Archive for the ‘Mechanical’ Category

Review: Pentel Quicker Clicker (PD345)

December 6, 2018
The newer Quicker Clicker (PD345TA) by Pentel with rubberized grip

An Affordable Pencil With Very Useful Features

While the Pen Museum is intended to cover unusual and often discontinued writing instruments, there will be times when a recent production pen or pencil may be featured.  This is such a case.

Most mechanical pencils use a single click-action rear plunger to advance lead.  Some others require a twisting motion.  And a rare few use some kind of side mounted button that either slides forward or presses inward.  It appears that Mitsubishi (Uni-Ball) originated the button clicker, and aptly named it “Pecker.”  I’m not kidding.  I guess because you kind of “peck” at the pencil with your index finger (but was actually “push”, sliding forward).  This was sold in Japan and so it was likely that the marketing people neglected to look up related meanings to that word in other notable countries, like the USA.

The Mitsubishi “Pecker” Mechanical Pencil

Pentel chose a much more mundane and straight forward name, “Quicker Clicker”.  I’d prefer if they’d just chosen “Quic-Clic”, since they used the “Clic” name before as with “Techno-Clic.”

The first version of the Quicker Clicker appears to have come out sometime in the mid 1970’s, with a base model number PD345 (“5” means 0.5 mm).  There is also PD347 and PD349 for 0.7 and 0.9 mm lead sizes respectively.  Some had solid opaque plastic colors (black, red, green, blue, and white) and later translucent models would appear (denoted with “T” suffix) with various tints such as blue, violet, burgundy, and smoke.  They had no grip assist of any kind (such as cut lines or rubber coating) and the nose cone was made of an opaque plastic on all models (usually black).

Early Pentel Quicker Clicker PD345TA

How does the vintage and newer versions physically compare? Unfortunately I don’t have an original Quicker Clicker to disassemble, but I’m guessing that the internal mechanism is the same. I used to have one of these (solid blue) and used it all throughout high school (somehow didn’t lose it for many years, until my last move). The parts appear to be decent quality. I disassembled this PD345TA and it still has the same thick steel clip with large collar to hug the plastic barrel, and taking a rather nice chunky tub of an eraser that seats inside a decent circular metal frame (there’s even a small hole in the bottom so you could dock a lead clearing tool inside it). There is still a plastic cap that goes over the eraser, and while it does friction fit to a fair degree, I wish it had a more prominent “click” to lock in place. I remember losing mine during high school, only a few weeks after getting it. The nose cone is now transparent and tinted a brownish smoke color. I like the fact that you can see into it, versus the old style opaque black plastic. The mechanism is mostly plastic, except that the chuck is brass and the 3.5mm pipe guide is stainless steel.

Pentel PD345TA Quicker Clicker partially disassembled

The rubberized grip is a nice addition. It is ribbed with a wavy pattern. It appears to be made of a rubber that provides a good enough grip without being sticky and a lint magnet. However, there have been some reviews posted on-line (Amazon) declaring that the grip doesn’t last more than a few years before degrading. That was on the successor to the first model with a smooth surface grip design, so perhaps that issue was addressed with the newer PD345 having a wavy rubber grip? For my hand (L/XL) the grip is a welcomed swelling of the section that feels very comfortable and the grip provides excellent control. I can see the grip getting dirty and grimy over time, but it should be relatively easy to clean (an old toothbrush with some soapy water would do the trick).

Other features: the barrel being a tinted transparent plastic means you can easily see the lead inventory inside, which is something lacking for many pencils. Also, Pentel was smart in that there’s a small lip inside the tube so lead doesn’t come sliding out so easily when the back eraser plug is removed. The side-click mechanism works nicely with the index finger button pumping out a modest amount of lead with each click and not making an attention getting click noise in the process. The overall experience is a lightweight pencil that is modest and yet full of precise control. All in all, Pentel is still making a fine writing instrument here–well made and affordable for the price.

ADDENDUM

The whole model line is referred to as “PD34x”, which consists of PD345, PD347, and PD349 (last digit is the lead size). From there, a letter suffix is used to denote the variations. There are presently several colors available — black, blue, burgundy, and violet. A: Black, B: Burgundy, C: Blue, V: Violet. The transparent version includes a “T”, and opaque has no letter. Note that “TA” is “transparent black” but equates to “smoke”.

Example, for the 0.5mm in transparent:

  • PD345TA – Smoke transparent
  • PD345TB – Burgundy transparent
  • PD345TC – Blue transparent
  • PD345TV – Violet transparent

The original Quicker Clicker had several other colors that include green, red, blue, black, and white.

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Review: Pentel Mechanica 0.3 & 0.5 mm drafting pencils

November 29, 2018

Pentel has been making writing instruments since the 1940’s.  But 1968 was the big “break out” year for Pentel.  This was when they released the Mechanica.  2018 was the celebration of their 50th anniversary.  Alas, no re-issue was made.  But it did indeed cause a spike in resale prices of the original mechanical pencil.  So well made that examples are still in use today.

Pentel Mechanica 0.3mm & 0.5mm drafting mechanical pencils

What made the Mechanica so unusual is the tip protection mechanism–a sliding cylindrical metal sheath that extends down over the tip to protect it, then is retracted when preparing the pencil for use.

