Pilot Hi-Tec-C Coleto multipencil

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Pilot Hi-Tec-C Coleto multipencil

One more inexpensive multipencil. Please see the previous post on the Uni Style Fit for comparison.

Pilot also makes an inexpensive multi-refill writing implement, the Hi-Tec-C Coleto. Like the Style Fit, any combination of appropriate refills works. There are 2, 3, and 4-refill bodies, and by my count, 45 different pen refills, varying by diameter and colour. As well, Pilot makes a stylus and a 0.5mm pencil refill.

I ordered the 3-refill body ($US2.20 at Jstationery) and three pencil cartridges. As an international customer, I like Jstationery’s shipping policy – always charging the customer only the exact postage incurred.

Pilot Hi-Tec-C Coleto multipencil

My intent was again to create a multipencil, but this time in a tri-grade graphite format rather than tri-colour. I used Pentel Ain lead in 4H, HB, and 4B to create a nice graphite spectrum.

Pilot Hi-Tec-C Coleto multipencil

The Coleto has a number of differences with the Style Fit. First, the selection and advance mechanisms are not part of the pencil body, but rather attached to the refills! It looks odd to me, but works quite well in practice.

Pilot Hi-Tec-C Coleto multipencil

The body is more of a standard cylindrical shape, the clip much more able to actually clip something, and the grip area has a rubberized pattern overlayed. Overall, I find it much better thought out and practical than the Style Fit.

Pilot Hi-Tec-C Coleto multipencil

While it started as an experiment, I really like the result. The 4H/HB/4B pencil combination is definitely appealing and something I will use.

Pilot Hi-Tec-C Coleto multipencil

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.

Red Hot Lead

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Red pencil lead refills

Graphite is not the only refill available for mechanical pencils and leadholders. Colour lead refills, red in particular, are available in several formats. They might be be used by teachers, accountants, or anyone seeking to make a noticeable mark. The thicker versions might have uses in carpentry and masonry. Let’s examine ten of them.

Red pencil lead refills

0.5mm Pentel PPR-5 Red – a faint but usable red.

0.5mm Staedtler Mars micro color 245 05-2 Red – much more vibrant and saturated colour than the Pentel lead, yet also fragile – frequent breakage seems to be the tradeoff.

0.7mm Pentel PPR-7 Red – also faint but usable.

0.7mm Mitsubishi Uni Color Red – a bit softer than the Pentel, also a redder hue.

0.9mm Pentel PPR-9 Red – the format makes the marks more readable than the thinner versions.

Overall among the thin leads, the Pentel leads are slightly orange, while the Staedtler and Mitsubishi leads are truer reds.

Red pencil lead refills

2.0mm Koh-I-Noor 4300/5 Red – previously seen here, the lead is somewhat orange, and seemed faint.

2.0mm Fueki (???) RA20 Red – this is a brand that was previously unknown to me, and I thank isu of the uncomfortable chair for kindly sending this lead to me. It is quite good, with vibrant colour and on the softer side.

2.0mm Mitsubishi Uni Red – not bad for writing, it seems to keep a point, and is on the orange side. It should be noted that the leads have an attachment that prevents them “falling through” clutch leadholders. This may make them unusable in certain brands. There is also a risk of this ring getting stuck in a leadholder.

Red pencil lead refills

3.15mm Lamy M42 Color Red – surprisingly hard for a lead of this diameter, it is a nice refill for a 3.15m pencil.

3.15mm Wörther Spare Leads Red – very soft, they are almost like wax crayons – a marking tool rather than a writing implement. They’re also easily the most vibrant.

Among the thin leads, I like the Mitsubishi because it seems to be an accurate red. The Pentel, though performing well, has a slight orange hue that seemed not right. Though the Staedtler lead has great colour, it was too prone to breaking to be useful.

Among the thick leads, the 2.0mm Fueki and 3.15mm Lamy were the standouts from a writing perspective due to their truer red lead. The Wörther would no doubt be good at rougher tasks.

