Stabilo Exam Grade Ballpoint (Medium)

31 Mar

Stabilo’s products are unique to say the least.  They make a huge attempt to create more user-friendly and comfortable products, but it often results in very strange looking designs.  The Exam Grade ballpoint is a shining example and is one of the more bizarre pens I have ever owned.

What could "Exam Grade" possibly mean?

I was fascinated by this pen from the moment I discovered it on Stabilo’s website.  How can a ballpoint be made ‘exam grade’?  Is it a marketing gimmick or is the pen actually better for exams than other writing utensils?  Their site claims that these are “the pens that won´t let you down when you really need them.”  That sounds great but doesn’t really say much as to why.

Unexplained nub...?

Well, first of all this is an ultra-durable pen.  The plastic is thick and the metal nose is very substantial.  It feels like it was made to withstand years and years of hard abuse from sugar-smacked school children.  The cap snaps onto the front of the barrel with a thundering *CLICK* that is much louder and feels much stronger than any other pen I own.  Sometimes I find myself having to use two hands to pull the cap back off–it’s on that tight.  It has a very comfortable finger-grip with little holes cut out of it that help give the pen some extra traction during long in-class essays.  An unexplained nub juts out from the upper portion of the grip and I have yet to find any reason for it being there.  Stabilo products commonly use peculiar means to improve the user’s hand position so it may have something to do with that.  Then there is this chart on the side:

How very German of them.

The ink-viewing window running along the entire length of the pen has an infographic system to tell you how many pages you have left.  How quintessentially German is that?  The ink also lasts for an extremely long time and I have yet to break into the green ‘~80′ page section yet. In fact, the ink lasts so long that the Exam Grade ballpoint is sold as the “non-stop writing pen” in many parts of Asia. I’m not even sure why anybody would need this here in the United States for test taking, but if it’s useful in other countries, I can only imagine how intensive their exams must be.

Looks can be deceiving. This is not an ordinary ballpoint pen.

Even more bizarre than the page-meter graphics is the way this pen writes.  Then pen looks and feels like a normal ballpoint but there is something ‘exam grade’ about the way it writes.  The tip is INSANELY smooth.  Trying both back to back, the Stabilo actually feels just as smooth-if not smoother-than the free-gliding behemoth that is the Pilot Super-GP 1.6mm.  I am not quite sure how the pen manages to be so smooth with only half of the rolling surface of the Pilot.

Mind-boggling pens.

The ink is exceptionally dark for a standard (non-hybrid) ballpoint.  The pen does have some minor issues with leaving white spots in your text but it generally performs better than other standard ballpoints in this respect.  The strangest thing is the way the tip drags across the paper.  It takes a relatively large amount of effort to get the ball rolling, almost as if the ball was moving through a more viscous oil than other ballpoint inks.  The pen also needs to be primed more than most other ballpoints for this reason.  This is the exact opposite of hybrid-ink ballpoints, which attempt to lower rolling resistance by changing the ink compound.  Tiger Pens Blog says that the ink was specifically developed to work with scantron-type bubble tests.  It is my understanding that pencils are usually required for these sort of testing systems because graphite is reflective and blocks light from getting through the bubbles (which are detected by a machine as marked answers).  This may help explain why this ink is so dark and viscous, but please don’t go and try this on your next LSAT.  I have not put this feature to the test and Tiger Pens is the only place I have seen that makes this claim.

Very opaque, thick ink.

While I do not use this pen for bubble testing (or any testing for that matter), I do find that the slower tip forces me to think more about what my hand is writing.  I make noticeably less mistakes with the Exam Grade.  Also, the drag keeps my spastic writing tendencies in check and doesn’t allow my lines to go flying out in all directions when I write.  My biggest gripe with ultra-smooth ballpoints is the fact that I cannot feel the pen on paper, which causes my writing to be sloppier than it already is.  I do not run into this problem here.  I also really like the deep colors of this ink and the way it looks on the page.  The colors are deeper and richer than any other ballpoint inks I have seen in this price range–and even outside of this price range.

Logo detail molded into the cap.

