Posts filed under Mechanical Pencil

Zebra Techo TS-3 Mini Mechanical Pencil Review

Zebra Techo TS-3 Mini Mechanical Pencil Review

(Jeff Abbott is a regular contributor at The Pen Addict. You can find more from Jeff online at Draft Evolution and Twitter.)

Over the last several years, I've certainly tried a fair share of mechanical pencils. These range from really high end to super affordable and ubiquitous. One genre I was reluctant to try was the ultra compact mechanical pencil market. The allure of an incredibly small and portable writing instrument is adorable at first glance, but I always figured it would be too small to use properly. As I dip my toes into this pool for the first time, I've decided to try the diminutive Zebra Techo TS-3.

First things first: this pencil makes quite a strong first impression. The tiny size is unique and not something you see often. The initial surprise of "OMG, it's adorable" is (in my opinion) worth the $5.25 price tag alone.

Once you pick it up and start writing, you'll quickly notice how much additional effort it takes to draw your usual letters. Your handwriting doesn't quite look like your own. In my case, I resorted to writing in all-caps because it's the only way I could write legible letters with such a small tool. Still, it was fun! How could something so small still work?

Zebra Techo TS-3 Mini Mechanical Pencil

After writing a few quick lines, my fingers and hand started to feel some fatigue, which quickly intensified as I continued writing. Phew, time for a break! Unfortunately, I could never write more than a few lines before needing to put it down and let my hand stretch out a bit. After the initial fad wore off, I quickly realized that there are major tradeoffs to such a small pencil. Sure, I knew this in my head before I even picked it up, but now I precisely understood the limitations of the design.

In my experience, a slim writing instrument is still usable as long as it's still a standard length. This gives enough balance and a good resting place for the body on the top part of your hand (you know, that place between your thumb and index finger). That little bit of stability goes a long way. Likewise, a really short pen is also easy to manage as long as it is thick enough. Think about using a Kaweco Liliput without the cap posted. It's not ideal, but you can still write in your usual style without too much discomfort.

Zebra Techo TS-3 Mini Mechanical Pencil Eraser

As the Zebra Techo TS-3 demonstrates, a writing instrument that is both slim and short is incredibly difficult to manage -- at least for me and my standard three finger grip. There just isn't enough solid object to hold on to for my fingers to properly make the letters and lines they've been trained to create over my lifetime of using "standard" size tools. It's just a no-go for regular writing, and I can't recommend it all for that purpose.

However, it does have some major advantages. The main one being the man small spaces you can store this pencil. It can fit in most spiral bound notebooks perfectly. It can clip on to a cover of a notebook while still allowing it to close. In bags, purses, and some wallets, it can stow away into a seam without disrupting the functionality of the bag at all. You'll be surprised by all the little spaces this little guy can hide.

Unfortunately, it's not a good fit for slipping into your pants pockets since the lead pipe doesn't retract. You're liable to poke (or stab?) yourself frequently with this little guy in your pocket.

Zebra Techo TS-3 Mini Mechanical Pencil Comparison

Ultimately, I still like the Zebra Techo TS-3 strictly as a backup utilitarian option. It's not the first thing you reach for, and possibly not the second. But when all other options have failed or aren't nearby, it gets the job done. You definitely don't want to write the next American novel with this, but it's great for doing some quick math, jotting down a quick note, or throwing in your bag as a "just in case" pencil.

(JetPens provided this product at no charge to The Pen Addict for review purposes.)


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Zebra Techo TS-3 Mini Mechanical Pencil Writing
Posted on May 1, 2019 and filed under Zebra, Mechanical Pencil, Pencil Reviews.

Pentel Kerry: A "postable" mechanical pencil with an unchanging design since 1971

(Original Mai-bun.com article, published 02/10/2019. Written by Takuya Takahashi. Translated by Bruce Eimon.)

I have started noticing "older" business people mingling amongst students in the mechanical pencil section of stationery stores in Japan. It may be that people are rediscovering the value of being able to erase what they have written, thanks to the popularity of Pilot's erasable Frixion pens. Pencils and mechanical pencils have long been tools for students, but we may be seeing a resurgence of these instruments amongst business people.

Many of the recent mechanical pencils embed advance technology, such as mechanisms that automatically twist the lead to maintain a sharp tip, or shock absorption that prevents the lead from breaking. However, when it comes to the design of these pencils, they are better suited for the classroom than the board room.

