Midori MD Pencil Review

Introduction

Midori is very famous for their Traveler’s Notebooks and their brass products. While they have produced pencils in the past, for their brass pencil extenders, the Midori MD pencil is their first full size pencil. The MD line (which I believe stands for Midori Diary) is known for its simplistic design and light colors. Does Midori pull through with their first full-length woodcased pencil?

Specs

Shape: Hexagonal
Length: 176mm
Diameter: 7mm
Weight: 5g
Place of Manufacture: Japan

Design

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The pencils come in a pack of six within a slim plastic package. There is a small label in the packaging, similar to those included with other Midori MD products. As always, there is nothing gaudy about the packaging.

The writing on the label is playful and is meant to mimic handwriting. Luckily, it is not hard to read. The back of the label only has a barcode and some recycling information.

The pencil itself is very simplistic. The barrel is hexagonal and is a light cream color. The paint is matte and does not reflect any light. While it is smooth, you can definitely “feel” the pencil between your fingers. There is no ferrule.

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There is black lettering on one side of the pencil with the words “Midori MD” as well as “B” to indicate the hardness. There is no other writing or imprinting on the pencil.

Fit and Finish

The pencils feel solidly made, although the paint is not the best. It appears as though the paint rubs off easily, as seen in the above pictures.

The lettering is pretty good, although not that sharp on the edges. This might have been done on purpose as part of the font, but it looks a bit sloppy.

The two halves of the barrel are matched well and the core is well centered. However, the paint around the edges came chipped. It is not apparent whether this happened during manufacturing or during packing.

Functionality

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Sharpening the pencil in my Carl Angel-5 was very smooth and easy. As expected, the pencil left some bite marks in the barrel. It did not expose bare wood, but, instead, the marks were paint filled.

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The point was moderately long and well rounded. The barrel did not split upon sharpening. There was no excess shavings hanging on after sharpening.

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The core is a tad harder than most Japanese pencils of hardness “B”, writing closer to a Mitsubishi Hi-Uni “HB”. The writing experience was “all right” at best. It is better than your run-of-the-mill dollar store pencil, but, at least for me, the amount of feedback the core was giving me was somewhat unpleasant.

However, a few days later, I was curious enough to pick it back up and give it another go. During my second attempt at using it, I found it to be better than I first thought, and definitely usable, although it will not be winning any awards in my book.

I will note that my opinion on the tactile feedback that the pencil gives is just my take on it. I am sure some will appreciate it.

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That being said, though, I do like how dark of a line the pencil puts down. Furthermore, it erases easily and point retention is pretty good.

Conclusion

I am a bit disappointed by these pencils. The quality was not as good as I was expecting and the writing experience was not not up to par in comparison to Midori’s paper offerings (in my opinion). Aesthetically, once you get over the dirtied surfaces, the pencil is elegantly simple and is comparable to the Mitsubishi White Pencil in looks.

I probably won’t be picking any more of these up in the future. I’m still on edge about whether I’ll keep the ones that I have. To each their own, though.

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Mitsubishi Kakikata 2B (and some info about other pencils for children)

Mitsubishi must be one of my favorite pencil manufacturers. I first saw the Kakikata pencil on Bobby Truby’s website Brand Name Pencils, where he has a blue one for sale. My heart was drawn to the red one, though, which has been on my search list for quite a while. Luckily, Enpitsu Philia of 鉛筆五四三 was able to help me out. Many, many thanks her!

Kakikata (書き方) means “How to write” in Japanese (I believe, although please correct me if I am wrong). The pencil is made just for that.

The round barrel makes it very easy to hold. The barrel is painted very bright colors. I have an example in red and orange, though I am aware of sky blue being another option. The colors seem fitting for a pencil meant for schoolchildren.

The lettering is silver foil on the front. On the back, there is a combination of gold foil and white paint. It looks like the foil was applied well, although the age of the pencil is visible through the wear the foil has suffered from.

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There is a small space on the pencil for the owner to write their name. There are two other spots on top. I don’t know Japanese, so I am not sure what they are for. If you’re able to figure it out, please drop a comment or send me an email!

