Saturday, June 30, 2018

Sailor Professional Gear Mechanical Pencil Review

Sailor Professional Gear Mechanical Pencil Review

Continuing on with a bit of a recent theme, here’s another mechanical pencil with a nautical connection. Sailor Pens, founded in 1911, is a well-respected but I would say not particularly well known Japanese manufacturer.

The Sailor Professional Gear writing instruments come in a range of colourways and formats – fountain pen, ballpoint and mechanical pencil. There are also two versions of the series, the Professional Gear and the ProGear II. From the Sailor catalogue, the difference between the two versions seems to be that the ProGear II is 3mm longer and has the Sailor anchor style pocket clip. My pencil is the Sailor Professional Gear mechanical pencil, model 21-1036-720.

sailor professional gear mechanical pencil

Right up front, I should stress that I am only an amateur sailor so my credentials to review Sailor Professional Gear are questionable.

The Sailor presentation box is modest and nice enough, but not nice enough to warrant a picture. Open the box up though and we have a nice mechanical pencil. The overall style and shape of the Professional Gear is relatively similar to a number of other manufacturers. The body is a nice shiny black PMMA resin (acrylic) and the 24K gold plated trims look good.

The larger diameter top half of the body gives the pencil a top heavy sort of look, your choice if you like that style or not. The gold centre rings also contribute to the wide top heavy look. The wording “SAILOR JAPAN FOUNDED 1911” is engraved into the centre ring.

Moving up the body, the pocket clip is equally substantial with some spring but quiet firm.
On the top of the end cap there is the gold anchor emblem of Sailor. All nice good looking trims.

Down at the business end of the mechanical pencil the lead sleeve is a simple cone suited for general writing. My pencil is 0.7mm lead. The lead advance mechanism is a push top ratchet and 10 clicks advances 6mm of lead.

Here are the refill instructions that came with the mechanical pencil.

So, the question dear reader is how to get to the pictured eraser and lead refill chamber? Does one simply pull the whole top half of the body off, or does one unscrew the top half of the body? I have seen both options on other mechanical pencils, and using the wrong option is generally not good. A little bit of gentle twisting and pulling did not really indicate which is the correct option so it was off to the web. Buried in the Japanese language website, not the English language site, is a clearer set of instructions which show that you unscrew the top half of the body. The Japanese site is also more specific about the excess lead overfilling warning, stating 2 sticks of lead.

The eraser is bigger than some but having to unscrew the body means access is a bit laborious.

In the hand the Sailor Professional Gear pencil is as mostly as expected. It is top heavy but at about 22g it feels lighter than its looks might indicate. The 12mm diameter lower body is still quite wide so this is definitely not a pencil for those who like a slim grip zone. The grip zone is of course plain acrylic without and grip improvement features so again that will not suit those who like a very positive grip.

Overall then the Sailor Professional Gear mechanical pencil is a nice but not spectacular high end general writing pencil.

•    Best Points – Aesthetics
•    Not So Good Points – Does not really feel as substantial in the hand as it looks.
•    Price Range – High
•    Does this pencil make it into the Top 5? – No

Dimensions – Length  139mm, diameter 12mm across the lower body section. Balance point about 80mm up from the tip.
Through the mists of time

Monday, June 18, 2018

Barunson 2.0 Multi Sharp Mechanical Pencil Review

Barunson 2.0 Multi – 2B Sharp Mechanical Pencil Review

This pencil was sent to me 9 years ago by my friend Kent from Korea. I suppose anyone who has a collection of something has a few guilty items in their collection. You know, a couple of items that they really shouldn’t like, but they do. Well, this Barunson mechanical pencil is one of mine. I really like it, but it’s not a particularly good pencil.

Online searches show this Barunson pencil is usually sold as a combo pack deal of two or three different colourways of the pencil along with a mixed pack of coloured leads. This seems to imply Barunson are aiming at the arts and crafts market. Searching online also seems to only bring up this one pencil so perhaps it is the only one they market under their brand. My Korean friend tells me that Barunson were a reasonably significant stationery company in the school and childrens market segment but in 2014 they sold their stationery business to a small company called Barunson Plus. Barunson Plus have themselves been in financial difficulty for quite a long time and have been applied to the courts for various protections. Apparently because of the rapidly declining younger demographics within the Korean population many commercial sectors such as dairy products, paediatric medicines and stationery are facing very difficult market conditions in Korea. Wikipedia even states

“In fact, the speed of aging in Korea is unprecedented in human history…”

Firstly then, I quite like the way it looks. A long slim lightweight white plastic body with silver and chrome trims. I don’t have many white pencils so perhaps that’s part of its attraction for me. The pocket clip is very sturdy and, like the body, seems of very good quality.

