5015 0.5mm mechanical pencil
Mitsubishi Pure Malt Mechanical Pencil - sketching mode - cap unposted

(Text and images by Ricardo)

Thanks for this review Ricardo. I envy your artistic skill. Well, I guess its time for some more Water, be it brewed or distilled.


JiBi_AI said...

I love this series, although my PureMalts aren't a premium one.

ps. The last pics is wonderfully good, I love it

Robert M. said...

Thanks for the review. I have to admit, my Pure Malt Premium 2mm leadholder is probably my favorite overall writing utensil these days, and I use it as often as any of my wooden pencils, if not more. Great companion to those very nice Uni leads.

Stephen said...

Great review and photos. Really well done. I appreciate the insights, such as the posting of the cap to accommodate writing and sketching modes.

The product, as is typical of the Mitsubishi Pencil Co. appears to be very well thought out. I also love that it is not a derivative of a fountain pen design. Neither does the association with whisky making hurt. Though I am not generally a fan of pencils that take 0.5mm diameter leads, this review has tempted me to get one!

There also appear to be other "Pure Malt" (Though not "Oak Wood Premium Edition") writing implements that can be purchased.

And I also love the 2.0mm leadholder - the Japanese "Stationery Magazine" has shown a matching lead pointer in the shape of a whisky barrel. I would love to find that for sale.

ThirdeYe said...

I remember seeing one of these for sale on one of my favorite international office supply websites. I fell in love with it after the first time I saw it and plan to get one in the future.

Thanks for the review, it was excellent.

Anonymous said...

Great review Ricardo!

Your drawing seems Escheresque!

I'll have to enjoy a 1970 Vintage Port now; Saúde :D


ThirdeYe said...

Oh, I should note that the ones I saw and love were not the premium ones but rather the standard Pure Malts. I have not seen the premium ones for sale, but I really enjoy the way the regular ones look as well and that will most likely be the one I end up purchasing.

Lexx said...

That is "THE" mechanicalpencil, absolutly beautiful!

razide said...

Great review & sketch, Ricardo.
One of the few wooden mechanical pencils that looks good.

My Supply Room said...

Great Review and a Great Pencil.

Pamberjack said...

Mmmmmm - malty...

Anonymous said...

Lovely pencil and great artistic skill Ricardo,but you still haven't convinced me about the merits of that bulging ring - thats the pencil's only letdown.

Time Waster said...

I seen a you tube video of the Japanese brewery (can't remember the name) that uses the wood for the barrels to make these pencils with kinda intresting they were giving the Japanese kids hops I think =)

Ovidiu said...

Great review Ricardo, I like very much the last picture.

1962PENCILS said...

All Pure Malt writing instruments seem to be reall nice, mostly the mechanical pencils. though I only have the 3 pencils of the premium series, I've seen other very interesting models.

You're welcome. You're right about the 2mm leadholder, I have one too, a superb writing instrument, to say the least.

Thank you for the compliments, it's my first so... I think you won't be disappointed if you decide to get one. You know the 2mm leadholder so it's easy to guess what you can expect from this one. As for the matching lead pointer goes, it seems they've vanished from the face of the earth, I too would love to have one.

@Rot Ring
Hi Arne, thank you. Though the Escher reference is great I actually thought of Michelangelo's "The Creation Of Adam" (fingers about ready to touch detail), when I decided to make this piece. Great year choice for a Port wine (vinho do Porto), I would recommend a 70's Tawny. Saúde (health in Portuguese)!


1962PENCILS said...

Thanks for thanking Dave for having published my review, I'm glad you liked it! ;-) I am sure you will be pleased with any of the "Pure Malt" writing instruments as they all must be very good, I think.

I don't know if this is "THE" mechanical pencil or not... These things can be very subjective as we all (should) know, but it surely is one of the best I ever used... And trust me, I know my pencils!

Thank you, I am glad you like the drawing. There are other great wooden mechanical pencils out there, just to name a couple I would say the "Pilot S20" and the "Takumy Machinari" are wonderful too, being the "S20" another favorite of mine.

Hello there my friend, thanks for the comment, I really appreciate it. Knowing your passion for these things I would say by now you're already planing to... You know what! If so, just go for it, you won't be disappointed, one thing though, it's only available in .5 and the 2mm leadholder is almost impossible to find.


1962PENCILS said...

Mmmmmmm... Thanky? ;-)

Thank you so much for the compliments. About the "ring", it's not my intention to convince anybody of anything. I assume you have never tried the pencil, if so, I think you should, maybe then you could better understand it's function as it is not a mere decorative element.

@Time Waister
Thanks for the trivia. It would be nice to know where the wood used on these products came from.

Hello there Ovidiu. I hope everything is fine up there in Timisoara, Thanks for the comment, I am glad you liked it.


PointFour said...