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The pencil itself is made very well. The lead core is well centered, with the two halves of the wood matching in both grain and color. The halves are joined well and there is no gap between the pieces.

The paint is chipping at the edges, though I suspect this to be a result of its age rather than a manufacturing issue.

Unless I’m magically able to accumulate many, many of these pencils, I probably will never sharpen one. Honestly, I’m very satisfied with my Hi-Unis and 9800s and don’t feel a need to put another pencil into my rotation.

However, I suspect that these, along with my French Mitsubishi Uni and Mitsubishi White Pencil, will remain in my collection as “things I like”.

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Some other info:

If you’re interested in other Kakikata pencils, Mitsubishi still produces a version, item number 4653. Pencil Talk did a short write up on these pencils here. There is also the Mitsubishi NanoDia, which, while not having the Kakikata label, is labeled as “for kids”. Pencil Talk also did a review of them here.

Sticking with Japanese manufacturers, Tombow has their ippo! pencil, which is categorized on their website under Kakikata. Here is a link to a random review I found on the internet: link. Gunther, from Lexikaliker, also mentions this Tombow Blue pencil that is marketed to kids. I can’t read German, but if you can or if you’d like to look at pretty pictures, here is a link.

Lastly, Staedtler also produced their own Kakikata pencil released ca. December 2016. I am working on getting my hands a box of each set, but in the mean time, please check out Bleistift’s post here.

French Mitsubishi Uni HB

Sometimes, I’m just drawn to certain things. For some reason, white pencils have always been one. I saw this Mitsubishi Uni HB on Bobby Truby’s Brand Name Pencils. I was adding a bunch of pencils to my cart, but later on forgot about it until I contacted him about a trade, in which this Franco-Japanese pencil was included!

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Getting the pencil in person, I found an odd beauty to it. Like many of Mitsubishi’s higher end pencils, foil was used on the lettering. The gold foiling can be seen on other pencils, such as the Hi-Uni (my personal favorite), but the hardness was embossed using a purple/magenta foil. Might sound like an odd combination, but I sure wish they made other pencils with this purple foil on white lacquer combination.

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Check out the pretty floral pattern as well as that purple foiling!

On the reverse of the pencil, there is a set of three sentences in French: “Je tu veux te donner un coup de point. Je t’aime. veux t’embrasser.”

Pardon my French, for it is rusty (non-existent), but using Google Translate, I came up with the translation of: “I want to give you a punch. I love you. I want to kiss you.”

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“I want to give you a punch.”
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“I love you.”
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“Want to kiss you.”

Translated, it sends some mixed signals, but perhaps it’s trying to be romantic? I could come up with some theories, but it would all just be conjecture.

I’m not one for clutter, but this is another one of those pencils that won’t get sharpened or used. Maybe it’ll be a gift for a special lady friend, or maybe I’ll just like it so much and keep it. I think I need more.

If you’d like to buy one, I believe Bobby Truby still has some over here (I didn’t get paid for this link). Try not to buy them out, though. I still need to stock some up for the future.

rOtring 600 Gold 0.5mm Review

Introduction

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I love my rOtring 600. The solid construction and the attention to detail make it a joy to write with. However, the thin tip is fragile and prevents it from being pocket friendly. rOtring’s answer to this was the rOtring 600 Gold. It has a modern relative, the rOtring 800, that has been met with relative controversy due to fit and finish issues. How does the rOtring 600 Gold match up with its relatives?

Specs

Place of Manufacture: Japan
Length: 13.3cm (retracted), 14.3 (extended)
Weight: 34 grams

Design

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The rOtring 600 Gold can be easily disassembled to show all the main components. On the back end, the eraser cap and eraser can be removed simply by pulling. While the pocket clip can be removed, it is firmly attached and removing it would require a large amount of force. The pocket clip itself is engraved with “rOtring” with a stylized “O”.

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On the front end, the knurled grip can easily be unscrewed. Following that, the tip and main mechanism is exposed. The tip can also be removed by unscrewing, although it is a tad more difficult as the mechanism itself will turn as well if it isn’t held tightly.

