Review – Uni-Ball Kuru Toga Mechanical Pencil

When talking about mechanical pencils, as with many things, it’s hard to get away from the idea that there must be some way to improve upon past designs, and that the standard design we use today has enough flaws in it that seem easily fixable that they should be promptly corrected. The Uni-Ball Kuru Toga is a mechanical pencil that is designed to fix one of the long-standing problems with pencils: unevenness of the tip due to use. Let’s see how it works out.

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The body of the Kuru Toga is quite simple. The barrel is almost entirely featureless until getting close to the point, where there are a few ridges for “grip”, and then a small metal step-down to the lead point. Interestingly enough, unlike most mechanical pencils, this metal step-down is not integral to the design and the pencil will function fine without it. At the top is a small click-advance system, with a transparent eraser cover that is the accent color. The eraser is small, but works quite well, and most packs come with a few replacements. The cover makes a satisfying clicking noise as it moves into place. The clip has all the info you’ll get about the pencil, which is just enough, though not very much. The clip itself is functional, but not the best. The barrel is semi-transparent with a logo, giving the pencil overall a very interesting look.

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The lead is HB, and, according to the package, diamond-infused. It is harder than most other HB’s I’ve used, and I haven’t had a lead break on me yet, though that’s more because of the lead advance, which tends to give less instead of more, meaning I have less lead available to break. Overall, the lead is smooth enough and doesn’t write very bold or dark. The real feature of this pencil is the turning point, which acts with the pressure of writing and supposedly turns the lead to prevent breakage and to create a more even tip. I’m not sure if it works, or even if it is working, as I’ve never felt it when using the pencil, but I have also never had the lead break, so there’s that. I wouldn’t say it improves the writing experience by creating a sharper point, but it certainly doesn’t make it worse. Perhaps this feature for me is unnoticed since I naturally rotate the pencil around in my hand willy-nilly. That’s just how I write.

So overall, how well does this pencil do? Pretty good, I guess. I’m not a fan of the overall design, and the lack of any grip on the smooth plastic can make it hard to hold. Like I said, I can’t even tell if the feature is working, but I’ll go ahead and say that, at least through a combination of factors that went into the design of the pencil and lead, it is much less prone to breakage than other models. So if you have a problem with breaking your leads, I’d certainly have a look, but if you value the comfort in hand more than the lead quality, I might look elsewhere.

 

Review – Paper:Mate Design Mechanical Pencil 0.7mm

t’s always nice to try new mechanical pencils, and I’ve been looking at a few recently. One that is around what might be considered “medium territory” is the Paper:Mate Design pencil (7mm #2), which has a few nice features that make it nicer than some others I’ve looked at.

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Starting at the mechanism, the button is quite small and has a slight angle to the top so that one’s fingers will just slide off that much easier. That being said, it works quite well. I haven’t had any issues with it, and the click is both minimal and satisfying. Removing the metal sheath reveals the eraser, which does its job. Removing the eraser gives one access to the lead, and removing the eraser holder allows one to disassemble the pencil, which is handy (one would need to unscrew the front to do that). Down from that is a clip with the Paper:Mate logo. It needs some finesse to clip on, but both holds well and is fairly easy to detach. The barrel is a medium-sized metal tube with a nice finish that simply says Paper:Mate (personally I’d’ve liked more info, but that is literally only me). The grip is a fairly hard rubber with several lines running parallel that don’t seem to do anything to improve grip. It is a bit slippery, but not to a degree that it will distract you unless you’ve used a ton of pens and pencils. There is a metal cone that leads to a smaller, retractable metal cone tip the lead flows out of. This retractable tip means that the pencil will not scratch the inside of a pocket or something, which is quite nice.