First I've heard of the Pilot S20 as well. It has some similarities in shape to the Pilot H32, which, according to Cult Pens, has been discontinued, like the Vanishing Point. Pity that Pilot seem so uninterested in pencils.

But Ricardo's drawings make me ashamed of even being interested in pencils... :/

razide said...

Ricardo, the Pilot S20 is a very nice looking wooden mechpencil indeed. It seems to have a rather Pentel-ish design style to it.

I think it is a pity the Mitsubishi Pure Malt MechPencil doesn't retain the malt whisky smell. It would make for an interesting line of whisky or port scented pencils. Still I suppose you could just drink a glass while fondling the pencil or writing.

Time Waster said...

It's called the Suntory brewery

Dwscamel said...

The pencil, concept, and sketch in the final picture are terrific :). I also thought of the Pilot S20 when I saw this, although I'm still more into the technical, Rotring 600 type of look.

I assume this design won't go out of fashion for a while. Now, to fetch a price tag for these . . . might be my next daily writer.

Thanks for the review and sketching.

P.S.: I think it's interesting that collectively, we know a ton about this product, with Time Waster adding the name of the brewery too.

dzyner said...

Well written review, with good attention to detail and very useful insights .....

..... and as Master Yoda would say - a beautiful piece of engineering, this pencil is !

2nd_astronaut said...

Thanks for the wonderful review, Ricardo.

Maybe as addition the homepage of the pencil: http://www.mpuni.co.jp/product/category/sharp_pen/pure_malt/index.html

And: hurry up, Bundoki aka pencils.jp already announces "low stock" :-)
For completeness, I am tempted to order the Takumi Macinari wooden pencil there, too -- oh no, the budget :-/

1962PENCILS said...

Thanks for the comment. The Pilot S Series, S3/S5/S10 and S20 share the H-320 design. I don't think Pilot is uninterested in pencils at all, their current range is very complete, they still are one of the world's largest manufacturers.
Also, I don't see how my drawings can make anyone ashmed of being interested in pencils, I always thought they could inspire others and eventualy lead them to be interested in drawing tools.

The S20 is a great instrument, As for the Pentel-ish design tyle... I don't think so, it's a genuine Pilot design!
Liquor scented pencils... that's an interesting thought, it could work for some, not me! Having a glass while using it seems better, careful on how much you drink tough, or you can end up chewing the pencil. ;-)

@Time Waster
Thanks for the info.


1962PENCILS said...

"But Ricardo's drawings make me ashamed of even being interested in pencils... :/ "
- Sorry but at first I didn't understood the full extent of this remark, I should have taken it as a compliment. English is not my native language so sometimes I still miss a few things...
Thank you! ;-)


Carmen said...

wow- that is a great review and a beautiful pencil! great pics too. thanks!

Anonymous said...

Dave! Ricardo! And what about A.G. Spalding & Bros and the Pilot Just Meet pencils? Both are made of wood and available at Jetpens in different colors. I like them both (plus Pentel Kerry), especially for writing.

Germ said...

Outstanding Ricardo, and kudos to David for having the genius sense in publshing this wonderful review. I am also glad i had a very small part in it as well, procurement of said pencil. :)~ Germ

Anonymous said...

There is also this scribble like pencil but the question is how to get it.


Anonymous said...

Okay I found it. http://www.pencils.jp/product/323 And there also http://www.pencils.jp/product/325 http://www.pencils.jp/product/324 http://www.pencils.jp/product/321 http://www.pencils.jp/product/322 Maybe they are very cool.

Anonymous said...

Hi Dave and Ricardo,

thanks for this review! I have received this pencil two days ago and have been writing with it non-stop since then ... What a beutiful mpencil. Definitely one of my favourites although used only since two days. I usually use 2B leads in 0.5's but my view is that for sketching and writing B leads are suited best for this particular pencil. I will be stocking another one before this piece of engineering and art is discontinued.

Question: Would this pencil make it to my top 50?
Definitely yes, but I would have to say bye to other Japanese and German mechanical pencils from my top list .

The most fascinating point about mp's for me is that I am still in search of the most perfect mechanical pencil which is actually a very subjective issue. This keeps me alive.

PS: Dave I will review a couple of my favourites and send the reviews to you soon. If you do not mind.

Long live worldwide pencilmania!

Kiwi-d said...

Glad you like your Mitsubishi. Always happy to consider guest reviews.

Anonymous said...

Anon above "Question: Would this pencil make it to my top 50?" That must be quite some list you have there if these are only your favourites, because for every "list" pencil I own I have 3 bummers.

et said...


that was a fantastic review! and terrific photographs. because of both i ordered on last week and it came by post on Saturday. it's fabulous. thanks again.

and thanks Dave!


Ethereal Winter Wind said...

Anybody else's pencil cap tarnished after a while?