Tuesday, September 11, 2018

TWSBI Jr Pagoda Mechanical Pencil Review

TWSBI Jr Pagoda Mechanical Pencil Review

The TWSBI Jr Pagoda mechanical pencil was released onto the market in March 2018 so is still a fairly new kid on the block. I imagine many readers will be aware of TWSBI, but for those who do not, they are Taiwanese manufacturer of writing instruments. Their roots are as an OEM manufacturer from the 1970’s but in recent years they have been releasing products under their own brand TWSBI.

When I was thinking about background images for use with this post I thought to myself, “Hey, this is a Taiwanese pagoda, I’ve taken photos of those”, nostalgia set in, and I went digging in the archives. So, in something of a first, the background images in this post are mine too. Yes indeed, I have been to Taiwan, I have seen the pagodas, I took photos on good old fashioned film… because back then film was not old fashioned and every mechanical pencil I saw in Taiwan would now qualify as “vintage”.

What then is in a name? Why is this mechanical pencil called the Jr Pagoda? Is it because Jr has an older bigger sibling in the Precision? Will there be a Sr Pagoda? A maxi? I don’t know, and Google couldn’t enlighten me either. I also could not find any reference as to why it was called Pagoda, but you know what, as soon as I saw the pencil and its name pagoda, I made the connection. The conical tip, the rubber grip strips showing the body underneath… somehow the overall look just resonates with pagodas. Don’t ask me to explain it because I can’t, so I fully understand if there’s no connection in your opinion.

Jr and Sr?
Right then, enough of this waffle, on with actual pencil stuff! The Jr Pagoda is currently available in three colours (white, blue and marmalade) and two lead sizes (0.5mm and 0.7mm). As you can see, mine is blue 0.7mm. First impression, the Jr Pagoda looks like a quality pencil, and  the styling is perhaps a little retro. Weighing in at about 12 grams it is relatively lightweight in the hand. The gloss foil stamping of brand and details on the body is well executed with no missing sections or feathered edges.

According to the TWSBI website the body is made from ABS plastic, which is a particularly strong and visually good looking plastic, well known for its mechanical strength and impact resistance but not so much for its scratch resistance. However all plastic and metal bodies suffer from wear and abrasion over time so let’s not make too big a deal out of that statement. The body cross section is a mixture of round and hexagonal areas and the pencil has no resistance to rolling on your desk apart from the pocket clip.

The lead sleeve is a fixed 4mm metal pipe so this is not a pocket safe mechanical pencil but is usable as a drafting pencil.

The push top ratchet lead advance mechanism gives you about 9mm of lead for 10 clicks. The mechanism feels and sounds sturdy. Underneath the top cap is the eraser. This ‘longer than usual’ eraser is a feature of TWSBI mechanical pencils. It is the same small diameter as most other erasers that I classify as emergency use only, but is much longer. It can be pulled up inside its holder as it worn down by use. This is an interesting feature, and definitely makes it more useful than many erasers, but it still remains a fairly small eraser. It is still somewhere in the middle of the two inbuilt eraser theories – the ‘emergency use’ and the larger ‘fully extendable’. I won’t be ditching my separate block eraser anytime soon. I do think it would have been appropriate for TWSBI to have included a lead clearance rod as part of that eraser holder.

As you can see the rubber grips are a series of strips on the flats of the hexagonal section of the body. Now you know rubber grips are not my favourite thing but I really quite like the visual aesthetics of this grip zone. The rubber grip is itself relatively hard and not particularly grippy. I am tempted to think they could have produced an equally pleasing and effective grip by using some plastic insert or other section and dispensed with the rubber.

The pocket clip is a solid reliable one, and its attachment arms are very exactingly recessed into the body. That’s a small piece of good quality work, but it does mean the pocket clip is not removable.

Overall then this mechanical pencil rates pretty well for its price point.

•    Best Points – Solid and sturdy.
•    Not So Good Points – It rolls a bit.
•    Price Range – Low
•    Does this pencil make it into the Top 5? – No

Dimensions – Length 142 mm, diameter 9mm across the grip section flats. Balance point about 65mm up from the tip.

Acknowledgement: This TWSBI Jr Pagoda mechanical pencil was gifted to me by Cult Pens without any request for a review. Thanks Cult Pens.


Matthias said...

Ops, my first comment seems to have gotten lost.
It's great that you wrote a review. I think this is a pencil many of your readers have considered buying (I certainly did) - but there wasn't much information available.

Evan, Canada said...

Does this pencil remind anybody of the Rotring Tikky or is it just me?

Stefano said...

I agree with Evan.
The first time I saw this pencil I tought:
(Precision):(Jr Pagoda)=(600):(Tikky)
I hope this proportion makes sense.

Evan, Canada said...

Oh thats a sharp eye Stefano, I never noticed the Precision/600 thing either... I... sorta want a Precision now...

MR.2 said...

I didn't get a chance to read the article yet. I'm just glad to find out that Dave's back!

George Clements said...

I've got a whole potful of 0.5, 0.7 and 0.9 mm pencils, so I'm not really in the market for this model. I am also not a fan of rubber grips on pencils or ballpens. Having said that, the styling of this pen is rather appealing. I am not into material science, but I have concerns about some plastics that are subject to ultra-violet light degradation, and I hope that this pencil is not susceptible: I have a couple of screw top containers that lived on a window sill and they crumbled away in a remarkable short time. To be on the safe side, if I had one I would not leave it lying about in direct sunlight.
The extended length eraser is a particularly good idea. One of my passions is cryptic crosswords, and, as I am far from brilliant, a small diameter eraser comes in very handy. The short ones don't last long enough, and block erasers leave a nasty mess on the grid.

Evan said...

@ George might I suggest an eraser like this?


George Clements said...

Thanks Evan, but unless the product is readily available in the U.K., shipping and import taxes would make purchase prohibitive. I have a similar type of retractable eraser, but with a much larger diameter, and also some small erasers that fit a battery operated device (which I don't have). The big advantage of having the eraser within the pencil is that you don't have to remember to carry both with you.
Your he,pful thoughts are appreciated.

Kiwi-d said...

Tombow Mono erasers are available from Cult Pens in the UK.

George Clements said...

Thanks for the heads-up on that. I've checked their website and the erasers are not expensive so I might give them a try.

Blackbeard said...

Are there any sort of laws in any of the major global markets against lead clearance rods? I started to notice that there are few pencils coming with those nowadays, even Japanese-made Pentel pencils here don't have those anymore.

They are really useful, especially with aging 0.3mm pencils since finding needles that thin to act as a substitute is not an easy task.

George Clements said...

I have now ordered and received some Tombow erasers from Cult Pens and look forward to trying them. Fantastic mail order service. I have no connection with the company, and paid for the items I purchased.