Review – Pentel GraphGear 1000

My favorite mechanical pencil is the Pentel GraphGear 500, but its MSRP is a bit close to my usual ceiling budget for new pencils, so I was reluctant to pick up its “big brother” the GraphGear 1000, until I saw one for a good deal. There are a lot of upgrades and features the 1000 has that the 500 does not, but is it worth the extra price (it usually costs)?

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If I was to give an example of an over-engineered pencil, the GraphGear 1000 would be that pencil. The body starts out pretty simple, with the back half being mainly cylindrical and having all the necessary information printed on it. The front half has the (grip) section that is very lightly knurled and has 24 embedded rubber ovals to increase comfort and grip. The “cone” in front of the section that steps and tapers down to the “lead pipe” screws off, allowing the section to be removed and reoriented. A small cutout at the end of the section (near the middle of the pencil) can then be oriented over a scale of hardnesses that are printed (stickered) around the inside barrel to show the correct hardness of the pencil (mine was preset at HB). Then the cone can be screwed back down to lock in the selection. (Otherwise the inner barrel is a smooth black plastic with a matte finish that isn’t really intended to be seen).

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The lead pipe usually featured on “drafting” pencils is curiously absent when one first inspects the item. It can be found by pressing the clicking mechanism on the end, at which point it pops out and is locked in place via a locking mechanism on the clip. Further clicking of the mechanism will extend the lead (or, by holding it down, allow the lead to be retracted) and pushing the top of the spring-loaded clip will release the simple locking mechanism and cause the lead pipe to quickly hide away in the cone again. The clicking mechanism cap can be removed to reveal an eraser, which can be removed to reveal lead storage. Both are friction fit with nice tolerances. And the mechanism’s cap has the lead size (.5mm for mine) printed on the top for easy reading when in a pencil cup.

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How well does all of this work? Very. Everything is solid, most of the important parts being made out of metal, giving it quite a heft when compared to the 500. The clicking and locking mechanisms are smooth, quick, solid, and satisfying to use. There is no play at all when using the pencil, and it tucks away perfectly (when the lead is retracted). The HB lead it comes with is standard. It’s bordering on the hard side of HB, but it’s still pretty smooth, and from using the same variety in other pencils for quite some time I can say it is reasonably break-resistant for the .5 size. The grip is surprisingly comfortable and the rubber ovals hardly noticeable (in fact they might not be necessary, or may even make it a bit more slippery than I would prefer). The clip does a very good job of clipping (mostly because of the cutout and spring present for the locking mechanism), and it slides off with very little damage from its well-polished edges (my model has a chromed-out clip for extra smoothness and flair I guess) and it being the locking mechanism means the lead pipe will retract as soon as it’s clipped on to something, preventing damage. The eraser is the same as the one on the 500, and it does a decent job getting rid of marks while being firm enough to not disappear completely.

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With that multitude of features and solidness of performance is it worth the price? Assuredly. But do you really need all of those features? Probably not. This is a great pencil and I’m really glad I was able to get one (even more glad it was at what I consider to be a really good price) but it just won’t be replacing the 500 for me (at least at the moment: only time will tell). I’m not really sure what it is about it, since it’s got a nice weight, a satisfying feel, good writing capability, and it isn’t ugly (though my model {the PG1015} is a silver color with chrome clip and button and I wouldn’t call it the most handsome pencil in my collection) but it’s just not right for me. Still, it is an astounding pencil at a very good price and if the features I’ve talked about interest you, or you want to move up in the world of mechanical pencils either as a hobby or an artist I can heartily recommend this as an excellent next step.

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Review – Pentel Sharplet-2 .9mm

Recently I was gifted several mechanical pencils from someone who is a fan of larger lead sizes, and they were attempting to convert me. I have to say I’m not convinced, but the pencils themselves were ones I hadn’t had previous experience with. That isn’t really surprising, considering the vast array of mechanical pencils on the market from companies like Pentel, such as the gift I’m looking at today: the Pentel Sharplet-2 in .9mm.

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The pencil has a very classic and simple design that’s been around the block. At the back there is a plastic, cylindrical cover for the eraser, which is the standard tiny variety and placed over the lead tube. This back bit also serves as the click-advance mechanism. The barrel is the same diameter as the back cover, and consistent all the way down. The clip is one piece of metal that is friction fit around the barrel; it is a little stiff but keeps the pencil where you clip it. The only other features of the barrel are the brand and model information (that is engraved in as well as painted on, making it harder to wear away than on most writing implements), and about an inch of tiny ridges on the “section” (there is no separate section so that is for you to decide) for grip. The plastic cone that screws on the front is straight and unspectacular, ending in a metal pipe that makes the pencil more drafting-friendly.

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The leads pencils normally come with are all pretty standard, straddling the line between super dark and super light. The wider leads, just by virtue of being larger, require less pressure to write darker, and write (or sketch) in general with a wider and darker line. There are no real problems or tricks one has to get used to when writing. The eraser is similarly plain. It erases well, but can have trouble getting rid of darker or thicker lines like all erasers of its size that come packed in with mechanical pencils. The pencil does come in different versions for lead sizes; these are color coded for easy identification (it looks like there is some variation in the eraser color, as well).

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Pentel makes a solid pencil, and this is no exception. The design is simple, comfortable, and durable. It’s really a no-frills pencil. Everything is basic and has a function, it’s easy to disassemble and parts could be easily replaced (though it isn’t expensive enough to justify the hassle of that, it certainly isn’t a disposable pencil, though). The mechanism is satisfying to use, the grip is not slippery, the clip holds, and the retro styling makes it look kinda trendy (not that I care). If you want a simple, solid pencil or want to buy a set with easily distinguishable lead sizes, these would fit the bill.

