Bic Criterium 2613 2.0mm leadholder

Bic Criterium 2613 2.0mm leadholder

Bic needs no introduction. Makers of much more than ballpoint pens, their many woodcase pencils seem to rarely be exported outside of France. Similary leadholders. I would love to be able to try some modern pencils from the country that gave the world the technique of blending graphite with clay – but I have rarely seen them for sale.

The Criterium’s website says that this leadholder has been in production since 1939, and comes in plastic and aluminum varieties. I would love to get the aluminum version, but feel lucky enough to have found any model.

The Uncomfortable Chair (in Japanese) and both provide some excellent photos of the aluminum version.

The 2613 has a hexagonal black plastic body, metal clutch and tip, metal clip, and a metal cap. The plastic feels quite solid, and the pencil (with full lead) weighs in at a comfortable 9.5g.

Bic Criterium 2613 2.0mm leadholder

The clutch is opened and closed by pressing the cap. The cap is innovative, containing an eraser and sharpener. The sharpener is literally a hole in the cap, which at first glance appears to be just a design element. It is one of those elegant ideas that seems obvious once you know about it – yet someone had to think of this idea and design the implementation.

Bic Criterium 2613 2.0mm leadholder

The grip area has grooves in the edges of the hexagonal body. I find it to be quite comfortable.

Bic Criterium 2613 2.0mm leadholder

Overall, I like it. The understated look and the cap sharpener are the winning features.

Mistubishi Pure Malt 2.0mm leadholder (and Nikka Single Malt 10yo “Yoichi” Whisky)

Mistubishi Pure Malt 2.0mm leadholder

If you think luxury writing instruments and leadholders are mutually exclusive categories, look again.

Mistubishi Pure Malt 2.0mm leadholder

The Mitsubishi Pencil Company offers the Pure Malt leadholder, with the body made from oak reclaimed from Malt Whisky casks! (The clutch, tip, clip, and cap are metal.)

Mistubishi Pure Malt 2.0mm leadholder

It has a very sleek, clean appearance. The woodgrain is dark, smooth and elegant. Plus, it was made from a whisky cask!

Mistubishi Pure Malt 2.0mm leadholder

It has the great feature of a retracting clutch, making it quite portable and pocket-safe. (See photos.)

Mistubishi Pure Malt 2.0mm leadholder

I found the hold and feel quite comfortable, and like the manner in which it carries off being both a leadholder, and a fine looking writing implement.

Mistubishi Pure Malt 2.0mm leadholder

Mistubishi Pure Malt 2.0mm leadholder

The small instruction booklet indicates there is a matching lead pointer, in a cask shape! I would love to get that item, but have not seen it for sale.

The unusual materials motivated me to seek out some actual Japanese whisky. Living in a place with a government liquor monopoly, my choice was the usual – no choice. Nikka Whisky Distilling Co.’s 10 year old single malt is the sole current offering. So Nikka it is.

(I have no knowledge of which distillery, Nikka or otherwise, provided Mitsubishi’s wood.)

Nikka Single Malt 10yo Yoichi Whisky

The bottle is a pleasing shape, and the stopper seems to have a deep coating around the cork – something I’ve never before seen.

Anyhow, on to the whisky. It is a dark straw or tea colour. The nose is pleasant to me, but at a time of year when a “warm” day is -8 degrees, I won’t claim that I can discern much. The taste is full of nuts, toffee, and fruity notes. It’s a very nice dram – as smooth as a Tombow 6B pencil. The character is very much that of a nice scotch whisky, though made many miles away.

The bottle will certainly not survive as long as the leadholder.

Two great products, not necessarily for enjoyment at the same time!

Caran d’Ache Fixpencil 3 Metal

Caran d'Ache Fixpencil 3

The Fixpencil is the signature product of a world-famous manufacturer. I’ve wanted to own one of these pencils for some while, and acquired a specimen last fall.

The version I have seems to revel in the Caran d’Ache heritage – the most visible marking is the statement “Fixpencil designed in 1929”. The “Swiss Made” logo is also there, and under the clip, one can read “Caran d’Ache Fixpencil 3 Metal”.

Caran d'Ache Fixpencil 3

This particular pencil is a 3.15mm clutch pencil, with a hexagonal shape and matte black finish. The mentioned text is in white/silver. The metal clip is solidly attached, but movable (and removable).

The pencil’s cap is red, and also the push button for opening the clutch. The cap also houses some inset blades, which serve as a sharpener.

The clutch itself is a chrome colour.

Caran d'Ache Fixpencil 3

The pencil (with full lead) weighs 11.4g, about triple a modern woodcase pencil. Yet – it still feels quite light for a metal clutch pencil.

Almost two years ago, I mentioned some other 3.15mm pencils that I like. The Fixpencil is quite different from all four of those pencils in that it resembles a woodcase pencil in dimensions, and takes a full-length 3.15mm lead. It is sleek, not rotund. The length is 135mm (sans lead).

Caran d'Ache Fixpencil 3

The grip and usability are great.

The cap sharpener is a most interesting feature. It works, and produces a fine pointed lead. But it doesn’t succeed in defying the laws of physics, and the graphite dust has to go somewhere – that would usually be one’s hands.

It is a usable and practical pencil of good quality. I had hoped the physical weight might correspond to the psychic weight of the legend of the Caran d’Ache Fixpencil, but that’s the problem with legends.

Recommended without reservation.

The Montblanc Leonardo Sketch Pen (Which is a pencil.)