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One interesting thing to note is that the mechanism is all metal and that there appears to be no plastic parts (except for perhaps the lead indicator). This probably has no impact on the actual performance or longevity of the pencil, but it does give the pencil a different feeling knowing that it is all metal.

rOtring pays a lot of attention to these small pieces of detail. The engraving on the clip seems pretty standard, but they also marked the lead size on the end cap. This is not found on the newer rOtrings.

The main feature of the rOtring 600 Gold is the retracting mechanism. When the pencil is closed, the tip is retracted 3-4mm into the grip, which protects it from damage. Further, when the pencil is retracted, the mechanism is locked and no lead can be extended.

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The mechanism itself is activated by twisting the end portion of the pencil. This also houses a lead grade indicator, which also rotates. Here is where you will also find their iconic “red ring” (rotring in German).

It can be easy to identify why the pencil was called “gold” due to the gold hardware on the tip and at the end of the pencil.

Fit and Finish

I bought this pencil used, but through the wear and tear, there are still some aspects of the fit and finish that I can comment about. The tolerances are not as tight as I would have expected, though not so bad to the point that it is a bother. The end mechanism that rotates to extend the tip has some wiggle, but the pencil as a whole, however, does not rattle.

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There is very obvious wear to the finish. It appears as though someone had tried to move the clip and, instead, scraped off part of the logo and quite a bit of the coating. The finish, however, seems very tough and it is a bit confusing to me as to how much force was required to do this type of damage.

The knurling is a bit blunted by design and does not provide the grippiness that is usually associated with more modern rOtring products. However, during writing sessions, I did not find myself losing grip of the pencil and it did not have as big of a “bite” as rougher knurling does.

Functionality

This pencil meets the expectations that I had for it. The clip holds the pencil securely to my jeans with no wiggle. I have no fear of it falling out of my pocket at anytime. It hasn’t fallen apart or had the tip accidentally extend while the pencil was in my pocket. It can really easily be said that the pencil is very pocket friendly, especially because of the mechanism lock.

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Extending the pencil is quite easy. Exactly a half turn of the end piece is required to extend the tip. The tip will “snap” into place, with an audible click.

In order to turn the lead indicator, the end piece must already be fully extended in the direction that you want to turn the lead indicator. Otherwise, you will end up extending or retracting the pencil instead. While some may think of this as a flaw, as rOtring did as they removed the lead indicator on the rOtring 800, I personally think the lead indicator is a nice touch and is very helpful.

As for writing experience, once the tip is extended, it feels just like a rOtring 600. While I am sure the weight distribution is different, they are both hefty enough that I cannot tell the difference. The tip has a bit of wiggle, but when the lead touches the paper, it no longer moves.

I had an issue where the lead kept on breaking and the pencil was becoming hard to twist open. I soon realized the problem was that the tip was unscrewing itself ever so slightly. The extra length that it gave made twisting the pencil open harder and, because it wiggled more, the lead was more prone to breakage.

Replacement erasers seem to be near impossible to find. rOtring 600 erasers do not fit as they are a tad too big. I have heard that rOtring 800 erasers will fit, but I have yet to try them. I will update the review once I do.

Comparison to rOtring 600
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The body of the rOtring 600 and the rOtring 600 Gold are the same length. The tips, however, are a bit different. The tip of the rOtring 600 Gold is slightly longer, though the slim sleeve area is the same length.

The knurling is much milder on the rOtring 600, as previously stated. The rOtring 600 has pyramid shaped knurling, while the rOtring 600 Gold has flat knurling.

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The clips are nearly the same, although I found the rOtring 600 had deeper engravings. Also, the rOtring 600’s lead indicator text was a bit whiter and the lead indicator itself was a bit harder to turn. This, however, may be because the pencil is newer and has not sustained the same amount of wear as the rOtring 600 Gold has.

Conclusion

Given the choice to pick the rOtring 600 Gold or the rOtring 600, I’d have to pick the rOtring 600 Gold again and again. The retractable tip simply provides so much more usability to the pencil. While there are more moving parts, when all the components are properly fitted, the pencil is a mechanical monster. I’ll be treasuring this pencil for years to come and it’ll definitely never be too far from my side.