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The lead is alright. It is standard HB but feels a bit smoother and more break-prone than other brands of HB I’ve used. That being said, it’s broken about the same amount. I was at first apprehensive when using this pencil. It has no shock-absorbing spring and when one pushes down just after clicking, the lead retracts and makes a distracting clicking sound. This is a major problem in pens for me, and hearing the sound again and again drives me crazy, but fortunately this pencil holds the lead tight enough that I only ever hear the sound at the start of a writing session. What it does mean that is annoying, though, is that if the lead is only advanced a slight amount, a problem this pencil tends to have, then one can easily push the lead back into the pencil and be unable to write. This is actually not as major a problems as it sounds, but I feel it should be mentioned.

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Overall, this pencil exceeds my expectations. The retracting point and stainless steel barrel are nice features. And aside from a few minor things, everything else does its job well enough. The pencil really feels solid and good in the hand without being too heavy, and the writing experience is quite smooth. If you’re looking for a tough mechanical pencil for some mid-length writing sessions, I’d seek one out, though if you’re in an extremely demanding location or are writing for a long time (the grip is poor) you might look elsewhere.

Review – Pentel GraphGear 500 Mechanical Pencil

Now, I’m a cartoonist, and when I am penciling and there is no wood pencil to be found (as there unfortunately often isn’t these days), I do use a mechanical pencil. But which one do I use? There are many “alright” and “good” mechanical pencils out there for very cheap prices. Well, I was looking for one a little better, and I found the Pentel GraphGear 500. Let’s check it out.

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The top of the pencil is rather bland, with a simple metal button and a clipped-on metal clip (interesting). Down from that there is a thin hexagonal black plastic barrel with all necessary information printed on it, and then printed again on a sticker that it will all rub off of. The sticker also has some other, less-necessary info and a barcode, and has the benefit of being removable. The grip section is a very interesting knurled metal that holds quite well in the hand, isn’t sharp, and doesn’t leave one’s fingers smelling like metal as some pen/pencils do. There is then a smooth step-down/tapering tip all the way down to the lead, which in this particular model is 0.5 HB (#2).

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The lead is standard HB and writes quite smoothly, it feels a bit harder than many other #2’s I’ve used, which may just be a feeling in my hand. The entire thing feels very sturdy in the hand and is great for both technical drawings and sketches. The lead is “hi-polymer”, whatever that means, but it is good, and since there is no shock absorber it has to be good at not breaking, which it also is.

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There are several packages, and the one that I got has no spare erasers and only one spare piece of lead, ensuring that I have to go back and get more.

Overall the pencil is great. It works very well and is very nice to hold. It’s sturdy and keeps up with minimal wear. It’s easy to hold, easy to write (or draw) with, and stays well in the pocket. It doesn’t have any fancy features, which one could get in the higher end models, but it does cover all of the basic features and does them really well. If you want a good pencil without all the bells and whistles, I’d definitely check out the Pentel GraphGear 500.

Review – Ticonderoga Sensematic

Have you ever been using a mechanical pencil and thought it was too much of a hassle to push the button before writing more? If so (Dixon) Ticonderoga claims to have you covered, with the Ticonderoga Sensematic self-advancing pencil.

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The body of the pencil looks like a standard pencil, but is a bit shorter. It has hexagonal sides, and a standard eraser with a metal attachment point, which screws out and contains extra lead to refill the pencil with. The tip is conical, and contains the self-advancing mechanism, from which the lead sticks out a bit.

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The lead is a standard HB (#2) and is nothing really special, so I won’t say much more other than it works. The real thing to talk about is the mechanism, which the box says one can simply “just write” with and the lead will advance automatically. And, in my experience so far, this is true. I haven’t had to change anything in my writing to make it work: it just does, making it quite a handy little thing. Now it doesn’t have a very long advance, so there isn’t much lead to work with, but for writing and some sketching that isn’t a problem at all. The mechanism works by having what is essentially a click-advance near the top of the exposed lead, and when it is pushed back more lead is exposed and then locked into place. This means that there could be instances where writing stops, but this could be easily solved by rotating the pencil.

