Sunday, March 23, 2014

Uchida Drawing Sharp S Mechanical Pencil Review

Uchida Drawing Sharp S Mechanical Pencil Review

Several years ago Isu advised me that my mechanical pencil collection was missing a very unique pencil, namely the Uchida Drawing Sharp S. After some thought I decided he was right; the Drawing Sharp S was sufficiently unique that I did need to add it to my collection. Since then I have been umming and ahhing about getting around to reviewing it. Finally I have decided to cast doubt aside, take the plunge and say ‘Yes’.

Uchida are a Japanese company with roots going back to China in 1910. They distribute a wide range of office and art equipment and supplies. The Uchida Drawing Sharp S mechanical pencil comes in a nice but simple cardboard package with clear plastic sleeve. A tube of lead refills is also supplied. Note the packaging is marked with Catalogue Number 848-0014.

The Drawing Sharp S has a rather unusual look and a combination plastic and metal body.
Uchida Drawing Sharp S Mechanical Pencil

Weighing in at 17 grams it is much more lightweight in the hand than I anticipated from my first look at it. The plastic pocket clip is removable and it simply slides up off the gently tapering upper body. I wonder how secure it would be over the long term. The grip section is hard plastic cut into a square grid pattern. I found the plastic quite slippery and even with the grid pattern the grip is not particularly positive. For a draughting pencil I think this is a weak point.

There is a lead hardness indicator window for grades 3H to B including F. The tip is a 4mm fixed round lead sleeve. No question, this is a mechanical pencil for draughting work.

Markings on the pencil are Uchida Drawing Sharp printed on the metal upper body just above the lead hardness indicator. A sticker indicates the lead diameter 0.5mm.

The reason Isu said this was a unique pencil is because it is a modern draughting pencil with a screw mechanism. That’s right; to advance or retract the lead you wind the top half of the body around. Just to be clear, you are not twisting the body a half turn to activate a ratchet lead advance and the body then springs back, it is a screw mechanism like the old days. You wind round and round continuously and the lead just keeps coming out. The lead advance is continuous not incremental.

With many screw mechanisms you store spare leads inside the centre of the mechanism just like in a normal modern ratchet mechanism, but they do not self-feed a new lead, you have to take a lead out and feed it in through the tip. I am not sure, particularly because the instruction leaflet is not in English, but the Uchida Drawing Sharp S did not seem to like it when I put a couple of spare leads down inside the centre mechanism, so I think it does not carry any spare leads in the pencil. You need to carry a tube of refills with the pencil.

The screw mechanism took quite a bit of getting used to with a 0.5mm lead. I have used screw mechanisms before, but that was always with thicker leads likes 1.18 or 0.9mm. These thicker leads have strength, and the amount of lead advanced did not really matter too much. The Drawing Sharp S is a 0.5mm lead so if you advance a little too much lead it is likely to break when you start writing. Now to be fair, this a draughting pencil and I was using it for general office work, but I still think my point is valid. You need to pay much more attention to how much lead you advance than normal.

Now for refilling the Drawing Sharp S. That’s where things get a bit difficult. The instructions are in Japanese, and my ability to read Japanese is non-existent.

Luckily though the Japanese retailer Bundoki provided a translation on request, but I think a little something has been lost in translation:
“When you take out the short lead, twist the barrel all the way right and take it out. Make sure the logo “Uchida” on the barrel is right next to the indicator window. Twist the barrel to left twice and refill a lead. Twist the barrel and push lead with your finger a little by little. If the lead breaks, please take out the cap and take the lead out.”

The small emergency use eraser is accessed by pulling the whole top half of the body off.

The Uchida Drawing Sharp S mechanical pencil, a contemporary rarity, a modern draughting pencil with a screw mechanism - only you can decide if it is a pleasure or a pain.

•    Best Points – Novelty value mechanism.
•    Not So Good Points – The grip, the lack of spare leads.
•    Price Range – Low.
•    Does this pencil make it into the Top 5? - No.

Dimensions – Length 141mm, diameter 9mm at grip. Balance point about 65 mm up from the tip.