Carl Angel-5 Pencil Sharpener Review

Introduction

I swear, I’m not cluttering. I have my brass pencil sharpeners and a handful of knives to sharpen pencils with, but sometimes, I get lazy. And for those days, a rotary sharpener can help out. The Carl Angel-5 supposedly gives a long sharp point for a decently low price. But can this “Made in China” product have the quality to sharpen pencil after pencil? Let’s find out.

Specs

Place of Manufacture: China
Weight:
Dimensions:
Price: $20-25

Packaging

My Angel-5 came in a different packaging then the other Angel-5s on the shelf. I decided to take the risk, though, hoping that I got some older box or something. I haven’t really concluded with why this box is different. It doesn’t really matter though.

The front and back of the packaging had the same design, but the sides are different. One side showcased the sharpening capabilities, such as the clamp, while the other showcased the internal mechanism and the desk clamp.

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The top had a little sticker indicating the color of the sharpener (red in my case) as well as all three colors that are available: red, blue and black.

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Open the box, you see the sharpener on the left side of the divider. On the right side, there is the desk clamp. both are wrapped in plastic.

Fit and Finish

Starting with the clamp, the parts look like they are made well enough. The plastic parts show wear along what look like joints and are not polished. Further, there are lines and imperfections from the molding.

On the other hand, the metal parts are a tad porous and the stamped metal winged nut is not completely even. However, the threads are perfect and the nut has little play.

The sharpener itself is a beauty. The front features a steel plate that is super shiny. The shavings container sits underneath it and is plastic. They are both immaculate. There were no noticeable scratches or dents of any sort.

The body of the sharpener itself is made of metal and is painted red. I was unable to find anyplace where the paint had chipped. The paint is smooth all over and has a nice sheen to it. Because the body of the sharpener is also made of sheet metal, there are some small imperfections. For example, the areas where pieces are connected are not always perfectly spaced and small paint bubbles can appear. However, to complain about such issues is petty.

The back has  a cranked sided by two black screws. The crank is also made out of the same metal the front plate is made out of. At the end of the crank, a handle is attached with a rivet. It is a plastic ribbed handle that rotates 360 degrees The shavings container can be pushed out through the back, with enough pressure, as well as the front, although the crank will block it in its resting position.

The crank can be fully removed for cleaning or replacement. When removed, this reveals the inside of the pencil sharpener. Excess shavings can easily be cleaned out.

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The shavings container is quite spacious and it appears as though it can hold many shaving. It can be fully removed, and is fitted loosely enough such that it will fall out if the sharpener is tilted forward.

While the sides and corners look very nice, the bottom does have some scratches and molding marks. This is unavoidable and it was quite nice to see that Carl decided to make them only visible on the bottom.

The plastic material is a finger print magnet and I had to really wipe it down before I took a picture. The logo and name of the sharpener is printed on the outside of the container.

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The top of the sharpener has a sticker with the brand and name of the sharpener. Here, you can see some of the imperfections with the way the metal was fitted together and the subsequent paint issues. I would consider these minor, though, an acceptable at this price point.

Functionality

I decided to sharpen a Mitsubishi 9800 as my first pencil. I mounted the sharpener to my desk, before realizing that it was going to be hard to take photos, so I soon removed it. It works quite well, though. The sharpener felt sturdy and it would be pretty hard to accidentally knock it over. The plastic is soft enough that it wouldn’t dent a desk (not that my desk doesn’t already have lots of dents).

I extended the shiny metal section and prepared to sharpen a pencil. It was a bit intimidating to go about this. The sharpener was all shiny and perfect and there was not a speck of graphite dust anywhere.

I put the pencil in and, after a number of turns on the crank, the distance between the clamp and the sharpener decreased and my turns on the crank felt resistance-less.

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Out came a really nice point. It wasn’t the sharpest, but it was nice and long and well suited for writing. I am very pleased. But, I soon noticed something a bit discouraging.