Red pencil lead refills

Ten samples is by no means a complete survey of the category. Are there other brands that you like or special uses for red lead that you might have?

Yard-O-Led Edwardian pencil

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Yard-O-Led Edwardian pencil

Yard-O-Led is a famous writing implement manufacturer. For those who appreciate graphite writing implements, their products have a unique appeal. The company’s original offering, the mechanical pencil, is still made in historic styles and formats by a team of six in Birmingham, England. Unlike many other fine writing implement manufacturers, their pencils are not derivatives of a pen offering – the pencils have a unique mechanism and format which has remained essentially unchanged from 1934 to the present.

Yard-O-Led Edwardian pencil

Yard-O-Led Edwardian pencil

Yard-O-Led Edwardian pencil

This particular pencil was chosen carefully. Though other traditional formats appealed to me, my experience with a vintage Yard-O-Led pencil indicated that some were a bit hard to hold in my hand. I wanted this pencil for daily use, and not to be banished to a shelf. For me, the Edwardian pencil got it right – round, heavy, with a long tapering that allows for a wide variety of comfortable grips.

The weight is 45 grams! Consider that a modern woodcase pencil is about 4g, and a large modern metal pencil like the Porsche Design P’3120 is 30g – the Edwardian is a substantial heavyweight. Yet the weight is nicely balanced, and the 134mm long pencil is comfortable to hold.

The body is sterling silver, with a barleycorn pattern finish. The nose has a very long taper. There is a clip with serial number and the “Yard-O-Led” name. The flat top cap is marked “Made in England”.

The barleycorn has two interruptions – a space for hallmarks, and a space suitable for engraving.

Yard-O-Led Edwardian pencil

The cap twists to extend and retract the 1.18mm lead. An advantage of the twist mechanism is the ability to retract the lead.

Yard-O-Led Edwardian pencil

The lead refill mechanism is much smoother and more usable than on the vintage pencil, which should not be a surprise. The instruction booklet is still welcome – it isn’t a typical refill system for 2009.

Yard-O-Led Edwardian pencil

I have been using the pencil at work for about one month. While one month is not a long period of time for a pencil that truly was made to last for years, I’ll say that I am absolutely delighted with it. It writes, looks, and feels like something special – which it is.

Yard-O-Led Edwardian pencil

The pencil is not inexpensive, yet I have no trouble saying it is definitely worth the price. In fact I regret having purchased so many cheaper mechanical pencils the last few years (especially those aimed purely at drafting purposes) – most are now stashed away unused in drawers, and cost in aggregate much more than this Yard-O-Led.

The guarantee states that Yard-O-Led pencils with serial numbers will always be serviced, and there is ample testimony around that the manufacturer faithfully honours this statement.

It will not be my last Yard-O-Led!

Further reading:

Pentrace article on the history of Yard-O-Led.

Previous post at pencil talk on a vintage Yard-O-Led pencil. That post was privileged to receive a comment from Mr. Colin Keates, the grandson of Yard-O-Led founder Ludwig Brenner.

Knurly: the Rotring 600 mechanical pencil

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Rotring 600 mechanical pencil

The Rotring 600 is a cult classic, a metal mechanical drafting pencil with legions of fans. The pencil (and a product line that includes a fountain pen) doesn’t seek to appeal to everyone, and focuses on a technical look rendered in heavyweight brass.

Rotring 600 mechanical pencil

With a hexagonal body and round knurled grip, the pencils have a very solid, sturdy look and feel, with an engineering aesthetic.

The Rotring company was acquired in 1998, and is now but a brand in the Newell Rubbermaid conglomerate. Rotring once made staples of drafting and design, starting with the Tintenkuli, a needle-nosed fountain pen that we would today call a technical pen.

The official Rotring site shows the company’s historic highlights. There are so many that the 600 line doesn’t even get a mention!

The 600 series may arguably be most famous for the fountain pen – yet mechanical pencil users also delight in this drafting pencil.

Rotring 600 mechanical pencil

There seem to be a few varieties around. The oldest versions have the body marked “rotring 600 / [lead diameter]”. Later versions are marked with just the lead diameter. There are also variants with a gold sleeve, and the non-drafting Newton 600 series. I am not aware of a complete taxonomy – if you know of one, please share.