I love these pens.  They are very strange but I like strange pens so I am alright with that.  I bought the blue one first and liked it so much that I picked up the black one as well.  They do not look, feel, or write like any other ballpoint I have tried.  Whereas many companies are trying to lower the resistance of ballpoint ink, Stabilo decided to increase it.  They also put a chart to let you know how many pages you have left to write with–a feature so bizarre that it is almost comical.  I could never picture myself taking a giant test and checking my ink window to see if is approaching the <!> range.  I shutter to think about an exam requiring more than 80 pages in one sitting (no friggen way).  While the Exam Grade ballpoints will always mystify me, I seem to gravitate toward them when I need a normal ballpoint.  I’ve had friends try them and tell me that they are just as baffled as I am.  This is by no means the best ballpoint available, and I’m sure many will find fault with it because the pen is just too different.  I like different, and if you do too, I highly recommend giving the Exam Grade ballpoint a try.

I was stunned to spot them in a local stationary store in Westwood (Flax–a personal favorite).  The woman at the counter said she has many Asian UCLA students buy these for school because they are very common pens in many parts of Asia.  I can’t say that I am surprised–it’s a great pen.  Thank you Stabilo, for providing the world with yet another unconventional design that breaks away from the norm.  They can be had online from Tiger Pens.

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MUJI Hexagonal Needle-tipped Gel (0.4mm), with a brief comparison to the Pilot Hi-Tec-C

31 Mar

I found a small slice of heaven when I stumbled upon the MUJI store near Bryant Park some time ago.  With a huge Kinokuniya bookstore just around the corner I thought the area couldn’t get any better but I was oh so very wrong.  Part of the store is dedicated to stationary, with shelves and shelves of paper products surrounding a giant array of MUJI-only writing utensils.  I had never even seen a MUJI pen or pencil in my life before that day.  Now I practically own an example of everything in the stationary section. I love each and every MUJI product in my collection and I have yet to find a dud in their lineup.  I promise you that there is no evil pen-pushing marketing team behind my excitement.

She's a looker alright.

Their hexagonal needle-tipped gel pen series was among the first of their products that I purchased (another was their incredibly sexy all-metal fountain pen which is one of my all-time favorites–I will surely review it soon).  I will state this right off the bat: the hexagonal gel needle-tip series is a fantastic line of pens.  They are simple, inexpensive, good looking, and reliable.  This green 0.4mm version is my favorite yet.  The ink is a vibrant lime green that matches the color of the barrel perfectly.  The entire hexagonal-cut barrel is coated in a soft, non-stick rubber material that adds plenty of traction when your hands are heating up.  Because of its shape and lightness, the pen feels much like a wooden pencil to hold–except much better.  These are all good qualities but they are not why I think this pen is so great.  Its the tip that makes the pen special.  I shall explain:

Left: Hi-Tec-C, Right: MUJI needle-tip gel

This is no Hi-Tec-C needle tip.  If you look closely at both the Hi-Tec’s and the MUJI’s roller tip, you will notice that these are two very different designs.  The Hi-Tec’s tip is reinforced with a sleeve about half-way up the needle, leaving the rest of the tip (made out of very thin metal) fully exposed.  Also, the Hi-Tec’s ball is held in place by crimping the barrel.  There are advantages to this design: the ball can spin more freely because it only creates friction at the crimped contact points rather than the entire socket, and ink can flow through the tip faster because it finds an easy path through these crimps.  There are, however, a number of disadvantages: the tip is weak and prone to bending, the ink can fall through the crimps at an inconsistant rate, and the pen loses feedback which would otherwise help improve overall precision.

Notice how thin the Hi-Tec needle is, even at 0.1mm larger of a tip size.

MUJI’s tip solves many of these problems and does so without damaging the overall writing experience.  The entire needle is reenforced and feels vastly stronger than the Hi-Tec’s weak structure.  Instead of stepping down in barrel sizes as the tip moves towards the ball, MUJI kept the tip thicker until the very end and essentially created a miniature arrow-point.  It is a fantastic compromise between the strong arrow-points of Uni Signos and the precise, free-flowing needles of Hi-Tecs.  It is not quite as effortless as a Hi-Tec and not quite as strong as a Signo, but it comes very close.  If you are one of those people that find yourself bending tips, you will find solace in such a sturdy design.

That archery-slit looking thing above the pen's nose is a little window to check if the ink is running low!

I own the same pen with a 0.3mm tip but I lose some of the MUJI’s effortless writing experience at the cost of precision.  Honestly, 0.4mm is already small enough for any type of writing or drawing that I find myself doing.  If you have experience with 0.4mm and 0.3mm Hi-Tec-Cs, you will notice that a similar feeling is lost (or gained, depending on preference) when the tip steps down 1/10th of a millimeter.

Only lettering on the entire pen.

