Mitsubishi NanoDia pencil

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Mitsubishi NanoDia pencil

The Mitsubishi NanoDia pencil is supposed to be something special. The graphite is claimed to benefit from some important and noteworthy quality advances.

The line was announced in 2008, and started with mechanical pencils refills; woodcase pencils were introduced a couple of years later. The features of note include strength and density.

Now considering this matter, I’ve been wondering just how a major pencil manufacturer introduces product improvements. Paint or wood improvements are probably simple enough to introduce, and won’t likely disrupt the user base, but a change to a graphite formula could cause problems. A key differentiator of the top global pencil lines – the Hi-Uni, the Mono 100, the Castell 9000, or the Mars Lumograph 100 – is that they remain the same high quality product, and perform the same way, year after year, decade after decade. That they remain absolutely reliable and stable as tools for artists is a main selling point over readily available and less expensive alternatives.

So how then, does an improvement get introduced? Well, perhaps it depends on what the feature is – if the strength of a lead core can be improved without changing other pencil characteristics, then that feature could possibly be integrated with the main pencil line. But any feature that changes the feel of the lead on paper, or the blackness or luminescence of the line, or the known chemistry between the graphite and paper, probably has to be directed elsewhere. And perhaps even making the lead stronger might be seen as too much change to a formula.

So if Mitsubishi did find a way to make a graphite core denser and smoother, one can see that they may have had a problem on the matter of what to do with their discovery. An established line can’t just be altered. So the features went into a new product – the NanoDia.

Mitsubishi NanoDia pencil

NanoDia? Nanoscopic diamonds? Well, graphite molecules are no doubt the cousins of diamonds in the carbon family.

Mitsubishi NanoDia pencil

The pencils look like (and are labelled as) a product for children. So what about the scientific advances said to be in the formula? Shouldn’t this be a product in Mitsubishi’s premier Uni range? Here I am lost – if the product is what it claims to be, why is it priced and packaged as a lower end item?

Mitsubishi NanoDia pencil

So regarding the pencils – they come in B and 2B grades, and a choice of green, pink, or blue finishes. They are hexagonal with unfinished ends. I bought a box of the 2B with the blue finish.

Mitsubishi NanoDia pencil

The pencil does leave a notably dense, rich, black line. I like it, but am undecided about the appearance.

Mitsubishi’s extremely soft pencils

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Mitsubishi's extremely soft pencils

For drawing and shading, the super dark marks of the softest grade pencils can be very appealing. These soft grades typically go up to 6B in the ranges of many manufacturers. Anything beyond that can be very hard to find, especially as a traditional graphite pencil.

Some manufacturers offer very dark pencils in “carbon” or “ebony” lines – but these are typically composed of charcoal, carbon (soot or lamp black), or oil based, rather than graphite.

And some pencils that use the traditional B grades, like the Staedtler Mars Lumograph 100 7B and 8B, are carbon based pencils.

Tombow stops at 6B, as did Mitsubishi – until 2008, when they added 7B, 8B, 9B, and 10B to the Hi-Uni lineup.

Mitsubishi's extremely soft pencils

On Strathmore Bristol 300 series 260gsm (100lb) paper (acid free, white, smooth), trying the new Hi-Unis is like tasting county fair caramels – they are all amazingly smooth and delicious. The 9B and 10B have decidedly wider cores. On this paper, and others such as Fabriano Disegno 200gsm (94lb) paper (acid free, toothy), I have trouble really seeing any greater saturation or darker line among the various grades.

Mitsubishi's extremely soft pencils

I think these pencils provide a really interesting and satisfying experience, which I recommend to anyone seeking to lay down exceptionally dark lines.

Now the above are the mainstream pencils – but there are (at least) three others. The fude enpitsu (brush pencil) is a gold finshed 10B pencil with a Hi-Uni cap. We took a look at it in 2008. I still agree that it a has a waxier feel. On paper, it may be just a shade lighter.

Mitsubishi's extremely soft pencils

The Super-DX remains an amazing specimen of pencilcraft – the finish is just astounding. As noted previously, it has a very wide core. And a couple of years after first looking at the Super-DX, I still find it to be smoother than the “regular” 8B Hi-Uni, and the lead possibly just a degree more saturated.

Mitsubishi's extremely soft pencils

There is one more – a “secret” Hi-Uni 8B that predated the official 2008 extension of the Hi-Uni line. There is some background information at Brand Name Pencils. The “Kouhitsu Yo” has different markings and a wider core than the new 8B Hi-Uni, but otherwise seems to be the same pencil.

If you understand Japanese, it would be greatly appreciated if you could advise on the meaning of the text on these pencils.

Close up, the cores of course look very different from office/school pencils:

Mitsubishi's extremely soft pencils

If you’ve used any of these super soft grades, please share your thoughts!

Related reading:

Mitsubishi 10B pencils: the brush pencil (fude enpitsu) and the Hi-uni (pencil talk, November, 2008)

Mitsubishi Hi-Uni Super-DX and Hi-Uni 8B pencils (pencil talk, November, 2008)

Mitsubishi 10B – Part 2 (Dave’s Mechanical Pencils, October, 2008)

Mitsubishi Hi-Uni 10B premium wooden pencil and Pencil Extenders (Lung Sketching Scrolls, December, 2008)

Mitsubishi Natural pencils

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Mitsubishi Natural pencils

Some beautifully finished Mitsubishu Uni pencils. Called “Natural”, they have a rich and appealing woodgrain.

