Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Rocky 2020

Rocky has been waiting patiently, counting down the decades, the years, the months, the days, the hours and now his time has finally arrived. He's going to party hard tonight, going to shake the lead out and party like it's 1989 all over again :)

Happy 2020 to you all, from Rocky and I.
Hope you have a great year.

Sunday, August 04, 2019

Lamy 2000 Mechanical Pencil - Guest Review

The recent Cult Pens Mechanical Pencil Day Giveaway was won by 'Dash Lambda'. Here is his review of the pencil that he chose as his prize.

Hello! I’m not great at introductions, so here’s the gist: I’m the guy that won the Cult Pens giveaway, and here’s a review of what I got, thanks to Cult Pens:

It’s a LAMY 2000 pencil, .5mm flavor. It comes in a rather serious-looking box, probably the fanciest packaging I’ve ever dug a pencil out of. The 800 just came in a triangular tube, and the Nero’s box was big and stylized but still just a normal cardboard box. Ultimately packaging is just packaging, but they certainly did put some effort into it.

Picking the pencil up, the first thing I noticed was the weight. I like heavy pencils, and while this is probably relatively heavy, that’s not really what we feel: We feel density. Like that demonstration a lot of you probably had in some science class where you hold a 1” ball bearing and a ball probably twice the diameter of a baseball and try to say which one is heavier; it’s a trick question, they weigh the same. This thing is not the ball bearing. But, after using it a while, I find it’s dense enough.
The second thing I noticed was the rattle. Exactly the same as the Nero’s rattle, the lead reservoir is held at the clutch end and there’s enough of a gap at the eraser end for the button to move slightly. Also like the Nero, this can be eliminated by wrapping packing tape around the metal tube on the button cap.

The clutch end is held quite securely, so no problems there. The tip is not retractable, but it’s short and conical so it doesn’t really pose a problem.

I feel that pictures are a bit deceptive about this thing’s size (not that the perspective in the one above does anything to help the matter). It’s actually shorter than an extended 800, about the same length as the Nero. It’s fatter than them all, though really not as fat as it looks.
Before getting on to build quality, this has to happen to everything I own:


Notice how the body separates about ¾” up from the steel end, rather than at the steel end. This may seem like an odd choice, but in my experience plastic-on-plastic threading lasts considerably longer than metal-on-plastic. Maybe I’m wrong, but to me this says an engineer somewhere at LAMY decided to sacrifice cost for longevity, and I applaud that.

Speaking of cost vs longevity, look at that lead reservoir. And that clutch housing. As far as I can tell, the only plastic parts on this pencil are the body and button knob. That ring on the clutch housing is rubber, it appears to be a cushion for the mechanism. This pencil is very well engineered and manufactured, it doesn’t creak or bend and it all fits together perfectly. A testament to the build quality is the fact that if you weren’t familiar with the L2K family, you probably thought it separated at the metal, because the seam is almost invisible… Except for here, at least. In my pictures it’s more visible than it is in person. Odd.

As for the mechanism, I like it. There’s a lot of travel with a rather definite knock point, not as clicky as a P205, but not as mushy as an 800. It spits out 8mm of lead for ten clicks, I found two clicks to get you what you need to write. Not as precise as a lot of drafting pencils, but this isn’t a drafting pencil.

The clip is awesome. This thing isn’t gonna bend like a Rotring’s, it easily slides over thick pockets, and it holds on securely. It has a very slight side-to-side play, but that’s hardly even noticeable.
I’m not sure why you would want to, but you can indeed take the clip off just fine.

If you’ll be taking the clip off and putting it back on regularly, you’ll notice a ring start to develop on the body where the clip touches it. It would do that even if it were metal.
You can see a brass flap in the mounting point for the clip; that’s the wear point where the clip’s spring lands. That flap is actually part of a brass tube lining the whole end piece, accompanied by a brass ring on the mating end of the body:

That one took me a bit to figure out, but it’s another structural wear point. The lip on the clip pushes against the inside of that brass ring, and that can amount to a lot of force. LAMY went through this thing carefully addressing every wear point they could find.
As for balance…

Rotrings, at least 600/800s, are balanced perfectly on the “O” in “rOtring,” and taking the clip off shifts the balance point to the “r.” There’s no signage on the L2K’s body to point to, but it’s normally slightly bottom heavy and removing the clip shifts the balance point about ¼” further downward. So it’s a heavy clip.