Leonardo Sketch Pen
Is this the sexiest, most exciting pencil ever?

Years ago, an article in Pen World detailed the background of the wide lead clutch pencil resurgance. The invention and design of a new lead clutch mechanism was followed by success in selling it to the leading innovators in the writing implements trade.

The ultimate expession of that idea is the Leonardo Sketch Pen – which is a pencil. For me, it was a gift upon a special occasion. Not just a gift – an ubergift. You like whisky? Here’s a bottle of Ardbeg Provenance. You like cars? Here’s an Aston-Martin. And here’s what we have for pencils – the Montblanc Leonardo Sketch Pen.
Leonardo Sketch Pen box
As befits such an object, it is beautifully packaged in a presentation box. The top half contains the manual, a small sketch book, and a refill lead. The lower half has the pencil and a protective leather case.
Leonardo Sketch Pen box opened
The pencil itself is beautiful – black and gold, with a heft and design that makes other clutch pencils look very pedestrian. It handles very nicely, and it really conveys a sense of luxury.
Leonardo Sketch Pen accessories
What’s it for? It’s not for writing an essay, but it is great for sketches, drawings, flowcharts, and small bits of jotting. The lead width and pencil heft make it easy to quickly draw any length line. The cap, itself a small work of art, contains a sharpener for pointing the lead. In practice, the lead’s width means that there will be various edges varying from thin to wide, for producing different types of lines. But the initial point stays sharp for quite a while with an HB lead. Montblanc also provides 4B leads for darker, richer lines, and of course one can use third-party leads.

I’ve never seen another pencil with such a “wow” factor. A year old, it’s still a thrill to use.

[A note to readers: This blog may soon be going offline for a while.]

3.15mm mechanical pencils

3.15mm mechanical pencils
Photo, top to bottom:Lamy ABC, Lamy Scribble, Bexley Mini-Max, Pilot Croquis, on a Seligmann notebook.

The aspect of mechanical pencils that so many love is the one I don’t – the thin lead. Although a 0.7mm or 0.5 mm diameter lead may be ultra-precise, it’s also quite breakable. It’s doesn’t allow for much variation in line width, and the possibility of breakage (with a very tiny piece of graphite hurtling to places unknown) forces one to hold the pencil a bit too consciously.

There is hope! Though they don’t seem to have swept the world, mechanial pencils and leadholders with much wider leads are available. I’ll mention four of them, including one that has a very accessible price.

I’ve previously mentioned the Lamy ABC – it’s a nice pencil, and has a twist mechanism for advancing the lead. It also comes with a very nice cube shaped lead pointer. It’s aimed at children, so the bright colors may not be for everyone.

The Lamy Scribble uses the more conventional clutch mechanism (think “jaws”), which means you do the work in advancing the lead, though it isn’t difficult. It’s a down to business solid black in a material I had always thought metal, though it’s apparently a very dense plastic. Unlike the ballpoint and regular mechanical pencil in the Scribble line, the 3.15mm version has three sides partially flattened, presumably to enhance the grip.

The Bexley Mini-Max followed the success of their Multi-Max, a pencil using the even wider 5.6mm lead. (I love those also, but that’s another post). The Mini-Max is a 3.15mm pencil, also using a clutch like the Scribble. Bexley is a serious fountain pen company, and they released the Mini-Max in several finishes. It sells in a metal box that includes several goodies: a KUM lead pointer with a container (this looks like a standard pencil sharpener unless you’re quite close, and will also sharpen 5.6mm leads), a tube of graphite leads (maybe a B grade), a tube of coloured leads, and a real surprise – two ballpoint pen inserts that the clutch mechanism will take to covert the pencil to a pen. It’s quite a nice set. These ballpoints can be purchased for use in other clutch 3.15mm pencils like the Scribble.

Now for anyone who wants to try this format of pencil for much less than the previously mentioned pencils, there is a nice inexpensive wide lead pencil sold at art stores. The Pilot Croquis has a twist advance mechanism, and a black plastic body with a triangular grip. The one drawback I see is that the lead isn’t a standard 3.15mm – it is just a tad larger, so you’ll have to get the Pilot refills.

Lamy ABC

The Lamy ABC pen and pencil set.

The Lamy ABC is a pen and pencil set aimed at children, though adults will have no difficulty enjoying these nicely made products.

The fountain pen is essentially a Lamy Vista in a pleasing wood and red plastic case. It takes Lamy cartridges or a converter. My version has a medium nib. It’s a tremendous value as fountain pens go – a great writer, smooth and highly reliable. The cap doesn’t post, which could be an issue for some, and has a space for a sticker with one’s name. It is really lightweight, even compared with a Vista, so it’s no trouble to transport around town.

Matching the pen is a mechanical pencil with a 3.15 mm lead. Unlike most clutch leadholders, which require pressing a button or cap and sliding the lead, this pencil has a really nice twist mechanism. Even Lamy’s more sophisticated looking (and expensive) Scribble 3.15 mm pencil doesn’t have this mechanism. There is also an included lead sharpener, which I love as it works with other 3.15 mm pencils, and is a pretty unusual sharpener.

3.15 mm lead of the Lamy ABC.The pencil is comfortable and writes very nicely. The lead is solid and doesn’t break. Though they ship with an HB lead by default, the pencils also take other hardnesses as well as colour leads from art supply stores.

It’s a mechanical pencil that offers great quality, as well as nice (though not traditional) styling.