Review – Pentel Handy-Line S Permanent Marker

I personally don’t have much use for permanent markers, but quite a few people do, especially for the “fine” tipped ones like Sharpies. But regular permanent markers are kinda boring. Today I won’t be looking at one of those, but at a more interesting Pentel Handy Line S.

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The pen body is kinda ugly. It’s a very straight-cut tube in black, with lots of logos and text on it (though I have seen worse text on many items). The overall design is boxy. Up near the top is a very positive clicking mechanism that feels quite robust. The click it gives off is super satisfying, as well. The clip is nothing really special. It is a bit sharp and might tear cloth, but it won’t break. Interestingly enough, there is a mechanism underneath the clip that will disengage the clicking mechanism when the clip is moved away from the barrel, meaning that if you do put it in a pocket it will automatically retract, which would hopefully save one from some of the mess that would cause. The rest of the barrel is straight and black, with some writing. There is a slight curve before the retractable point, which has a nice cover that blends in with the pen to keep the marker tip from drying out.

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The writing is quite black: I’d say slightly warm but not to noticeably so. The pen is a bit dry when it is just beginning to write, but that is quickly worked through. I will admit that I haven’t given it the most rigorous testing possible, but the ink is suitably permanent. It doesn’t smear or feather when exposed to water, and writes on many different surfaces. The ink also has a very peculiar smell that is like no other marker I’ve used, though I probably shouldn’t sniff it regularly. The body of the pen says it’s refillable as well, though I can’t for the life of me figure out how that would work, but it’s cheap enough to replace.

Overall, for a retractable permanent marker, I’d say this one hits the nail on the head. It works well in all places and has no glaring flaws. It isn’t that expensive and can be used for all sorts of things. Whether or not the features make it worth tracking one down is up to you.

Review – Pentel EnerGel X Retractable Gel Pen 0.5 Red

Some brands can have very confusing product lines. And in the world of writing instruments, Pentel is great with product and poor with names. Today I’ll be taking a look at the Pentel EnerGel X 0.5 Retractable pen in Red. This is not to be confused with any other pen in the EnerGel line, because they all have completely different bodies, though you’d likely be able to expect the same performance.

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There really isn’t much to say about the body of the pen: it’s a transparent cylinder. The grip kinda works, but it isn’t the best. It’s much more slippery than some other grips. The clip is a bit plastic-y but does its job, although I wouldn’t trust it too much. The click mechanism is nice, solid and loud, nothing wimpy about it. And, strangely enough, the pen unscrews from the top to refill and not around the section.

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The tip of the pen is quite thin. There is a cone, but it stops a ways from the actual point. Writing is quite smooth. Occasionally there is a skip but there are no burps or blobs. The line is quite consistent as well. The red color is quite bright, but manages to not be an eyesore. It isn’t really useful for anything but marking errors or as a distinguishing color, but it does look nice. It is water-resistant, but does smear (though it’s still readable) and I suspect that it would wash almost entirely off after major water exposure.

All in all, I’d say that this is a decent pen. They cost a bit more than similar gel pens, and the writing is a bit better. I’d say it’s definitely a step up writing-wise from a Pilot G-2 but a step down in ergonomics. It’s consistent and smooth line makes it a joy, and if that’s what you want I’d say give it a shot.

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 – Pentel Twist-Erase Click

When looking at all of the options for mechanical pencils, one will inevitably come to the conclusion at some point that there just has to be a more efficient way to do the things mechanical pencils do. Fortunately, Pentel has you covered with the Pentel Twist-Erase click mechanical pencil, which hopefully is a lot more convenient than all of those other pencils you find around.

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The top of the pencil starts with the eraser, which has a small turning ring around the bottom that can be twisted to extend the eraser as the name implies. The eraser is very long, extending to a least five times its original length. Below that is a tight, functional metal clip that holds well and is held in place by a piece of plastic. On the same lateral space is the information about the pencil, where all necessary information is written in a fairly out-of-the-way manner. Below this is a rather interesting curved breaking point in the pencil which will separate and allow the lead to be inserted. Then we get to the side-mounted click mechanism, which is placed both just above and in place of the rubber grip section.  The button has a few grooves to ease pushing, but is otherwise smooth. The grip section is a thin rubber that does not let ones’ fingers slide but does not give to create something super comfortable. It is functional. Then there is a semi-transparent cone, leading to the thin metal tube that the lead will dispense out of.

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The two main features of the pencil work well. The eraser twisting is easy if not buttery smooth.  The pencil comes with several additional erasers which are just fine for what they are, though they won’t fully remove a hard pencil line. The side-click mechanism is easy to use, and out of the way enough that it doesn’t affect normal writing. The standard lead is HB and is really nothing special. It writes well, without any flaws that stick out. There is no shock absorption, so the lead is more likely to break than in a pencil with such a feature, but that really isn’t an issue. There are a few pieces of lead already in the pencil and it comes with a replacement container.

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Really, if one is looking for a different mechanical pencil, or specifically for a longer eraser or a side advance, on a budget, this is easily the best model. There are really no frills or problems, it just functions as advertised. Sure, there are more expensive models that could do better, but one would have to pay a premium for such items. For the sake of convenience I would definitely look into and consider the Pentel Twist-Erase Click.

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.