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.

Lamy Safari 2.0mm Mechanical Pencil

Lamy has many fans in the stationery world, and justifiably so. Their products are associated with reliability, good value, and a commitment to good design.

Here is a Lamy Safari you’re not going to find in any stationery store: a 2.0mm mechanical pencil. The one pictured is a custom modification by isu, the author of both the uncomfortable chair, and the uncomfortable chair 2. Why two blogs? I am not sure. Maybe there are even more.

In a great confluence of events, Stationery Magazine issue 10 just arrived from Japan. We took a brief look at the first issue almost a decade ago. Although I do not read or speak Japanese, the annual magazine has such great photography that it is still worth picking up if you’re someone who reads blogs like this one.

Guess who is featured in issue 10? The master modifier himself!

LAMY Safari 2.0mm Mechanical Pencil

Thank you isu for the great pencil!

LAMY Safari 2.0mm Mechanical Pencil

I wonder if Lamy could be persuaded to add 2.0mm to their lineup?

LAMY Safari 2.0mm Mechanical Pencil

LAMY Safari 2.0mm Mechanical Pencil

A custom Pentel Kerry pencil and a surprise from Clairefontaine

2.0mm Pentel Kerry

Sometimes familiar stationery items aren’t what they seem. Here is a Pentel Kerry mechanical pencil – but unlike any most of us have ever seen. It is paired with a Clairefontaine pocket notebook.

2.0mm Pentel Kerry

This pencil – a classic – is a custom modification by isu of the uncomfortable chair, turning the pencil into a 2.0mm version! It continues to fully function as a mechanical pencil. Look at the quality of the finish – it appears as if it came from the factory.

Thank you isu for such a wonderful gift!

2.0mm Pentel Kerry

As to the the second surprise – let me mention some context. Many of us were very surprised to learn that Tombow has moved (at least some) production of their iconic Mono 100, one of the world’s best pencils, to Vietnam. There is a great account at Lexikaliker. The news so far isn’t good – unfortunately, the Vietnamese version appears diminished in finish quality, even if retaining the same lead core.

So what a surprise to find a notebook the same week from Clairefontaine, which like sibling brands Rhodia and Exacompta, strongly associates itself with “Made in France”, that is made in Morocco. Yes, “design” and “paper” from France. Fortunately, I find the notebook to be excellent, with creamy 90 g/m2 paper (presumably the same as the “Rhodia R” series) and a pocket format. I’ll note a particular pencil advantage – this thick paper takes well to traditional rubber erasers, such as the round Graf von Faber-Castell.

HEMA Mechanical Pencil

Today, we are honored to have a guest post from Leon of Oude Tonge, Netherlands.

HEMA Mechanical Pencil
L. to R.: Stanley knife, Pentel Side FX 0.5 PD255, HEMA vulpotlood, Pentel Function .357, Uni Kuru Toga 0.5, Kaweco Sport

Since my schooldays, I haven’t done much work with a mechanical pencil. I have an education as a pre-press graphic designer and graduated in 1995. The Mac had taken over the pre-press world but our school was a little late to the party, so I still learned to work with paper, ink, huge cameras and chemically developed, rasterized film.

Outside of school and some internships I never used these (literally) old school techniques any more, but I still love the tools of the trade. I can’t resist buying them every once in a while, when I’ve found a new one that looks promising. Mechanical pencils (vulpotloden in Dutch) are among my favorites. was a eye opener. Apparently I am not the only one who likes mechanical pencils.

You’d think that, with the increased use of computers and the digital lifestyle becoming the standard, items like mechanical pencils would be used less and less or would even disappear completely. Fortunately, this is not the case, although they don’t get a lot of attention. They are there, but they are not advertised much. Still, I think some of these items have never been so high in quality while so affordable as now, in the 21st century.

I’m not a very active collector, but whenever I visit a warehouse or bookstore, I like to check the assortment of mechanical pencils. Of course, you’ll often find dozens of cheap lead holders usually mostly made of plastic, designed without any fantasy. Dull.

