I love my Rotring 600, but it’s price sometimes makes me a bit wary about bringing it out. It can also sometimes be nice to switch it up. The Pentel Graphgear 500 is a low-mid range drafting mechanical pencil that has a knurled metal grip. But, at a fraction of the price of the Rotring, is the quality and the design there?
Lead size: 0.5mm
Country of Manufacture: Japan
Price: $7 (retail), ~$4 (street)
Fit and Finish
For a pencil with a retail price of $7, I am quite pleased with the level of quality. There is quite a bit of metal on the pencil. the grip and tip are one piece of silver colored metal that has a substantial weight to it. The knurling is a bit on the aggressive side, although not overly so. The metal parts are all straight and clean with not sharp edges. The tip is thin and around 5mm long.
There appears to be little if any flash from molding the plastic parts. The internal mechanism seems to be fixed to the body of the pencil. I assume that with enough force and pressure, it could be removed, but at this time, I don’t want to risk that. The logo is applied to the body using white paint. It chips easily and can be removed using a finger nail.
The end cap is metal and is friction fit onto the pencil. It is a bit nicer than a lot of other end caps as it has a raised edge. Underneath it, there is a generic Pentel eraser.
There is also a clip affixed around the body near the end. It is stamped from sheet metal and has “JAPAN” written around one of the edges. It has a certain springiness to it. It can be removed from the pencil with some force.
The weight distribution is very much focused towards the tip. That being said, the pencil does not feel out of place in the hand. Because the weight is in the grip, the pencil is easily controlled and manipulated. The slim tip allows for accurate lines.
Loading more lead is easy. The end cap and eraser can be removed effortlessly and 4 to 5 pieces of lead can be stored in the body.
Advancing the lead is done by clicking the end cap. Clicks are a tad mushy and the mechanics feel a tad imprecise. Around 2mm of lead are advanced per click.
The eraser works all right although it is not the best. I’m pretty sure it is the Z2-1 eraser for their mechanical pencils, which is a non-clumping, dusty eraser. It does not wear particularly quickly.
The pencil has a lot going for it, and without other pencils to compare with it, there would be not much wrong with it that one could say.
Comparison to the Rotring 600
There are many similarities between the Pentel Graphgear 500 and the Rotring 600. Perhaps the most notable is the tip section. The Graphgear has a larger grip and has additional “milled” rings. Although it looks nicer than the Rotring, the Graphgear as a certain cheap feeling to it. I suspect I feel this way due to the metal that is used (steel in the Graphgear vs brass in the Rotring). The tips are of similar length although the there is more distance between the grip and tip in the Graphgear. This wastes more lead as there is more distance between the mechanism and the tip. Further, depending on how you like to hold pencils, the distance may be too long for your taste.
Another similarity is with the clip. Here, the designs are pretty similar and both have similar properties. If we’re grasping at straws, we can say that the Rotring’s clip allows for deeper carry, though it is mounted much lower than the Graphgear. On the other hand, the Graphgear’s clip is much more easily removed.
The Pentel Graphgear 500 is a great value. The metal grip and stamped metal clip are features normally seen on much more expensive pencils. However, due to the price, there were some shortcuts taken and, in the end, the more expensive pencils still outperform the Graphgear. However, I would definitely consider the Graphgear as a “throw in the backpack” or a secondary pencil.