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Vintage Japanese mechanical pencils


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13 replies to this topic

#1 MYU

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Posted 24 March 2009 - 17:57

When it comes to writing instruments, I favor fountain pens. At times, I have collected other writing instruments like mechanical pencils, ballpoints, and rollerballs, to complement a particular fountain pen that I've purchased. I've seldom put them to use... but I recently discovered that this has been my loss. Some of them are really well made and fun to use.

It used to be that pencils were a primary staple of writing instruments for architects, engineers, mathematicians, and students. Although artists use pencils for sketching and drawing, most favor fixed pencil leads encased in wood. The advent of the computer age has reduced the use of MP's (mechanical pencils) significantly. These days, I speculate that the people who write with them are mostly students, mathematicians, and some engineers or architects. Certainly, you can still find an ample supply of inexpensive MP's in office supply stores (and on-line). And they're still quite popular in Japan, where Japanese writing instrument companies continue pushing to innovate on the MP (in recent times there have been advances such as double-clutch feeds and lead rotators).

You can find some vintage mechanical pencils that have a lot of engineering thought put into them, as well as high quality materials. Here is a sample of some MP's in my collection (all using 0.5mm lead):














There are a few websites on the Internet devoted to mechanical pencils. Dave (kiwi) is particularly passionate about them and created a website called DavesMechanicalPencils. Dennis put together one called LeadHolder, but it looks like it hasn't quite taken off yet (the forum is light on activity and the most recent update on the main page was back in July 2008). Dave's website has a section with quite a few links to other on-line resources. Enjoy smile.gif


Some additional photos:








(black, brown, rust orange)

Edited by MYU, 07 June 2009 - 03:12.

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#2 archie001

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Posted 24 March 2009 - 18:45

Nice review and nice pictures. As an architect, I can't really dispose my mechanical pencils as I have them in daily use. I use them primarily for sketching and temporary plan revisions. I mostly buy a set with fountain pen, ballpoint pen and mechanical pencil.
Fountain Pen is for people who have a delicate taste in writing

Pens Actively In Use
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MB (LE) G.B.Shaw (FP-m,BP,MP); MB LeGrand (RB,BP,MP)
Parker Duofold Presidential Esparto sol.SS (FP-f, BP)
Parker Duofold PS SS (FP-f, RB)
Parker Doufold Marbled Green (FP-f,BP,MP)
Parker Duofold Marbled Gray (FP-xf)
S.T. Dupont Orpheo XL Platinum Diamond Head (FP-m)
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#3 gyrosan

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Posted 24 March 2009 - 18:47

Thanks for the review, MYU. I am fond of pencils, too. Dave's Mechanical pencils site has proven to be a good source for reviews on this matter. Their reviews are extensive and focused (review and comparison of lead is highly useful).

I bought a Ohto Promecha 0,5 mm mechanical pencil and some good lead Pentel Ain 0,5 mm that is smooth, doesn't brake and has good colour (it seems to be more black than other brands).

Take a look at this review of sophisticed mechanical pencil. review of "Ohto Promecha PM-1500S mechanical pencil at Dave's Mechanical pencils"

I highly recommend Dave's mechanical pencils as a good starting point for exploring the world of MP's. I'm not affiliated with Dave's MP site, just a happy review reader.

Kind regards,
gyrosan

#4 MYU

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Posted 31 March 2009 - 16:44

You're welcome, gyrosan. I too have found Dave's website to be a great resource. Many detailed reviews and interesting comments. It's amazing how much choice there is in the mechanical pencil realm. smile.gif

The Ohto Promecha has a novel design... a little over the top for my tastes, but I can see how it would be appreciated by those wishing very precise control over the function of their mechanical pencil.

Do you know about the Mitsubishi Uni Kuru toga? It has a very cool feature that rotates the lead, attempting to keep a consistent point size. I've been tempted to get one.

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#5 Doug C

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Posted 31 March 2009 - 18:23

QUOTE (MYU @ Mar 31 2009, 10:44 AM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
You're welcome, gyrosan. I too have found Dave's website to be a great resource. Many detailed reviews and interesting comments. It's amazing how much choice there is in the mechanical pencil realm. smile.gif

The Ohto Promecha has a novel design... a little over the top for my tastes, but I can see how it would be appreciated by those wishing very precise control over the function of their mechanical pencil.