My eye can’t discern this, but over time, at least one pencil’s cap has begun to show a hairline crack in the paint:

Mitsubishi Natural pencils

The circled JIS mark attests to these being older pencils.

Mitsubishi Natural pencils

The box of twelve came with an eraser, and looks great wherever it finds itself, but especially on a wood desk.

Mitsubishi Natural pencils

Mitsubishi Jumbo-uni pencil

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A special variant of the famous Mitsubishi Uni pencil.

Mitsubishi Jumbo-Uni pencil

The Jumbo-uni is 25cm long and 1cm in diameter!

Mitsubishi Jumbo-Uni pencil

The appearance and markings are generally the same as the regular Uni. Some text is different:

Mitsubishi Jumbo-Uni pencil

It really is Jumbo:
Mitsubishi Jumbo-Uni pencil

Uni pencils mention the company establishment in 1887. “85th anniversary” suggests 1887 + 85 = 1972. Is this pencil really 38 years old? Well done, Mitsubishi Pencil Co.

Mitsubishi Jumbo-Uni pencil

Mark Sheet pencils from Japan

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Mark Sheet pencils from Japan

These pencils aren’t aimed at writing, yet they are all superb at the task.

Sold to students facing multiple choice exams, they are specialty test pencils. These specific ones are made in Japan, and called “Mark Sheet” pencils.

Of course, test taking isn’t the only possible use, and today we’ll take a look at them from a writing perspective.

Mark Sheet pencils from Japan

The pencils are:

Mitsubishi Uni 100 Mark Sheet pencil, HB
Pentel CBM10 Mark Sheet pencil, HB and B
Tombow LM-KMS Mono Mark Sheet pencil, HB

All are hexagonal with finished caps, and sold unsharpened.

Mark Sheet pencils from Japan

The Mitsubishi is grey, with a black dipped end and blue ring. The lettering is white, and the pencil states, “Hi-Density Lead for Mark Sheet.” The cap is stamped “HB”.

The Pentel is navy blue, and has the slogan, “the best quality for OCR sheet marking.” The blue is offset by two silver rings and silver lettering. The HB has a marigold cap, while the B grade sports red.

The Pentel has a vivid bright blue finish, with a matte silver dipped end and silver ring. The lettering is in white.

Mark Sheet pencils from Japan

All three pencils have nice finishes, and sharpen easily.

Certain pencil/paper combinations really shine (a subject for a future post), and on a Maruman Mnemosyne notebook, all three pencil brands are exceptional in their non-crumbling adherence, smooth application, and dark rich black lines. The best? For me, the Pentel, and especially the B grade version, stood out as a super-smooth writer.

Mark Sheet pencils from Japan

Specialty pencils of course have specialty erasers, and the Uni Mark Sheet eraser does a great job. The formula seems somewhat different than other familiar erasers from Pilot or Tombow – more crumbly, but possibly even more effective.

Mark Sheet pencils from Japan

(Pentel also make a “mark sheet eraser”, but I haven’t seen it in person.)

All are first rate, but writing with the Pentel CBM10 Mark Sheet pencil in B is an experience I especially recommend to all pencil users!

See also:

Pentel Mark Sheet Pencil – pencil talk, August 2008
LM-KMS – Lexikaliker, June 2009
MONO Mark Sheet Pencil Set – On the desk, at any time, March 2010

Uni Style Fit multipencil

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It’s been a few days since the last post. Despite this quiet period, the blog just had the busiest day on record. I’d like to say thank you to Selectism, whose link sent many (no doubt well dressed!) visitors this way.

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Uni Style Fit

Today we’re going to look at the Uni Style Fit. The Style Fit is an inexpensive multi-implement writing system known for a vast array of refill types and colours. Here is an official Mitsubishi Pencil Co. press photo showing the lineup. I count 16 body and 103 refill choices! 102 of those refill choices are pens – a wide range of gel diameters and colours, and a smaller ballpoint selection. There is also a single pencil refill – 0.5mm Nano Dia HB lead.

Uni Style Fit

Though there are many multi-pens on the market, they typically have a set configuration – two ballpoints and a pencil, for example, or three ballpoints – which can’t be changed.

What is really interesting about the Style Fit is that you can put in any combination of the 103 refill types. This made me think that it could be configured as an inexpensive multipencil. I ordered a 3-refill body (all of $US3.00 at Jstationery) and three pencil cartridges.

Uni Style Fit

I changed one cartridge to red lead and another to green. There seemed to be very little tolerance in the cartridges, so replacing the leads required a steady hand. (see below)

Uni Style Fit

The mechanism seems complicated, yet is reasonably practical. The clip is also a lead selector, and two other spokes also function in this capacity. I attached the graphite cartridge to the clip, and the red and green leads to the smaller spokes. You select a lead by sliding the appropriate clip or spoke. This in turn extends the cartridge. The cartridge will lock in place, and the lead is extended by making smaller clicks of the clip or spoke.

Uni Style Fit

Overall, I’m pleased. While admittedly a bit of a novelty, it is also an inexpensive and functioning red-green-graphite multipencil. There is some rattling noise inside the pencil, and it doesn’t exactly look like a luxury writing instrument. Yet at this price point, neither consideration seems important. Also available in single and 5-refill bodies, there are a lot of possible uses for such a customizable item.

Uni Style Fit

Update (March 14, 2010): I had mentioned the challenge of replacing the default lead inside the cartridge. This was based on attempting to reload a stand-alone cartridge. If you first place the cartridge in the pencil body, replacing the lead becomes simple.