However, at the HEMA, a series of Dutch department stores, I found a nice exception. A full metal mechanical pencil. It comes with a single 0.5 mm lead to get you started and even though the eraser is too small for frequent use, the weight of it alone gives you confidence that it’s a serious piece of equipment.

HEMA is known for their ‘own’ products. Most are produced specially for them, to their specifications. Therefore, I wouldn’t be surprised if these mechanical pencils are not available anywhere else.

It is sturdy and handles well. The surface looks like aluminium but given the weight, I’d say it’s steel covered with a layer of aluminium. The metal clip is strong but flexible enough to be really useful. The body is sleek but the lower part is slightly wider, which makes it more comfortable to hold. The diamond shaped profile makes the grip much better and en passant makes it look like a piece of a fine mechanical instrumentation. In the center of the grip are some deeper laying rings that amplify this effect even more. All together, it’s a little gem among those plastic elements.

HEMA Mechanical Pencil
A closer look at the different parts of the HEMA mechanical pencil

Sincere thanks to Leon for contributing this excellent article. Photos and text by Leon. Since composing the article, Leon has noticed that the HEMA clip appears to be identical to that of the Rotring 600.

Porsche Design P’3120 mechanical pencils

Porsche Design P'3120 mechanical pencils

The Porsche Design P’3120 series of writing instruments are machined from single blocks of aluminum. There are pencils and ballpoints in the series – no fountain pens or rollerballs. They are made by Faber-Castell, though press announcements indicate Pelikan is slated to take over manufacture of the Porsche writing implements. I’m curious if Pelikan can or will continue the current designs, or if there will be a new slate of products.

Porsche Design P'3120 mechanical pencils

The first P’3120 was the aluminum version. Though expensive for a mechanical pencil, the sleek lines and unified look appealed to me, and I picked up the first of this set.

Two later versions in “anthracite” and “titanium” finishes changed the milled ring pattern to a tighter line.

Porsche Design P'3120 mechanical pencils

The latest version is in black, part of the “Edition 1” series. It differs from predecessors in having Porsche markings on the body rather than the clip.

Porsche Design P'3120 mechanical pencils

I hope the photos speak to the appearance, and I’ll mention some other aspects:

The grip is formed by three scallops in the pencil. It does require keeping the pencil in place in one’s hand, rather than rotating.

The clip looks beautiful – yet the weight and length of the pencils don’t work well with shirt pockets, and the clip is too tight to work well with jacket pockets. It is what I would call a desk pencil.

Porsche Design P'3120 mechanical pencils

The refilling of the 0.7mm lead is done via a Faber-Castell cartridge. As with most pencils I buy, I immediately replaced the manufacturer’s lead with the fantastic Pentel Ain lead.

Porsche Design P'3120 mechanical pencils

The lead advance is achieved via twisting the cap (which is also the top half of the pencil). The P’3120 cartridge mechanism is one of the good ones – it works well, and there is very little lead breakage, though this is a heavy pencil and I suspect I write with what some might call a ‘heavy hand”.

There is a small “emergency only” eraser under the “cap”.

The pencil weight is 30g – not Yard-O-Led territory, but heavier than most mechanical pencils. Again, making this a desk pencil rather than a contender for the pocket.

Despite these great characteristics, in the end it is the overall aesthetics that won me over. The sleek, modern machined look is appealing. The pencil sits well in the hand, and functions well. I like each of the four versions, and use them all in rotation. I have not previously been drawn into the “get one of each” approach to buying writing instruments, but somehow was won over in this case.

As well, the machined aluminum resists scratching and day to day wear, quite unlike other writing implements I own. I think I would be content with a used version of one, which isn’t my typical approach.

Porsche Design P'3120 mechanical pencils

Overall, I like the P’3120, and wholeheartedly recommend it with the noted reservations.