I appreciate evenly balanced pencils, but after getting the Nero I found an equal appreciation for bottom-heaviness. The balance, the material, the size, the weight, the shape, everything about this pencil is just comfortable. I’ve never found Rotrings uncomfortable, but they still feel like heavy chunks of brass whose existence doesn’t depend on this meager reality. The L2K feels like a finely crafted instrument that recognizes you’re a human, with squishy human hands.

So what’s bad about it? Well, a couple things.

First of all, the conical tip isn’t as blunt as one might expect for a non-retractable pencil. You’re certainly not going to bend it or poke holes in things, but it’s a tiny bit sharp in that edge-of-a-soda-can way, and likes to grab onto fabric if you’re trying to push it into a crumpled pocket or something. The Nero had that problem too (the sleeve pokes out just a tiny bit when retracted), but because the mechanism of that pencil relies on the sleeve touching the paper it smoothed out quickly.

The worst part, though, is the eraser. I’m one of those freaks that actually uses the integrated eraser, in fact I use it more often than my block eraser. With the Nero I was disappointed that the cap was so tight that putting it back on meant clicking out lead, but even then the eraser itself was fine. This thing? This thing is pathetic. The cap is just as tight as the Nero, it erases like a super-ball, the length of a new eraser is such that you’re in danger of breaking it when you use it, and the first time I took the cap off I didn’t even know it had an eraser because it stayed in the cap. Every time I take the cap off I have to push the eraser back down, it’s just not secure.

Anyway… One surprising thing was the lead it came with. Stock lead is really hit-or-miss. Rotrings come with Tikky lead (which is by most accounts the smoothest lead on the market), Pentels I think usually come with Hi-Poly, and everything else is a lottery. But one thing you can be certain of is that they all come with HB. Yeah. This thing comes with 3B. Maybe a soft 2B. I don’t normally like soft leads, but I also usually use drafting pencils; it actually feels right for this one. International shipping wasn’t kind to it, though; every single stick had about 1cm broken off the end. Either way, that’s another thing that someone actually thought about, they didn’t just throw in the same thing everyone else does.

I think this is a great pencil. I actually think I’ll start carrying this one in my pocket and my Rotring in my bag, because I’ve had to re-bend the Rotring’s clip a few times now and it’s already not touching the barrel again. This clip won’t do that; it just won’t. Small details like the full metal lead reservoir and mid-body separation say LAMY wasn’t pinching pennies when they built it, and that certainly shows. The eraser is a travesty, but I do also carry a Boxy anyway.

In the story I shared for the giveaway, I said I didn’t have much of a collection because I hated not using tools. The three I had before this have specific purposes: A Rotring 800 I know from experience I can take through hell and back, a Nero for when my handwriting gets microscopic (I’m a math major, it’s a problem), and a P205 for lending. Now I have the pencil that can live clipped to my pocket without regular clip-maintenance, and I enjoy using it.

I partly chose the L2K to test the waters before getting the fountain pen. When a company takes a well-loved pen or pencil and expands it into a series the results aren’t always up to the standard of the original; for example, the 800 ballpoint is nice, but a couple parts from the function-over-form pencil are left in as vestigial decorations to make it look like the pencil, a couple little details are just missing, and you can just tell it’s not the 800. The L2K does not give me that feeling. It feels like LAMY put honest and practical thought into making a good pencil. I’m still a little disappointed it doesn’t retain the cap, but at the same time that’s one of the differences between a fountain pen and a pencil: A pencil doesn’t need a cap. And unlike the Kaweco Sport, the cap isn’t an integral part of the design. Kaweco…

So to me this feels like a product from a company that understands not only how to make a good tool, but also what is and isn’t important when making a family of products. It’s a good sign for the rest of their lineup.