The MUJI is only marked with a small number at the top of the cap to designate its size.  The rest of the pen is completely devoid of logos, branding, graphics, or anything else unnecessary for the pure experience of writing.  There isn’t even a MUJI logo in sight!  I love the minimalism of this utilitarian design.  The only thing that somewhat bothers me is that the cap is not completely secure when posted, but this has not become a problem in the many months I have used these pens.  I highly recommend the MUJI hex needle-tip gel pen to any fan of needle-tipped writing utensils.  MUJI had done a bang-up job of offering a simple, unique, and inexpensive product that performs exceptionally well.

You can get the pen online at MUJI’s site: GEL INK BALLPOINT HEXAGONAL 0.4MM 

Pilot Super-GP/BPS-GP Ballpoint (1.6mm)

30 Mar

The Pilot Super-GP 1.6 serves as a reminder that there are fat ballpoints, and there are F-A-T ballpoints.  At a monstrous 1.6mm, this titan is the widest ballpoint pen that I have ever come across and is more than double the width of a standard 0.7mm ballpoint!  How big is 1.6mm? Here is a little size comparison:

Makes the 0.7mm Surari look minuscule.

The Super-GP’s tip seems even more humongous when compared side-by-side with a standard 0.7mm ballpoint.  Unfortunately, such a huge increase in the ball’s diameter means it has to travel much farther to make a full rotation in its socket.  The ball is coated with a fresh layer of blue oil when it cycles back into the underside of the socket and is only able to ink the page when the rotation has completed.  This translates into one thing: skipping, and copious amounts of it.  Everywhere.  If you aren’t drawing straight lines, the Super-GP’s blue streak will be riddled with blank white spots.  Dotting periods at the ends of sentences, for example, is extremely difficult with this pen because the ink is not given a chance to coat the business end of the ball yet.  Even worse, the pen’s very bold line makes skipping more pronounced and easier to see on the page.

River of blue ink is riddled with white spots where the ball has skipped.

There is another, altogether more desirable side-effect of such a large ball: extreme, unimaginable smoothness.  This pen is so smooth that it feels like it is gliding a tenth of a centimeter above the paper.  There is absolutely no feeling transfered from the tip to your hand.  If you weren’t already aware, you would not even know that you were writing with a pen.  It feels more like dragging a twig through soft jello (well it might–I have never actually done it).

Glider.

The Super-GP does have a very comfortable grip and is a well-balanced utensile.  The blue ink is nice and dark and it compliments the bold line well.  I cannot, however, find any other reasons to own this pen than the sheer novelty of it.  That is not to say the pen would be useless for everyone, but for me to be able to use a ballpoint as an actual writing tool, I prefer (require, rather) less skipping and more feedback from the tip.  It quickly becomes frustrating when you can’t dot i’s or put periods on anything.  I would be curious to see if any company releases a hybrid-ballpoint with such a wide tip in the future.

JetPens carries this grease-spewing monster online: Pilot BPS-GP 1.6mm Ballpoint   (Theirs has a slightly different name but the pen is the same)

Stabilo bl@ck Rollerball (fine)

30 Mar

Before I begin this review, I need to get one thing straightened away.  ‘Fine’ does not mean the same thing to German pen manufacturers as it does to Japanese manufacturers.  While both countries are known to produce high-quality products, the Japanese seem to obsess over minute fractions while Germans seem more concerned with sturdiness and overall performance.  If you need an analogy, think about a compact Japanese car versus a compact German car.  I cannot tell you how many times I’ve heard people complain that Stabilo products (or other German-made pens) mislabel their tip sizes.  ‘Fine’ is a relative term.  If your definition of fine is a 0.18mm Signo Bit, this pen may seem more like a medium-broad point to you.  Those of you that have experience with fountain pens will recognize this issue as fine-point German nibs are much wider than fine-point Japanese nibs.  No side is right or wrong, it is simply a matter of opinion.

‘Fine' is only four letters put next to each other.

Phew, with that rant out of the way I will get on with this review.  This is an awesome rollerball!  The tip is buttery-smooth across the page, yet still gives a healthy dose of feedback to let your hand know that it is in fact writing something.  This green ink (my personal favorite color and favorite ink color) is simply gorgeous.  It’s a deep, forest-y green with just a touch of blue.  The ink also also leaves shading streaks in your text like a fountain pen ink would, which I think looks beautiful but some people prefer a more uniform color.

Love the shading within strokes.