Do you know about the Mitsubishi Uni Kuru toga? It has a very cool feature that rotates the lead, attempting to keep a consistent point size. I've been tempted to get one.



MYU,

where have you seen the Mitsu's?? Sounds like something I would like.

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#6 Tsujigiri

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Posted 31 March 2009 - 19:59

QUOTE (gyrosan @ Mar 24 2009, 11:47 AM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
Thanks for the review, MYU. I am fond of pencils, too. Dave's Mechanical pencils site has proven to be a good source for reviews on this matter. Their reviews are extensive and focused (review and comparison of lead is highly useful).

I bought a Ohto Promecha 0,5 mm mechanical pencil and some good lead Pentel Ain 0,5 mm that is smooth, doesn't brake and has good colour (it seems to be more black than other brands).

Take a look at this review of sophisticed mechanical pencil. review of "Ohto Promecha PM-1500S mechanical pencil at Dave's Mechanical pencils"

I highly recommend Dave's mechanical pencils as a good starting point for exploring the world of MP's. I'm not affiliated with Dave's MP site, just a happy review reader.

Kind regards,
gyrosan



QUOTE (MYU @ Mar 31 2009, 09:44 AM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
You're welcome, gyrosan. I too have found Dave's website to be a great resource. Many detailed reviews and interesting comments. It's amazing how much choice there is in the mechanical pencil realm. smile.gif

The Ohto Promecha has a novel design... a little over the top for my tastes, but I can see how it would be appreciated by those wishing very precise control over the function of their mechanical pencil.

Do you know about the Mitsubishi Uni Kuru toga? It has a very cool feature that rotates the lead, attempting to keep a consistent point size. I've been tempted to get one.


I have the Promecha and Kuru Toga, plus the Shift, which I just managed to acquire. I could write a comparison review of all of them (all domestic-only models) if people would be interested. Doug, the Kuru Toga's are extremely hard to find; they're sold out even in Japan. Jetpens and JStationary used to have them, but they're sold out. Even my local Japanese bookstore (where I found the Shift) is sold out. You might have to try patrolling ebay. I got mine from a seller called Linya. Search both Kurutoga and Kuru Toga, they'll give you different results that other people might have overlooked.


#7 Doug C

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Posted 31 March 2009 - 23:41

QUOTE (Tsujigiri @ Mar 31 2009, 01:59 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
QUOTE (gyrosan @ Mar 24 2009, 11:47 AM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
Thanks for the review, MYU. I am fond of pencils, too. Dave's Mechanical pencils site has proven to be a good source for reviews on this matter. Their reviews are extensive and focused (review and comparison of lead is highly useful).

I bought a Ohto Promecha 0,5 mm mechanical pencil and some good lead Pentel Ain 0,5 mm that is smooth, doesn't brake and has good colour (it seems to be more black than other brands).

Take a look at this review of sophisticed mechanical pencil. review of "Ohto Promecha PM-1500S mechanical pencil at Dave's Mechanical pencils"

I highly recommend Dave's mechanical pencils as a good starting point for exploring the world of MP's. I'm not affiliated with Dave's MP site, just a happy review reader.

Kind regards,
gyrosan



QUOTE (MYU @ Mar 31 2009, 09:44 AM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
You're welcome, gyrosan. I too have found Dave's website to be a great resource. Many detailed reviews and interesting comments. It's amazing how much choice there is in the mechanical pencil realm. smile.gif

The Ohto Promecha has a novel design... a little over the top for my tastes, but I can see how it would be appreciated by those wishing very precise control over the function of their mechanical pencil.

Do you know about the Mitsubishi Uni Kuru toga? It has a very cool feature that rotates the lead, attempting to keep a consistent point size. I've been tempted to get one.


