The backyard pencil [Updated]

Staedtler 771 1.3mm mechanical pencil

Something more casual today. This pencil, the 1.3mm Staedtler 771, has bright Noris colouring. It is a large chunky triangular pencil, and has no trouble surviving and being found after a wind gust. It feels sturdy and solid, and at about $CDN10 ($USD8, 7 Euros), has an unexpected wealth of features – a clip, a retracting cylindrical guide, a rubbery grip area, and a twist-out eraser.

Today is a provincial holiday where I live, and some time in the backyard makes me realize that at least in certain circumstances – the visibility of a pencil is an asset.

A small sticker tells me the pencil is made in Japan. My only misgiving is that 1.3mm lead is not commonplace here.

[Update: August 8, 2017]

This blog is fortunate to have some very informed readers. One of them is Gunther, the author of the erudite Lexikaliker weblog. Gunther has shared some interesting history regarding the Staedtler 771:

The Staedtler 771 is made in Japan, and was first presented at Paperworld in January, 2008. The pencil commenced sales in Germany in May, 2008.

Early 2014 saw the pencil’s discontinuation in Germany. In Japan, the 771 continued, and was joined in Fall 2014 by a white and black version, the 771-0. Both versions continue to be offered in Japan.

Gunther mentions that “Staedtler Germany still offers 1.3 mm leads because they were also used for the graphite 760.” The 760 was discontinued, though the 925 appears to still be around.

The Pencil by Staedtler

The Pencil (possibly, The Pencil Set) by Staedtler is a new generically named multi-functional pencil product.

The Pencil by Staedtler

The product is housed in a black cardboard box (mine was crushed in the mail, but I can imagine that a pristine store bought version would look rather nice) and contains three pencils and an extender. The pencils are black, round, and composed of Staedtler’s new WOPEX extruded wood product. Each pencil is also capped with a non-removable capacitive stylus.

The Pencil by Staedtler

The extender has a rounded square cross section, a clip, and features a sharpener and replaceable eraser.

The pencils have a unique appearance. Round in shape with four paired lengthwise grooves, the combination of graphite/grey/black is unlike any pencil I’ve ever seen. The styling is cool, fashionable, and current. The pencil is capped with a silver coloured cap that houses a capacitive stylus for use on capacitive screen smartphones and tablets. (“Capacitive” is used in contrast to “Resistive”, which is the technology that was used by the Palm Pilot.) The pencils are about 135mm stylus to tip – quite comfortable to hold.

The Pencil by Staedtler

The extender fits somewhat loosely on a pencil. The extender has three parts – the pencil fits into a sharpener (the first part). The sharpener is housed in the exterior container (the second part), and the container has a cap that houses an eraser (the third part).

The pencil can be sharpened with just the bare sharpener – or, owing to the exposed rectangle in the exterior section, a single sharpening turn can be taken with the exterior attached, expelling the pencil shaving from the rectangle. Another feature – a smaller rectangle on the other side of the extender allows for viewing the point while the cap is on.

So the pencil – it writes very well with a medium dark lead that seems to respond nicely to some pressure. The WOPEX is probably still a product under development, and I believe this pencil writes much better than the first Wopexen that I tried in 2010. The pencil body is dyed black – it looks great, and I wonder if we’ll soon see other colours?

As to the stylus – a Monteverde pen with stylus that is in the household never really worked well enough to use. It seemed to be formed from a solid rubbery substance. The Pencil is different – the stylus seems to be a balloon over an air pocket that houses a solid nub in the interior. I tried the stylus on my BlackBerry Z10 and Sony Xperia Z tablet – it worked as well as I’d hope. Thinking back to the learning curves associated with these devices, the stylus did well. A full evaluation would no doubt take quite a bit of time.

The Pencil by Staedtler

The sharpener is acceptable in a pinch, but seemed too cheap and plastic based for a product at this price point. Perhaps weight minimization was a design consideration.

The Pencil by Staedtler

The eraser worked well. In fairness, I believe the WOPEX lines are not known to be as erasable as typical graphite lines.

As an extender, that silvery piece on the pencil is used to form a grip – this is a nice feature.

The extender seemed fragile and unsubstantial. I realize Staedtler probably didn’t want to create a metal extender, but there are so many high quality plastics and carbon fibres today that I feel there must have been better alternatives.

Overall, this is an interesting product, and hard to assess – an innovative design, new materials, and a new marriage of pencil to stylus. Could the stylus be produced as a standalone pencil attachment? It almost looks so.

I think this is a product for early adopters to try, and for most of us to observe – it could very well reappear in a new iteration with improvements.

The case of the wrong WOPEX

North American WOPEX

A very belated clarification…

Staedtler Canada gently let me know that this post featured the wrong WOPEX pencil. The 2010 post reviewed a light blue finished version – but in Canada and the US, a green version (the same colour as the 2H WOPEX sold in Europe, as far as I can tell) is the general offering.

The photo above shows a package of WOPEX pencils as sold in Canada.