Stabilo is a company that is known for their devotion to ergonomic designs and the bl@ck is no exception:  the body is perfectly contoured to the shape of my hand and the entire length of the pen is covered with a non-stick rubber.  Stabilo really succeeded with this particular design–I feel that some of their other models force you to conform to their ‘ideal’ position (inserting a pun here would be wrong) which is dictated (must. resist. pun.) by the body or shape of the grip.  Here, the entire pen is rounded and I can hold it comfortably in whatever way I please.

No need to conform to a dictat-...‘suggested' hand position.

The cap snaps onto the front and back of the pen with a nice ‘clunk’ akin to slamming the door shut of a mercedes.  This is an ink-heavy liquid rollerball pen so it will bleed and spread quite a bit on the wrong kind of paper.  For this test I used a Rhodia DotPad and the 80gm French paper soaked the ink in wonderfully and without any trace of bleed or show-through (must…resist…puns…).  If you can let go of your predisposed notions of ‘fine’ tips, you will not be disappointed with this finely-crafted German pen.  It writes wonderfully, comes filled with beautiful green ink, and is very comfortable to use.  I don’t think I’ve ever been let down by a Stabilo design and the company has always fascinated me because they really are a different type of pen manufacturer.  There is something delightfully funky about the way every one of their products look and feel.  Sometime in the future I’ll do a review of the mystifying Exam Grade ballpoint and a personal favorite, the pointVisco.

JetPens carries this pen in multiple colors as well as a wider, ‘medium’ tipped version: Stabilo Bl@ck series

Excuse me, can I ‘borrow’ a pen or pencil?

29 Mar

We have all been in this situation once or twice (or 2o0 times) in our lives.  We are trapped on a pen-less and pencil-less island and it’s the day of an interview, a big meeting with the board, or a huge exam.  We turn to our neighbor, our classmate, our fellow intern with that deer-in-the-headlights look in our eye.  “Can I borrow a pen or pencil? I owe you one!”  That huge meeting passes us by, that scantron has long been turned in, yet the free writing utensil has somehow found its way onto our desks and into our backpacks.  Don’t try and tell me it hasn’t happened to you.   

The veteran borrower (or one particular about his writing tools–but not particular enough to remember to bring one along) scans the horizon quickly.  Hmm… looks like there are a few BICs in a cup on the secretary’s desk… I know Molly always has a spare wooden pencil on exam days…

First, let’s go over what sort of selection we are looking at exactly.  You need to take your head out of the inky clouds if you think your boss is going to just lend you his vintage Cross desk pen he got as a Christmas gift four years ago (even if everyone knows he doesn’t ever use the thing).  In reality, we are usually looking at something like this:

The infamous assortment of rejects. They were probably 'borrowed' to begin with.

Ballpoints are a go-to pen for lending out to people.  They commonly come in packs of 144 and cost less per unit than tissue paper.  You would be hard-pressed to find yourself in an office or classroom without somebody offering to lend you a ballpoint.  Lets break down some of the most common giveaways/throwaways.

I love the smell of ballpoint ink in the morning. Smells like...desperation.

Cheap Japanese ballpoints, such as Pilot EasyTouch pens, are a huge score.  Apparently in Japan, cheap is not a code word for horrendous.  Go after these whenever possible.  I worked with a lefty intern who always had a box of Uni Jetstreams in his drawer because he would get ink on his hands otherwise.  The next step down is a BIC.  The BIC Crystal was an easy office favorite but I see less and less of these beauties as time goes by.  BIC Pro’s are pretty common but people get greedy with them because they have the word “pro” in them (that must mean it’s good right?).  The most common BIC is the roundstick and nobody is heartbroken to have one taken off their hands.  Beyond that you have branded ballpoints such as hotel or corporation pens.  These are a HUGE hit or miss, but if they are in the reject pile you should assume the ladder.  Avoid staples stick pens like the plague.  They leak, they skip, and they go dry really fast.  Only opt for a knock-off BIC stick as a last ditch method.

The ballpoints should have most of us covered, but there are times that call for an emergency pencil.  For example, scantrons require a #2 so many are faced with a pencil dilema (or lack thereof).  Let me break it down.

You can't deny that this all looks somewhat familiar.

