Pentel Black Polymer 999? (999 alpha) pencil

Pentel Black Polymer 999? (999 alpha) pencil

In our previous review of top Japanese pencils, it was lamented that the Pentel Black Polymer 999? was unavailable. We did review, and have previously looked at, the second tier 999. “Second tier”? The 999 is without doubt one of the finest pencils ever made, so we’ve been extremely curious about what Pentel considers to be even better!

There are now a few vendors that sell Japanese pencils internationally. Despite numerous enquiries over a period of years, no vendor we’ve contacted has been able to obtain this pencil. The only online evidence that this pencil ever existed seems to be a few small photos and statements here and there. With thanks to the resourcefulness of isu of the uncomfortable chair, it is now possible to finally examine this pencil.

Pentel Black Polymer 999? (999 alpha) pencil

In grade ‘H’, two pencils were obtained. Here we invoke the ‘to have and to hold’ philosophy – keep one ‘as is’, and use, enjoy, test, write, with the other.

Pentel does not have their own woodcase pencil production facilities – these magnificent creations are apparently all subcontracted. Well, Pentel must be a first rate contract manager, because their products have turned out very well.

The 999? is a glossy black pencil with silver lettering and accents. The varnish quality is excellent.

Following previously introduced nomenclature –

The obverse reads:

Pentel Black Polymer 999? H

And the reverse:

supreme quality for drawing lines of high density CB200 JAPAN H

The pencil cap itself seems highly curious – possibly some sort of plastic or resin.

“Supreme quality” is a major boast, but if any company could deliver, it would presumably be Pentel, known for many lead and mechanical pencil achievements.

It being a pencil that likely exists in limited numbers, one was carefully sharpened in the “regular” slot of a Tombow SM-200WN sharpener.

It sharpened to a very fine point – which after several days of occasional use – has not yet broken.

‘H’ leads are outside our usual frame of reference – we know they are useful for many drafting and drawing purposes, but are typically harder than we would prefer for general writing/sketching.

To establish a context, two Staedtler Mars Lumograph 100 pencils in H were also tested – one new (silver lettering, bar code), and one perhaps five to ten years old, with white lettering and no bar code.

Pentel Black Polymer 999? (999 alpha) pencil

The two Staedtler pencils did not seem the same – the older one appeared to leave a fainter line.

Compared to either Staedtler pencil, the Pentel seemed to leave a richer, darker line, and to be extremely sturdy – combining a fine sharpening capability with great non-eroding durability . If ‘H’ pencils generally came like this, they would be loved by many.

Pentel Black Polymer 999? (999 alpha) pencil

Drafting-only pencils are somewhat out of our element, but nothing observed indicates that the 999? isn’t indeed of ‘supreme quality’.


Can any of our Tokyo readers comment?

An article in the Kyodo News mentions a specialty pencil store, as well as the resurgence of pencil sales in Japan.

“Gojuon, which means the Japanese alphabet, is a specialty retail store for ballpoint pens and pencils located in a back alley of Tokyo’s Ginza district, better known as the home to upscale clothing stores, top-class bars and restaurants.

“Old showcases line side by side on the floor, displaying an assortment of pencils, including red and blue two-color pencils, ones with mascots attached to them and pencils with the color of their sticks made to change according to differing temperatures. Pencil sharpeners and caps are also on exhibit.”

It sounds like a great place to visit!