I have the Promecha and Kuru Toga, plus the Shift, which I just managed to acquire. I could write a comparison review of all of them (all domestic-only models) if people would be interested. Doug, the Kuru Toga's are extremely hard to find; they're sold out even in Japan. Jetpens and JStationary used to have them, but they're sold out. Even my local Japanese bookstore (where I found the Shift) is sold out. You might have to try patrolling ebay. I got mine from a seller called Linya. Search both Kurutoga and Kuru Toga, they'll give you different results that other people might have overlooked.



Thanks.

I was disappointed by the Promecha a little bit, in that I didn't think it was built as nicely as it should be.
The Shift on the other hand, looks like it might be quite nice.

And the Mitsubishi that MYU described, sounds like a perfect pencil.

I'll keep looking for it.

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#8 MYU

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Posted 03 April 2009 - 04:10

Last I saw, the Kuru Toga was still being sold, by several sellers (one in Japan and one in Hong Kong). It's a buy-it-now item too, priced around $7 plus shipping (see item 180342593661).

Dave reviews this pencil on his website. You might want to read it before buying. There's also a silly YouTube video! Although featuring primitive animation in kids voices (speaking Japanese), but it does illustrate rather well how the mechanism works.

It's a useful idea for lead 0.5mm and above... but for 0.3mm it would be overkill.

Edited by MYU, 03 April 2009 - 04:12.

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#9 Samovar

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Posted 03 April 2009 - 06:14

I will look for the Kuru Toga on my next trip to the stationery, looks like a very interesting pen. I mainly use the Pilot Vanishing point pencil and the Pentel Kerry pencil.

But lately, I have been writing with good old wooden pencils and experimenting with special 6B and 10B lead since I am copying kanji everyday.

I rarely see people write with FP in Japan, but everybody writes with pencils all the time.
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#10 staceyaj

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Posted 03 April 2009 - 10:32

Kuru Toga's are back in stock at Jet Pens.

#11 R.ticle One

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Posted 03 April 2009 - 21:58

Great writeup and pictures - a few things I hadn't considered about the design of mechanical pencils, ie, lead quality, etc. You have very attractive printing.

#12 MYU

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Posted 06 April 2009 - 18:10

QUOTE (R.ticle One @ Apr 3 2009, 05:58 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
Great writeup and pictures - a few things I hadn't considered about the design of mechanical pencils, ie, lead quality, etc. You have very attractive printing.

Thanks, R.ticle One. Although I'd beg to differ with you on my handwriting using pencils. laugh.gif (Fountain pens make my handwriting look much better, IMHO).

Concerning lead, it's interesting that there have been advances in that area (most people would think lead is lead and that they haven't changed since the 50's). Some companies are now using Polymers in the composition. Kohinoor has one type called POLY-MAX. I think it helps resist breakage by introducing some slight flexibility and a smoother action with the lead to paper.

Quoted from Dave's Mechanical Pencils:
QUOTE
Normal pencil lead is a “ceramic” lead - primarily a mixture of graphite, clay and grease/wax. The graphite marks the paper and the clay is the binder that holds the mixture together. This composition does not have the strength to withstand the demands of thin lead mechanical pencils in the typical 0.3 to 0.9mm diameter range. These thin mechanical pencil leads are “polymer” leads - the mixture is graphite (and possibly carbon black) to mark the paper, and a polymer replaces the clay as the binding agent and oil sometimes replaces the grease/wax.

Edited by MYU, 06 April 2009 - 18:17.

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#13 ukulelecraig

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Posted 27 February 2015 - 10:54

I'm looking to purchase a striped Pilot mechanical pencil to match a striped ballpoint that I recently purchased.  Any ideas of where to buy?

 

pbp.JPG



#14 MYU

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Posted 19 December 2016 - 17:36

I'm looking to purchase a striped Pilot mechanical pencil to match a striped ballpoint that I recently purchased.  Any ideas of where to buy?

 

pbp.JPG

Interesting.  That's striped, but apparently of a slightly different design.  Notice the thickness of the lines is different from the front and rear sections.  I surmise that you have a "Frankenpen"... two parts from different pen models.  PILOT did make a few variations in their striped mechanical pencils and ballpoint pens, but one type is the most prominent (as shown above in my earlier photos).


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