BIC crystal mechanical pencils are everywhere.  People seem to get crates of them at a time.  A tried-and-true performer in the clutch but be careful not to put too much pressure on the tip–the lead will slip back into its sleeve under stress.  PaperMate Sharpwriters have a classic look and that old-school twist mechanism at the tip to feed out the lead.  Unfortunately, the lead is so cushioned (the word that got smudged in my written review) that the pen is extremely difficult to use properly.  There is a laughable amount of play between the clutch and the lead, allowing you to literary push the lead down and use the tension to launch the whole pencil off of your desk.  Staples’ BIC ripoff is awful.  The lead feeds out in huge quantities per click, the lead is brittle and breaks frequently, and the system allows more slip than any mechanical pencil should ever allow.  There are always good ol’ Ticonderoga wood-cased pencils or something similar, but remember: these need constant sharpening!  The situation can turn from OK to frantic in a split second when you realize that your pencil tip is just a stump of ceder and unusable without sharpening.  Unless you have sharperners handy (and if you are getting to this point I’m going to go ahead and say you don’t), opt for a mechanical when possible.

I threw that sharpie on there last because I know they are very easy to find around the office for signing boxes and other odd-jobs.  Sharpies are good for many things but general writing on crappy office-supply paper is not one of them.  On the Staples brand 50 cent notepad (used for reality’s sake), I was already bleeding through three layers of paper with an ultra-fine!  Imagine what a broad would do to this poor chinese-made paper.  It might just reach through the whole pad.

So there you have it, the official papericide guide to ‘borrowing’ pens and pencils.  Let’s hear about your borrowing or lending experiences in the comments section!

OHTO Graphic Liner 005

29 Mar

The OHTO Graphic Liner is a very interesting pen.  I have yet to come across the G.L. for sale in the USA online but I saw this one at a Japanese bookstore and had to have it.  It is a pigment-ink graphic pen with a rollerball at the tip instead of the usual felt or plastic.  I’m really not sure why this pen doesn’t get much attention because it is truly a top-notch instrument.  If  a super-fine rollerball was crossed with a Sakura Pigma Micron, the end result would resemble something like the Graphic Liner.

Some of the finer points in life

I love the concept of a rollerball pigment-ink pen.  I get the same advantages that I would have with a Micron (near-instantaneous drying, no bleed, dark black, waterproof) but without the drag causes by a felt or plastic tip striking the surface of paper like a wooden match.  The tip moves freely in all directions, at many different angles, and has yet to skip on me.  005 here is the same as it would be on another pigment liner and the OHTO puts out an extremely consistant 005 line with minimal spreading–even with a slow writing speed.  Another pigment roller, the Pentel Hybrid Technica series, comes to mind when using this pen.  If you have ever used one of these Pentels, however, you know that they have a hybrid gel ink system and can take literally HOURS to fully dry.

Never do I ask myself "what size is this pen again?"

I personally think the body is a looker but I have a weird affinity for 70’s and 80’s retro designs (probably because I wasn’t around then).  The blaze orange on jet black pops and draws attention to the size clearly printed on the cap.  I can almost hear cheesy sound effects when I look at the white logo with its gradient lines that run underneath the text.

The barrel has no grip, just smooth plastic running all the way down the length of the pen.  If you have ever written with this sort of design (think Pilot Precise), you know what to expect.  The plastic, while smooth, isn’t slippery and actually adds a good bit of friction when your hand heats up.  While the cap doesn’t snap onto the back audibly when posted, it also doesn’t feel like its going anywhere on its own accord.  No need to worry about flying caps for you nervous pen-flickers out there.

The only drawback I can think of with the OHTO Graphic Liner (and I had to think hard) was the lack of a viewing window to see the ink levels of the pen.  Really though, what graphic pigment-ink pen has this feature anyway?  This is an inexpensive, highly efficient, enjoyable pen to use and I highly recommend it.  I can’t really speak for the larger tip sizes but I did try some of them briefly in the store and they performed very well.  Does anybody have experience with these pens?

Pentel Graphlet 0.3mm

27 Mar

This is a Guest Review by Ezekiel Golvin

An advantage of being past grade school is being the master of my domain, with respect to school supplies. With college came paper and pencils on my own terms, and after four years my opinions have become sufficiently developed to give to others. This is a review of the Pentel Graphlet in 0.3mm from the perspective of a mathematics student who takes copious notes and does the occasional doodle.

To begin with a disclaimer, my pencil use is mildly unusual. In my past two years of note-taking, I have not ever used the onboard eraser on any of my mechanical pencils (to which eraser I entrust the job to will come as a later post). I immediately throw away any lead that comes in a pencil and replace it with the suitably sized HB lead, almost always Pentel Hi-Polymer Super HB (although Uni HB NanoDia lead has recently been given a shot at the big time). I hold my pencils rather unusually, which will be explained further down. These aspects color my review, and as such one’s mileage may differ from mine.