Thanks Dashy. That's a very detailed review. Also of course, thanks again to Cult Pens for the giveaway and their Mechanical Pencil Day.
My Lamy 2000 has been, and still is, my everyday pencil used in the office at work, and was one of the earlier mechanical pencils that I reviewed on this blog. Here's some links to older Lamy 2000 content on this blog. From many, many years ago...
My 2000 review
2000 and Scribble

Saturday, July 13, 2019

Winner - Cult Pens Mechanical Pencil Day Giveaway

We have ourselves a winner.

Thanks to Cult Pens for the giveaway of GBP 50. If you haven't already visited their mechanical pencil specials then do so. Some good discounts and other deals are still available.

Good to hear from all of you who entered the contest. I am surprised at how few of you took the opportunity of a second entry by leaving a comment. Only 13 out of 72 entrants. Perhaps I didn't make it clear how that works. I did though enjoy the comments that were left, some very entertaining stuff there.

Right then, onto the winner, whose second entry by comment was the number picked by my random number generator.

The winner is.... Dashy.

Friday, July 05, 2019

Mechanical Pencil Day - 2019 - Giveaway


Last year Cult Pens had their 05/07 (or 07/05) Mechanical Pencil Day, and it's back again this year. Head on over to Cult Pens to see the specials.

Like last year, they have also generously offered a giveaway for you - a voucher to spend on their website to the value of GBP 50 plus free international shipping. GBP 50 is about US$62. So, how do you enter the contest and win the shopping spree? Simple, you just send me an email saying you want to enter! My address is in the sidebar - About Me > View My Complete Profile. If you are extra keen, you can even double your chances of winning by leaving a comment here on this blog post. But nothings that easy, your comment has to be a little something extoling the glory of mechanical pencils. It can be a sentence or two of prose, a poem, a pun, a joke, an anecdote... a whatever. Anything will do. I will start you off with a haiku.

Wonderful Cult Pens
mechanical graphite sticks
pencils and refills

Just make sure that I can identify your comment with the email you send.

Good luck :)

Entries close at the end of 11-July. Winner will be notified by email.


Friday, June 14, 2019

Zebra DelGuard - The Other End

The Zebra DelGuard range of mechanical pencils has been around for a while, but hasn’t been mentioned on this blog before, so it’s time to put an end to that. The DelGuard system is a very effective anti-“lead breakage” invention. Sure, you can still break the lead if you advance it out a stupidly long way, but for all reasonable intents and purposes, leads in a DelGuard mechanical pencil are virtually immune to breaking from writing pressure. It really is impressive. If you don’t have a DelGuard then I really do think you need to add one to your collection. It would be like not having a Kuru Toga. It’s sort of compulsory, whether you like it or not. My only negative is that I don’t like the aesthetics of the current crop of DelGuard tips.

Zebra DelGuard - full strength for strong leads
The Japanese pencil brands still seem to produce a lot of advertising material, and some of it is a constant reminder of just how different the Japanese market is to the western market. This DelGuard video sort of sums it up. I can’t imagine a western brand producing such pencilporn. Softcore hard lead?

Anyway, as I said, I’m not a fan of the DelGuard tip, so let’s turn that around and focus on the other end.
Focus on the blunt end, not the sharp point.
Top to bottom = DelGuard standard, Type-ER and Type-Lx

Firstly, take a look at my three DelGuards. Two have pocket clips but the third one does not. The Type-ER model has a small anti-roll finial rather than a pocket clip. At first I didn't really like it, but it has grown on me. The Type-Lx (luxury?) has a smooth metal grip section and a metal pocket clip as opposed to the standard models plastic grip and clip. I much prefer the eraser cap on the Lx to the standard.

Now, taking a further look at those erasers.

The DelGuard Type-ER has one of those magic erasers. The type that automatically extends out when you turn the pencil upside down to use it, and it locks in place whilst the pencil is upside down, but then it automatically retracts back when you turn the pencil up ready to write. Magic 😁 I am a bit of a sucker for magic erasers.

DelGuard tips - no thanks.
DelGuard Type-ER
All Black colour scheme and magic eraser - hooked - addictive and habit forming.