  • Weight: Perhaps a little on the light side, but pleasantly so. You won’t tire from writing with it, while not feel like it’s inexpensive (as you would from a PG2 or PG5).
  • Balance: Center of gravity is slightly forward. The metal in the front feels solid and provides ample grip.
  • Feature: The sliding protective metal tip sleeve is most unusual and the most compelling feature. It works well and does the job.
  • Convenience: It’s a somewhat long pencil at 15cm, but doesn’t feel uncomfortably long. The provided vinyl sleeve is just a tad short, and could be more robust (a little thin), but looks nice. There is a removable clip that is a standard Pentel accessory (so if you lose it, you can take one from a P205).
  • Mechanism: Feels luxuriously smooth. Tactile click without any tinny or hollow sound. The end button is metal (unlike black plastic with the lesser PMG twin).
  • Design: This is simply a stunningly handsome pencil. I think the 0.3mm looks more distinctive, as the grid lines etched into the metal grip have black paint applied, whereas the 0.5mm is more “raw.” You can see the difference if you look closely in the photos.

Pentel provided the Mechanica in a nice hard plastic hinged box, with some accessories.

The clip is designed to be easily removable, so that when using the pencil there’s no feeling of the clip.  The lead type indicator is easily changed by loosening the collar around it, turning to the loaded lead setting, then tightening.  The rear plunger is a nicely machined cap.  When removed to access the lead, there is no eraser.  But there is a lead clearing tool in the cap.  The quality and craftsmanship that went into this pencil are excellent and it’s no wonder why this is a very celebrated writing instrument.  I’m glad to have gotten the 2 sizes that were available.  They look almost identical except for the lead indicator color band and the cut lines in the grip section having black painted lines on the 0.3 mm, but left bare on the 0.5 mm.

Brothers in Knurling

November 27, 2018
Brothers in Knurling
“Brothers in Knurling,” inspired by Dire Straits album “Brothers in Arms” (c)
“Knurling” refers to a textured pattern cut or molded into the front section for added grip.

Knurling — You either love it or you hate it

A key aspect to using a mechanical pencil is the grip.  You should be able to hold the pencil easily in a stable manner and not suffer any slippage while writing.  Many non-drafting style pencils don’t feature any grip textures so they end up allowing your fingers to slide down as you write, if you’re writing for long periods.  Drafting pencils are almost always fitted with knurling of many different types.  I won’t go into the enormous range of variations for this installment, but may revisit the idea later.  This photo provided gives you an idea of some more common ones.  The Kohinoor and rOtring pencils use “diamond cut” knurling, as the crisscross cuts create small diamond shapes.  The Staedtler featured here is using a box or grid cut.  Some Pentel and Pilot pencils have used this type as well.  The costly knurling cut process can be avoided by providing either molded plastic/rubber, or simple concentric lines cut into the section.  The Pentel P200 series (the P205 being the most popular in 0.5 mm size) has a grid cut mold in the section area of the plastic barrel that does the job well, part of the reason why that series has become so ubiquitous in the arena of drafting style mechanical pencils.

For most of the metal knurled treatment is done on stainless steel, so there’s no rust to worry about.  Sometimes there can be corrosion or staining, but with the right technique and substance it can usually be cleaned well enough to look almost like new.

Review: Pentel SS455 mechanical pencil, SS400 series

November 27, 2018

Pentel has been making writing instruments since 1946, in the wake of World War II with Japan in shambles. But in just 2 short decades Pentel would evolve to become a major player in the affordable writing instrument arena, as well as a supplier of top tier drafting mechanical pencils. But Pentel’s real bread-and-butter lies with the lower tier affordable writing instruments. And of that, there are many. Most everyone knows the ubiquitous P205 (0.5 mm) pencil, which was teamed up with 3 other lead sizes (P203 0.3 mm, P207 0.7mm, P209 09.mm).

While Pentel had great success with the P200 line, targeted for more drafting audiences, they also released a variety of mechanical pencils with metal bodies. Some were made partially of metal, some fully (like the PG15). Of course, more metal the higher the cost.  Pentel created an “SS400” series of pretty decent mechanical pencils that successfully pull off being inexpensive while looking and feeling more costly.

  • SS445 – Like SS455 but without the plastic grip
  • SS455 – Hard plastic ribbed grip, sliding pipe guide
  • SS465 – Soft silicone grip, chromed furniture, sliding pipe guide
  • SS475 –  All steel, etched grip, sliding pipe guide

Oddly enough, the SS455 was on the lower end of the price range, but now tends to be priced higher than the others in resale market. The SS465 looks more modern and possibly better made, but the silicone grip can be a big turnoff (they don’t tend to last more than a few years before turning to sticky gunk).  The SS475 is majestic in all steel splendor, but the shape is little more than a straight tube and the grip etching isn’t very prominent.  Ultimately, the SS455 is probably the better all around user pencil. The clip attach point is a little cheap looking and the enameled labeling wears off with sufficient use. But otherwise, the pencil has a good utilitarian appearance. The internals are mostly plastic, but where it counts, the clutch is brass and there is a stainless steel spring.

SS455 full
SS455 front
Pentel SS455 rear

Features: Sliding pipe guide, plastic ribbed grip, metal body, rounded metal end cap.

On eBay you can periodically pick up an SS455 for about $10 USD.  The SS465 and SS475 can at times be had for as low as $7 USD.