Tag Archives: pencil

Kurutoga Roulette Gun Metallic Mechanical Pencil–Long Term Review

Where I grew up, the cool guys didn’t have normal pencils. They either borrowed pencils when they came to class (because I always seemed to have extras they often came to me) or they carried, in their pockets no less, tiny little stubs of pencils that were barely more than a chewed eraser, a ferrule and a piece of lead. They somehow wrestled them around their assignments with their giant, work-roughed fingers.

In that environment, any person who didn’t already realize I was a complete geek became fully aware of it when I started using mechanical pencils.

I think I got one from my grandfather and another I may have bought or received as a gift. I remember them having thick lead, maybe .7 or 1.0 millimeter, which made them annoying because they never seemed sharp. I also remember using pencils with disposable nib units that you used till they were stubs, then you pulled out the spent nib unit and shoved in the top to force the next unit out. (Those were good only when they stayed sharp and if you didn’t lose a nib unit which rendered all the others useless.)

Since then, I’ve alternated between classic wood case pencils and mechanical pencils. After my experience with the doomed Rotring 600, I’ve stuck with a Uni Kurutoga Roulette in Gun Metallic.

The Uni Kurutoga is one of those Japanese creations that solves a problem that you didn’t realize was a problem until it was solved. It has a built in spring rotation mechanism that rotates the lead every time you pick up the pencil and, in theory, allows the lead to wear evenly and prevent one side getting flat and wide and forming a sharp point which is really important to people who worry about such things. (Artists, for example.)

A traditional mechanical pencil. You can see the line variation and some fuzziness.

A traditional mechanical pencil. You can see the line variation and some fuzziness.

Lines from the Kurutoga. They are even despite me pressing rather hard.

Lines from the Kurutoga. They are even in width despite me pressing rather hard.

I chose the metal version of the Kurutoga because most of the plastic ones were rather tacky (i.e. I’m not cool enough to use them) and they weren’t something you could use in a business setting without attracting a lot of attention and triggering a long discussion. I like the knurling on the grip section. It feels comfortable and, unlike the rubber grips on pencils I’ve used before, it doesn’t get sticky and start coming loose.

A closeup of the knurling, and unneeded hole, in the grip section.

A closeup of the knurling, and unneeded hole, in the grip section.

The anodizing has held up well, as has the mechanism. I also like that the mechanism makes the pencil thicker than a normal mechanical pencil, which makes it more comfortable for me to use. I’ve found that the mechanism acts as a kind of shock absorber that keeps the .5 milimeter lead from breaking. (In the lines pictures above, the regular pencil broke three times; the Kurutoga didn’t break once even though I was pressing harder.) It’s heavier than a regular pencil, which I also like.

My only complaints are very small. The eraser cap at the end is too short and when I try to pull it out of my Nock Co. Sassafras I often pull out only the eraser cap. Also, I don’t like the orange hole in the grip section. It mostly seems to exist to show off that the mechanism actually moves. (One part of it has a logo that appears and disappears as you use it.)

The Kurutoga in my Nock Co. Sassafras. That end cap comes off easily.

The Kurutoga in my Nock Co. Sassafras. That end cap comes off easily.

The Kurutoga is now a necessary part of my every day work carry. It not only records student absences and scores, it also, in several cases, decides their fates.




The Short Unhappy Life of Doomed Things

I used to own a sweater that was doomed. Now I own a pencil that was doomed. The sweater was a white cotton sweater that actually fit me but which suffered from three different spills, including two with coffee, one of which came right after the first spill had been cleaned and involved me colliding in a doorway with a person carrying the coffee.

Doomed things are not cursed things. Cursed things bring disaster to the owner. Doomed things merely end up getting damaged themselves and being tossed out quickly. Their lives are so miserable you don’t even worry about the sunk costs. The third disaster ruined the sweater and I threw it away (eventually); except for some personal embarrassment, I was unharmed.

I now own a doomed pencil. Actually, I own what’s left of it. Several months ago, taking advantage of sales points on a point card, I acquired a Rotring 600 mechanical pencil. I thought it was a bit slim but it was comfortable enough that I started using it as my regular work pencil.

Within the first month of using it, it fell out of my pocket and the lead tube bent to an impressive 30 degrees. I managed to straighten it out and make the pencil usable again, but it still wasn’t quite straight.

Then, a month after that, the eraser cap flew off when I was using it, sending me scrambling on the floor in the middle of class to find it as if it were a lost nickel or a contact lens. That part was the most annoying as it didn’t really seem attached to the pen and I ended up squeezing it with pliers to make it stay on the pencil.

Finally, about a month after that issue had been resolved, it fell off the podium and the lead tube bent again. This time when I tried to straighten it, it just snapped off leaving me with a pencil that is slightly usable but only if I only click the lead out a little.

There used to be a tube sticking out the end here.

There used to be a tube sticking out the end here.

You can kind of see, if you look closely, the oval shape and the marks from the pliers.

You can kind of see, if you look closely, the cap’s new oval shape and marks from the pliers. I’m amazed I still have it.

Even if it hadn’t been doomed, I was underwhelmed with the Rotring 600. It looks great but is too slender to use for more than taking roll. It also strikes me as a desk pencil and not an every day carry pencil, especially if the cap keeps falling off for no reason. I suspect that if I’d only used it at my desk in my office I might still be using it.

But since it was doomed, it probably would have managed to break itself there too.


Reverting Back to Sharpened Sticks

One of the strangest things that happens to the pen and stationery addicted is they eventually revert back to using wood pencils. At least for a while.

I’m not sure what causes this phenomenon but most of us already have various versions of mechanical pencils which are sort of, almost, like pens. Moving to wood pencils therefore isn’t that big of a step.

Also, since a lot of us, especially fountain pen users, are already well lost in retro mode, using pencils gets us lost on a different level of retro. Sort of a Retro Retro.

In my case, I’ve always had a few wood pencils around in case the urge to draw and or sketch hits me.

Note: This urge occurs for about three days once every seven years. That’s one day to get the urge and go shopping; one day to actually draw stuff; and one day to find a place to store the new stuff.

Second Note: Yes, I know I have stuff on hand for when the urge hits but using it would require 1) that I remember I have it and 2) that I remember where it’s stored. Also, new stuff is better than old stuff.

For some reason, when I was making a lot of purchases from Levenger, I noticed they were selling boxes of pencils. I was most interested in the wood box they came in. (I have a thing for boxes more on that in another post) and them being stamped with the word “pencil” in six different languages. Each box had 20 pencils.

However, soon after I got them, I reverted back to using pens. Over time I’ve used almost one entire box and the other remains unopened an unused. In fact, the pencils are still in the plastic.

The last three pencils in the first box and the unused second box in the background.

The last three Levenger pencils in the first box and the unused second box in the background.

Now I hear there’s an entire store in New York City dedicated to wood pencils. Suddenly I’m feeling the urge to draw. At least for a while.