Sunday, May 26, 2019

Scripto Kingsmark

Here's a very nice ballpoint pen and mechanical pencil set by Scripto.  In original box with instruction sheet / guarantee and price tag. Quite thin and lightweight, but metal construction. Cisele pattern engraved body. The mechanical pencil is a screw mechanism, 0.9mm lead.
scripto kingsmark mechanical pencil and pen

I don't know much about Scripto, but I assume this would have been one of their top end products, and I guess it dates to around the 1970's. The $10.00 price tag would have been a substantial investment back in the day.

scripto kingsmark pen pencil set

Also on Scripto related matters,  a pencil-pal sent me the below photos of his recently acquired Scripto.
It is unusual in that it has two erasers, the larger of which is permanently exposed. It has a twist mechanism to propel and retract, and uses a 0.9 mm lead. Any information about model name/number, date of manufacture, etc would be appreciated.

Happy penciling to you all.

Friday, May 17, 2019

Radio Silence

My apologies for the radio silence. Normal transmission will be resumed soon.

"The Unbroken Vista"
Zebra Hill to Delguard Peak

Saturday, March 02, 2019

Winner - Jeopardy Giveaway

So, the number is 542, which means "Paul" is the winner.
Paul, please email me - address is in the sidebar About Me, My Profile.

"Hue T", you are second so you might want to contact me too just in case Paul doesn't :)

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

The Ohto Uni Returning Duet

Here is the latest addition to the collection, the Ohto Piston Sharp SP-5. My birthday present to me :)
ohto piston sharp mechanical pencil

uni returns mechanical pencil

I first read of the Ohto Piston Sharp mechanical pencil in a Reddit post by 2nd_Astronaut. It immediately reminded of my Uni Returns M5-318 pencil. Unfortunately the Uni Returns has not fared well over the years. The elastomer grip is a sticky yucky mess. I have to store it wrapped in aluminium cooking foil to stop it contaminating its neighbours, and would have Kondo'ed the pencil long ago if it weren't for the unique mechanism. Well, after seeing the Piston Sharp I got on the sat-phone to contact 2nd in his space station and now I own another mechanical pencil with a returns mechanism, this time a much higher grade model, one that should last and not require aluminium foil... except of course for my hat which keeps the alien mind-control radio-waves at bay. The SP-5 I now have is metal and plastic, but there is also an SP-10 which is all metal.

So, to explain, the unique thing about this mechanism is that it both advances and retracts the lead via an otherwise normal push top ratchet mechanism. You do a small push or click to advance the lead, and a longer or bigger push or click to retract the lead. The Ohto Piston Sharp has clear markings on the barrel to indicate this - calling them Half Knock and Full Knock.
ohto sp-5 pencil mechanism

Once you understand the concept its not too hard to control the amount you push, and both pencils do have a partial resistance stop at the halfway point that you can feel.

The Uni Returns advances more lead per click than the Ohto Piston Sharp, so the Uni retraction mechanism will retract back 4 click advances worth of lead whilst the Ohto will retract back 3 clicks of lead.

Now, I'm sure this retraction mechanism must be patented by the inventor, so its use by two competing companies raises some questions. Did Ohto make the Returns for Uni? More likely I imagine would be that the inventor works for an OEM/ODM manufacturer which made both the Ohto and the Uni. Or the inventor has licensed both to use the patent. Or...???

The pocket clip attachment on the Piston Sharp is two spot welds to the body. Not particularly awe inspiring or aesthetically pleasing. But still, I am very glad to have added the Piston Sharp to the collection. Thanks 2nd.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Birthday Giveaway - Jeopardy

The rules around a tie have changed. You can choose the same number as someone else if you want.

Over in the sidebar is my Jeopardy game.

The number has usually been going down since I started reducing the collection. Here's the monthly numbers

March = 741
April = 711
May = 655
June = 625
July = 625
August = 605
September = 589
October = 544
November = 542
December = 547
January = 551

What will the end-February number be? Leave a comment on this post before 27-Feb stating what you think the number will be. The closest to it is the winner. If there is a tie then I will randomly select the winner. You must check back here on 2 March to see who the winner is, and then you must contact me. Blogger does not save your details so I cannot contact you, you must check here and contact me.