The Pentel Graphlet is one of the better Pentel offerings. Personally, I have never been taken by the hype of the Pentel P205; while the mechanisms of the pen are quite good, I find the styling dull and the all-plastic body a bit low-rent. It is certainly not a bad pencil; I just consider any mechanical pencil better than the P205 to be a “good pencil.” The Graphlet is a good pencil that brings along many of the features that (apparently) make the P205 so popular, such as incredibly consistent lead advancement (in very small, approximately 0.08mm distances) and no slip in the clutch.

One aspect the Graphlet maintains from its younger brother is a non-retractable tip. This is a risk that I personally do not care for at ten dollars per pencil; however, I understand that the inclusion of a retraction mechanism would add bulk and size to this quite svelte (0.8mm diameter) and handsome pencil. The tip design is quite lovely, too; I love the discrete step from the fine tip that expands to a metal cylinder to the body of the pencil. The pencil, as stated, is quite easy on the eyes. While admittedly the brown finisher on the end of the pencil is not the ideal color, the smokey gray barrel complements the silver accents very well.

The grip is where I and many others have a departure of opinion. I hold my pencils very close to the tip; upon inspection, my normal writing style places half of my pointer finger and thumb below the bottom of the knurled metal grip. I find that in humid environments (or when my hands are otherwise not entirely dry) this may cause some small but uncomfortable slipping of the pencil. Naturally, this directly follows from my odd hand placement. An acquaintance who holds the pencil slightly higher than I remarked that the knurled portion of the grip makes for quite a good hold. However, the knurled portion only makes up about two-fifths of the total grip length; readers of this post with high writing grip will almost certainly find the un-knurled section of the grip problematic to consistent writing. The Graphgear 1000 (also saved for a later review), pictured above the Graphlet, provides a much larger usable grip area. Another small note to make here is the fair ease of adjustment to the lead hardness indicator; unlike on the Graphgear 1000, the pencil does not threaten to unscrew on occasion when the lead hardness needs adjustment, nor does it twist after a long period of writing.

The brown plastic cap at the top of the Graphlet indicates that the pencil is of the 0.3mm lead size; the large, white “.3” printed on the cap is both easy to see and feel (it’s carved into the plastic). On the Graphgear 1000, the metal cap only had a sticker indicating its lead size, which I promptly removed because it ruined the looks of the pencil. I enjoy small touches like this, and I think Pentel chose a wonderful font both here and on the barrel’s labeling. The clip portion is also sufficiently far from the grip that I never have it pressing into my hand, no matter how I rotate the pencil, which is another aspect of a pencil that I think is very important.

Onto the writing. This 0.3mm-style pencil is a new purchase for me; I have long adhered to 0.5mm for general notetaking and drawing, as its versatility is fantastic and the lead is the proper mixture of fine lines and sturdy structure. On the left of the above picture is a homework assignment done in 0.5mm, and on the right are notes in 0.3mm. The 0.5mm is darker, which is largely due to the fact that I am less confident in my ability with the thinner lead. In 0.5mm lead, I broke the tip once every week or so; in 0.3mm, that frequency is increased to once per two days, which is still not extremely high but it does make me more wary of pressing more firmly into the paper. However, I absolutely am a big fan of how fine the 0.3mm line is; my notes have rarely looked cleaner, and this is after a comparatively short time using a lead this size. One final note: on regular paper, this Uni HB lead feels slightly scratchy; my guess is that this is due to the size of this lead, the tip forms a chisel point more quickly and as such the pencil must be rotated with a higher frequency. I imagine that as I continue to use this pencil the more frequent rotations will occur on their own and this problem will eventually disappear.

In summary, Pentel has a very good pencil in the Graphlet. However, the Graphlet’s charm is insufficient to dethrone my personal favorite pencil, the Pentel Graphgear 1000 in 0.5mm; the Graphgear has many more features that I like in a mechanical pencil and was only two dollars more. Do not let this dissuade one from a Graphlet purchase, though. If the Graphgear 1000 were an A-grade, the Graphlet is almost certainly a B+. Additionally, I have heard that Pentel is planning on discontinuing the Graphlet line, and since I consider this pencil to be superior to the P205, I highly recommend the Graphlet in its stead before it goes the way of Tyrannosaurus rex.

The Graphlet can be purchased online through JetPens

Pentel Graphlet Series