Overall, this is a great idea with good execution. I quite like it but since the erasers aren’t replaceable and the mechanism feels a bit plastic-y I’d say they won’t last forever. But they will last at least as long as a regular pencil, with much less of a hassle, so I’d say it’s a win.

Review – Pentel Quicker Clicker 0.5mm Mechanical Pencil

Two weeks ago I reviewed the Pentel Champ mechanical pencil. Maybe that’s great and works for you, but let’s take a look at something a bit upgraded: the Pentel Quicker Clicker mechanical pencils.

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Starting from the back of the pencil, there is a small piece of plastic with a few breathing holes to cover the eraser, which is a fairly standard, white, mechanical pencil eraser. Following that is the metal clip, which is really clip-y and will make sure this thing stays put without ripping your shirt when you take it out. Engraved at the top of this clip is all the pen’s information. It’s a little less information than I would like, but it is all the necessary stuff. Past that is a slightly smoky tube which is quite thick, and contains all of the remaining leads and has them easily visible. The grip is next, which is a hard-type rubber with small wave-ridges, making quite a comfortable grip. Inlaid in this grip is a small side-advance lever that is made of plastic but feels very solid. The front of the pencil is a small plastic cone that is slightly smoky like the barrel, with a small, thin metal tube the lead will feed through. There is, unfortunately, no method of preventing the lead from breaking.

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The lead is 0.5mm and comes standard in HB. This hardness is the same as a No. 2 pencil. There really isn’t much to say about it: it is a high quality lead that resists breaking to some degree and goes on the paper smoothly. It is a little bit soft for me, and I feel that the line variations caused by varying pressure on the pencil happen a little too quickly for me to enjoy it as a daily writer, but as a sketcher it is great, depending on what you prefer. It definitely isn’t as soft as some would like, or quite as hard as some others (me) would like, but it gets the job done well.

Overall, the Pentel Quicker Clicker is a nice little mechanical pencil for a low-medium price. The side-advancing feed is great for not accidentally advancing the feed while erasing, and makes it more efficient to advance the lead and write faster. The lead, clip, and eraser are all serviceable, making the slim metal tip that allows lead to be easily broken the only detractor from the overall package.

Review – Pentel Champ 0.5mm

I haven’t touched mechanical pencils much, just because I don’t use them very much. But mechanical pencils can obviously be quite handy, and their very consistent line makes them ideal for several styles of drawing. This time I’ll be looking at one of the cheapest offerings, the Pentel Champ in 0.5mm.

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The body of the Champ is a simple, translucent plastic of various colors. It’s cylindrical, save for the cone leading to the point, and a rather large rubber grip. The back is a reversed cone with a clip that’s alright, and an eraser. Obviously, this part clicks down in quite a smooth action, though lead is not dispensed with every stroke: sometimes a few beats are missed. At the very end is an eraser, which works quite well, as much as one would expect. It’s not perfect, but it removes enough lead to be worthwhile to use. On the side of the barrel is all relevant information, though it seems that it would wear off easily. The lengthy grip is noteworthy on some models, like the one I have, in that is is made of many tiny fins, which are much more comfortable and accommodating in my opinion than standard solid rubber grips, and no less grippy. It holds better in the hand than any other gripped utensil I’ve used, but I’m not really a fan of grips anyway.

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The lead provided is HB, so standard number 2, but it feels a bit soft (my package also came with 24 lead refills). It is still quite hard and writes wonderfully. I like a mid-range pencil, maybe a bit on the hard side, and this delivers. Like I said, it feels a bit softer than I usually deal with, but that might just be the mechanical pencil thing. Writing is smooth with very few hiccups or scratches. The lead isn’t too prone to breaking but breaking is unavoidable in this type of pencil. And, as previously mentioned, sometimes the mechanism doesn’t want to function.

Overall, the Pentel Champ is quite a champ for what it is: a tiny mechanical pencil more suited for school and office work. But it performs quite well in all situations. A good starting pencil in both 0.5 and 0.7mm, though I prefer 0.5mm.