Here's what you win.
A brand new Zebra DelGuard Type-LX (0.3mm), a 'new old stock' Uni Alpha-Gel HD (0.5mm) and a 'new old stock' Sheaffer Javelin (0.7mm).

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Lead Display

I have accumulated a few kilometers of lead over the years and decided that my leads should have their day in the sun too. So here's a few - some old, some new.
mechanical pencil lead display

From the back row to the front, left to right.

pentel blue leads
Pentel blue leads. The first is just 'color leads', the second has a blue band and says blue but the third is black band and says blue. Modern Ain and Ain Stein.

pilot mechanical pencil leads

Some old Pilot. Does the second from left container look familiar? The Neo-Xu and Eno are the same containers just relabeled. Colour coded tops by diameter.

pilot leads

I like the yellow container with its little window. Ecomate and BeGreen, more relabeling.

staedtler mechanical pencil lead refills

Good old Staedtler. The bulk injector dispenser holds 40 leads. Then Mars Micrograph 'Super Hi Polymer'... sounding a bit Pentel-ish there. Then  just 'Super' and finally 'Carbon'. 
Up above I asked if that Pilot container looked familiar. At first glance the Pilot container looks identical, but upon close inspection it is merely exceptionally similar, clearly someone is copying someone.

Tuesday, February 05, 2019

Diplomat Aero Mechanical Pencil Review

Diplomat Aero Mechanical Pencil Review

I very much enjoy reading Pencil Ponder blog by Martha. One of the things I especially like is how many of her posts have some personal family connection to the subject pencil at hand, and I have long envied that. I am currently in thirteenth birthday mode, surely an auspicious time for a personal connection post, so with that in mind, here’s my recently acquired Diplomat Aero mechanical pencil.

diplomat aero mechanical pencil
Diplomat Aero Mechanical Pencil
Diplomat are a German (and French?) writing instrument manufacturer with a lineage going back to 1922. Their website says this about the Aero, “Smooth lines, a streamlined body. Feel the legacy of the Zeppelin and give height to your narratives.” Fair enough. Now for those of you not familiar with Zeppelin, they are not referring to the Stairway to Heaven but rather to the lighter-than-air rigid airships of the early/mid 1900’s, the lumbering behemoths of the sky. The Zeppelin company of Germany were the most well-known of the manufacturers, and Zeppelin became a generic term for all airships, whether made by Zeppelin themselves or not.
USS Los Angeles over Manhattan, New York, 1930
Right then, on with the review. Diplomat certainly do not skimp on the packaging. There is an outer cardboard box and an inner heavy card and metal presentation box. I say card and metal because the box is very heavy sturdy card but its covering sleeve is aluminium. The sleeve wraps around the box but does not have a fully enclosed base. Very nice indeed, but a little fiddly to operate. Inside the presentation box itself there is a plush padded base to hold your writing instrument, and beneath that base is the usual storage compartment for the instruction booklets, etc.

Box and metal wrap around sleeve
My Aero pencil came supplied with two spare ink cartridges, but no spare lead refills :)
So, having got the Diplomat Aero mechanical pencil out of its hanger box, it certainly is a behemoth - 141mm long, 15mm diameter at the centre and weighing in at 44 grams. Whilst it is a bit of a monster, the semi-round tapering grooves and body shape definitely give it a smooth aerodynamic look, so it is an agile monster. As you can see, I ordered my Aero in the orange colour, another pencil in the sort of orange that gets Dutch hearts a-pounding and temperatures rising. Perhaps I’ve got a subconscious orange thing going on at the moment.
diplomat aero pencil

In the hand the Aero feels like it looks – big, heavy and substantial. There is no specific grip zone or enhancements although the grooves in the body do aid grip and make holding the Aero a very tactile experience. The lead sleeve on the Aero mechanical pencil is a small cone and it is not retractable so this is a pencil for writing. Obviously this pencil suits those who like a wide grip, as the likely grip area is in the 10 – 12mm diameter sort of range. I think given its size, the weight and slightly top-heavy balance of the Aero are about right. Any lesser weight could run the risk of feeling a bit incongruous. On the other hand, the weight, size and bare grip could become a bit fatiguing if used for a long period.