The body is round but the grip section is triangular. It’s ridiculous. The flat sections of the grip which your fingers make the main contact with are smooth and the rounded corners of the triangle which you don’t touch have grooves on them. Surely it should be the other way around?

The lead advance is a standard push top ratchet. Ten clicks will advance 11mm of lead. Having said that, the mechanism isn’t totally reliable, and very occasionally a click will not advance any lead.

When writing you should not hold the pencil too vertical and/or push too hard as the clutch system is not very strong and the lead will slide back up into the tip if too much pressure is applied. A few economy grade pencils have similar problems, e.g. the BIC Matic Classic.

The tip of the pencil is a short fixed sleeve but being plastic to suit 2mm lead this means it is fairly blunt so is basically pocket safe.

Being a 2mm lead mechanical pencil it does not hold any spare leads inside the pencil body. You pull the push top button off to insert a new lead. Not too surprisingly there is no eraser under the top button. On the other hand there is a lead sharpener inside the push top button. It is fairly vicious and one of those styles that can leave a long thin shaft projecting out from the conical tip.

Like many 2mm pencils the Barunson has a lead hardness indicator, a simple twist ring to show the grade, with grades HB through to 4B available.

The adhesive label on the body includes the word “China” so that must be the country of manufacture.

This mechanical pencil is a mixed bag. The actual body moulding and pocket clip seem of very good quality, the design seems aesthetically pleasing but functionally questionable (grip section, sharpener) and the mechanism is definitely questionable. Still, somehow, I like it, and am glad to have it in my collection.

•    Best Points – Looks. Good external body build.
•    Not So Good Points – Grip section, weak lead clutch.
•    Price Range – Low (when you divide the pack price up)
•    Does this pencil make it into the Top 5? – No way.

Dimensions – Length 150 mm, diameter 9mm across main body. Balance point about 80mm up from the tip.

Friday, June 08, 2018

More Ravages of Time

I have two acrylic body pencils made by a pen turner. The first (top, 2-piece) one he made for general sale and the second (bottom, Duofold style) was commissioned by myself.
I really liked both these mechanical pencils when I bought them. Now... not so much.
I must admit I was very surprised to see what has happened to these mechanical pencils over time. Firstly the gold fittings are in excellent condition, as good as the day I first saw them. I really never expected much from the gold trims and would not really have been surprised to see some corrosion showing through. But, as I said, nothing. They are as good as the day they were made. So what has gone wrong and surprised me? Well the acrylic bodies have deteriorated. Unfortunately you can’t see it in the images, but you can see and feel it in real life. The acrylic has developed small ridges / waves / indents / dimples… whatever you like to call them. The Duofold style pencil is definitely worse than the other, but both have the same deterioration. The Duofold style pencil acrylic body also has an actual delamination in one part down where it joins the tip.
Ouch! Nasty sharp little protruding delamination.
The two piece body pencil also has another problem. The two halves have started to separate so that there is now a 1mm gap between the bodies and the centre joining ring.
Gap between body and centre ring joiner
These two pencils are about 9 years old and I thought I would contact the maker to get his comments. I wasn’t really complaining, just giving him feedback, and he replied quite promptly. He is no longer in the pen game, the quake of 2011 put an end to his business, and he is now retired. Nevertheless he was interested to hear from me and had a few comments in reply, slightly paraphrased below.
The issue with the ridging etc sometimes occurs right from the outset. It seems to be caused by the ribbons that are inserted in the acrylic pour to make the swirls. The technique involves two separate consistencies of mix, one always harder than the other. The gaps in the two-piece pencil centre are the brass inner tubing slipping on the joining knuckle (possibly from heat fluctuations). The pencils have a solid brass tube skeleton and are pressed together. Consequently they are held in place by friction only. I can't say what may have caused the delamination of the acrylic near the tip. Atmospheric humidity maybe?
It’s disappointing to hear the acrylic wave problem basically being a known-problem. I doubt the modern high end luxury manufacturers who use marbled acrylics have the same problem. I can confirm that my marbled Parker Duofold Centennial doesn’t have this problem, nor do my vintage Conway Stewarts.

In the old days I know that a couple of pen turners used to be regular readers of this blog, so I would be very interested to hear any comments from turners, or from readers who have had similar problems.

Don’t worry, this is last planned post about the Ravages of Time.

Friday, June 01, 2018

Old Friends

A couple of old friends from the desk, still going strong, but probably not for much longer :)

Jeopardy is updated, now down to 655. And from the comment archive, this gem put a smile on my face.
Maybe we collectors are the villains here - why does any of us need so many pencils? (My wife told me to say that. I'd like to know why any one with only two feet needs that many shoes.)