The clamp really clamped down hard. On one hand, it’s a nice trait as it really pulls the pencil in firmly. However, it makes these really nasty dents in the pencil barrel. It’s most noticeable on the barcode area where it breaks through the lacquer and green is exposed.

It made a small pile of shavings. They were all nice and uniform and was easy to dump out. However, graphite dust stuck to the side of the shavings bin and it took quite a bit of time to wipe up the residue using a tissue and q-tip.

Conclusion

If I had to give a one word description of this sharpener, I’d say “good”, before going back and sharpening the rest of my working pencils. It’s fast and convenient and produces a nice point. If anything, my only complaint is with the dents it puts in the wood. That means that I probably will not sharpen many “nice pencils” in it, though this might change over time. That long point might just be too nice to pass up.

Caran D’Ache Swiss Wood Review

Introduction

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The Caran D’Ache Swiss Wood is often recommended by those who are looking for a new pencil for writing. It has a unique look, with the body of the pencil being constructed with a dark beech wood from the Jura forest, and a hefty weight. However, does the price and looks of this pencil translate into a good writing instrument, or is this pencil all talk and no write?

Specs
Country of Manufacture: Swiss
Price: $4-5 (retail), note that prices can vary wildly (Amazon prices it at $17)

Design

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The Swiss Wood has a base wood color. It is fairly dark and appears to be at least somewhat stained. The body of the pencil is further coated in what I think is wax. This gives the wood a smooth appearance in comparison to the raw wood that is exposed when the pencil is sharpened.

The end of the pencil is glossy red. This contrasts greatly with the rest of the matte brown body. The very bottom has a white cross.IMG_20160603_183158

 

The lettering on the pencil is done in a white paint. The lettering is punched into the wood itself, which makes the white lettering stand out even more. I particularly enjoy how the words on this edge of the pencil are all informative and useful. The last bit of the text states that the pencil is FSC certified, which is a nice touch considering the name of the pencil.

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On the back, the barcode is printed on, while the item number is again punched into the wood with white paint. While I’m not a big fan of these barcodes on pencils, Caran D’Ache did a good job of blending the barcode in with the rest of the design.

Fit and Finish

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I have had mixed experiences from the Swiss Wood. The lettering on my most recent purchase is foggy and not straight at all. It honestly looks like someone shifted the pencil mid print and dragged the ink up a fraction of a millimeter. There is also some discoloration on the wood near the end of the pencil.

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However, with my older Swiss Wood, the lettering was impeccable, with no bleeding or smearing. The wood was also a very consistent brown.

Functionality

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The wood feels a bit denser than normal cedar pencils (which it should be) and, as such, sharpening the pencil also has a different feel. A bit more force must be used to get consistent shavings.

As for the writing, the graphite core feels hard on the paper. It feels as though you are writing with a marble. The lead wear is similar as well. The takes a while to feel like you are writing on a flat surface instead of a round one.

The line it puts down is well suited for writing, though not as much for drawing.

The lack of lacquer on the pencil and the natural wood feeling make the pencil easy to hold. It feels grippy, but not overly so. Further, the weight of the pencil makes it feel significant in the hand, which makes writing pleasurable.

The pencil has a distinct smell to it. I don’t notice it until I put it up to my nose, while I have heard from some that the smell is fragrant enough to smell at arms length. The smell can be described as sort of a sawdust smell. It has some undertones of paint as well.

Conclusion

I understand why the Swiss Wood is well suited for writing. The lead core inside puts down a decently dark line while wearing down slowly. The wooden finish of the pencil makes the pencil pleasant to hold. While not a particular favorite, as I prefer a darker line than it produces, for longer writing sessions, or for days that I want to look a bit hipster, I would definitely pick up the Swiss Wood.

Pentel Graphgear 500 0.5 Review

Introduction

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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?

Specs

Lead size: 0.5mm
Country of Manufacture: Japan
Price: $7 (retail), ~$4 (street)

Fit and Finish

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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.

 

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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.

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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.

Functionality

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.IMG_20160426_221203

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

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IMG_20160511_230319There 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.IMG_20160511_230245

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.

Conclusion

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.