Today, the 600 series pencils seem to be marketed only in Japan. I am not sure of the status of the other writing implements.

More than one source says Parker (itself also now a Newell Rubbermaid brand) is the manufacturer.

I have two 0.7mm pencils, one recently purchased (2008) from Japan, and one from about 2000 from a US vendor. They have some minor differences.

Rotring 600 mechanical pencil

The packaging has certainly shrunk over time – the new pencil has a small cardboard box and Japanese language instructions. The older packaging has a cardboard box containing a plastic display, and instructions in English and French. Both boxes mention the same Hamburg address.

Rotring 600 mechanical pencil

Rotring 600 mechanical pencil

Internally, the newer pencil has a metal casing around the lead tube. On a scale, it outweighs the older pencil 22.7 to 21.7 grams. That’s the only difference of note that I could find.

Rotring 600 mechanical pencil

A more subtle variation that may interest some, is that the older pencil’s clip is marked “Japan”.

Rotring 600 mechanical pencil

So what’s so special? It isn’t the the only metal pencil, or the heaviest, or the most extremely technical in appearance. Comparing it side by side with some other well regarded pencils, what I notice is that it is the slimmest – at a similar weight to larger pencils, it keeps traditional proportions. It is definitely the most dense and solid feeling pencil, and subjectively seems to be the best made. There is nothing wrong with the products from Staedtler and Ohto, and I may prefer their round shape. But they just don’t have the Rotring’s solid feel. I’ve picked up several thin lead drafting style pencils over the last couple of years (probably due to certain online influences :-), and I’m thinking the money would have been better spent on higher quality, though fewer, pencils such as the Rotring 600.

Knurly!

If you’re curious about the thin lead drafting style of mechanical pencil, you could do far worse than trying a classic such as the Rotring 600.

Faber-Castell 33/78 four colour pencil

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Faber-Castell 33/78 four colour pencil

Sorry for recent website outages – some rough weather was playing havoc with local power on the weekend.

Today, let’s reach way back in the pencil cupboard and pull out a vintage multipencil. This particular one has four colours. Thanks to leadholder.com’s archives, I can see that this pencil appeared on page 47 of Faber-Castell’s 1957 catalogue. Silver-plated, it originally sold for 11.50 DM. A sterling version was 18 DM.

Faber-Castell 33/78 four colour pencil

Thank goodness this pencil came with a manual!

Faber-Castell 33/78 four colour pencil

Faber-Castell 33/78 four colour pencil

The first thing I learned is that the cap can be depressed/released to reveal bands indicating the colour of choice. Twist the cap to align the color band with the clip, and the colour is changed.

Faber-Castell 33/78 four colour pencil

Faber-Castell 33/78 four colour pencil

I was pleasantly surprised that these perhaps fifty year old leads write so richly.

Faber-Castell 33/78 four colour pencil

The manual revealed another surprise: There is a spare lead set under the cap.

Faber-Castell 33/78 four colour pencil

So how do you advance the lead? Here’s where modern pencils show an advantage – you have to extend the mechanism with one hand, and grasp the lead clutch with the other – and twist the clutch clockwise to extend the lead. I kept looking at the manual and the pencil and saying to myself, “this can’t be right”, but, it worked and that’s how the lead is ejected:

Faber-Castell 33/78 four colour pencil

How would you replace a lead? Essentially, by performing the reverse of the lead advance, screwing in the replacement lead with counter-clockwise twisting. I haven’t done this, and good grief, don’t look forward to trying it. Colour leads are typically brittle, and I suspect that this would be very challenging.

Faber-Castell 33/78 four colour pencil

One other interesting aspect – this pencil uses indelible (copying) lead that contains aniline dye, so the required manual manipulation of the lead is definitely undesirable from a safety perspective.

Faber-Castell 33/78 four colour pencil

While it has many charms, for me, the operation is too problematic for this to become a daily use pencil.