The pocket clip is a rather classy two piece construction, as pictured below. It is long and substantial looking, and quite firm, possibly a bit too firm for regular clipping to papers, but you certainly won’t lose it if clipped to a shirt or jacket pocket. The conical lead sleeve isn’t too likely to cause a problem in such a pocket.
diplomat aero pocket clip
aero pocket clip construction

The Aero mechanical pencil is a twist action ratchet mechanism. You twist the top half of the pencil body about a quarter turn clockwise to activate the lead advance mechanism, and then it springs back. Ten activations will get you 9mm of 0.7mm lead, which is the only lead size currently offered in the Aero. Advancing the lead can be done single-handed but is basically a two handed operation. Either way it will interrupt your writing more than a push top mechanism. To refill the lead you twist the top half of the body anti-clockwise and unscrew it, then pull the end cap off to access the lead magazine.
diplomat aero pencil refill process
Diplomat Aero mechanical pencil refill
There is also a small eraser, which you find by pulling the top half of the body off. So that’s twist left, twist right and pull. Every direction does something.
diplomat aero pencil eraser

The markings on the pencil are plain, simple and obvious. I like them. My only comment would be that it would be good to have the model name Aero in there too.
The Diplomat logo on pencil top cap
•    Best Points – Aesthetic appeal. Many writing instruments claim to be inspired by something. I think this one does justice to its claim.
•    Not So Good Points – Size will not suit everyone. Not much else really considering what type of mechanical pencil it is.
•    Price Range – High, but not stratospheric.
•    Does this pencil make it into the Top 5? – Part of me said Yes, and part of me said No. It was a hard decision, but when I went and re-read my rules and discussion about ‘My Top 5’ the answer became clear. No.
Dimensions – Length   141mm, diameter 15 at widest point. Balance point about 80mm up from the tip.

At the beginning of this post I mentioned a sentimental aspect to this pencil, which is my grandmother. As a working class, thirteen year old girl in London during World War 1, there was no time for luxuries like school, so during the day my grandmother kept house for her widowed father and brothers, and at night she went to work in a munitions factory, making bullets and "little bombs the soldiers threw by hand". Many, many, decades later, and having emigrated to the other side of the world, she still vividly remembered the Zeppelins over London, her fear of being bombed in the factory, and that night in 1916 when the first Zeppelin was shot down. Like thousands of others she ran into the street, cheering as the flaming Zeppelin lit up the sky and drifted, gloriously, oh so slowly to the ground. She later much regretted her joy at the death of its crew.

Diplomat Aero, the instant I took it out of the box, I really did feel the legacy of the Zeppelin. Thanks for the trip down Memory Lane.

Friday, February 01, 2019

13th Birthday Giveaway

Hmmm, it's my birthday and I'm giving you presents? It's an upside down world :)

13 is a bit of a strange number, so for this Giveaway I have two mechanical pencils which are a little bit strange. Both of them are new and unused (apart from opening up for this photoshoot), and were sent to me by Cult Pens quite a long time ago. So even though they don't know it, they are helping the birthday celebrations.

First is the Troika Construction Graphite, nice and bright in yellow. It is a 0.7mm mechanical pencil and its unusual features are a capacitive stylus top for touchscreen work, and scale rulers printed on the body - 1/20, 1/50 and 1/100m and 1/1 inches.
Just scaling out the new extension to the west wing

Second is the Cleo Skribent Messograf. This is definitely one of the strangest beasts in production - a mechanical pencil with vernier calipers. The Messograf features calipers, ruler, tyre depth gauge and screw thread scale.The swiss army knife of pencils? 

For this giveaway I am dispensing with the usual leave a comment process. To enter this giveaway you simply email me direct. My address is in the sidebar "About Me" 'View My Complete Profile'. After a day or two, or when a reasonable number of people have emailed, I will simply select a winner at random, and contact them. Quick and easy.

UPDATE - Thanks to everyone who entered, but the Giveaway is now closed. We have a winner - "Carl, Finnish woodworker and CAD Viking".