Today I would like to feature a mechanical pencil that will look right in place in the hands of any business woman or business man - the "postable" mechanical pencil, the Kerry.

Pentel Kerry

The Pentel Kerry was first released in 1971. It is long seller that has been on the market for nearly 50 years.

The engraving on the cap proudly proclaims "SINCE 1971"

The engraving on the cap proudly proclaims "SINCE 1971"

If you look at the Japanese product home page, its official name is listed as "Mannenncil Kerry." "Mannenncil" is an amalgamation of the Japanese word for fountain pen "Mannennhitsu" and "Pencil." You can tell from the name that they envisioned this product to be a mechanical pencil worthy of being carried along with your expensive fountain pens.

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You can see how the designers tried to make it resemble an elegant fountain pen. Some may feel that the look is somewhat dated, in a nice vintage kind of way.

You may not have thought about this, but you hardly ever come across mechanical pencils with caps.

To my knowledge, even in Japan there are only a few with such a design.

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By having a cap, you do not have to worry about scratching things in your pocket or having graphite dust flake out of its tip.

Unlike expensive fountain pens that have screw on caps, the Kerry has a snap-on cap. The key point of this product is that you can still click the lead out even when the cap is posted. There is a surprising amount of engineering in this cap. When the pen is capped or the cap is removed from the pen, the click-tip protrudes only slightly.

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When the cap is posted on the pen, however, the tip extends out by a fraction of an inch to give you the length needed for a satisfying click.

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This is a product designed with a lot of attention to detail. The pen can be used without the cap posted, so some people like to keep the cap hooked in their pen loop.

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Compared to standard mechanical pencils, this is a rather compact pen. When not posted, it may be barely long enough to fit in your hand.

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The whole point of this pen though, is that it can be used posted.

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Most people will want to use it posted, as this gives you much more stability. The compactness of this pen when capped makes it an ideal companion for an A6 or passport sized planner.

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The beautiful mold of the tip of this pen is also what makes the Kerry unique. This is a design choice that enables a nice balance between the thick grip and the thin lead tip.

By offering a thin tip, it makes it easier to see what you are writing too.

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While the 0.5mm size is standard in Japan, Pentel also makes a 0.7mm version for the overseas market. I was able to buy the Navy 0.7mm version on my last trip to Taiwan. It gives you a different feel on the paper, and is especially good for sketching.

With a timeless design that appeals to people of all ages, the Kerry can be a great gift item. At a price point of $15-$20+, it is a good looking pen at a reasonable price. In Japan it shouldn't be hard to find a store that will personalize it for you for that extra touch.

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There is a reason why this product has been around for nearly 50 years. If you have never used one, I suggest you give it a try!

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Recommended for:

  • People who like to use mechanical pencils
  • People who are looking for a mechanical pencil that looks more "adult"
  • People who want to carry a mechanical pencil with their planners

Information: Sharp Kerry™ Mechanical Pencil

Posted on February 27, 2019 and filed under Pentel, Kerry, Mechanical Pencil, Mai-Bun.

Modern Fuel Pencil Review

Modern Fuel Pencil Review

(Jeff Abbott is a regular contributor at The Pen Addict. You can find more from Jeff online at Draft Evolution and Twitter.)

Modern Fuel is an independent shop based in Austin, TX that you might know from their previous Kickstarter campaign. A custom-made, precision writing device, the Modern Fuel Pencil is a gorgeous feat of design and manufacturing.

I've always had a thing for drafting pencils and lead holders. My dad, being an engineer, always had a collection of different pencils at his desk that I could experiment with. Later, I worked at a college bookstore that stocked drafting supplies, giving me even more opportunity to test and experiment with all the specialized and precise tools that abound in that discipline.

Modern Fuel Pencil Tip

Once I became more and more familiar with the stationery world, I started branching out and trying more mechanical pencils. The pencil market is fascinating due to the level of engineering and design thought that go into these things. Rotating lead? Fascinating. Shaking the pencil to advance the lead? Gimmicky, but still cool because it works. Once you get into the all-metal drafting pencils, there's a different level of ingenuity and craftsmanship that appears. The Rotring 600 is still one of my favorite writing instruments, and I love using it. You might say that the Modern Fuel Pencil fits in that same category, but you'd be wrong.

Modern Fuel Pencil

This pencil is off the charts when it comes to detail and precision. The tolerances on this things are unbelievable. I'll never get tired of completely missing a seam because it's almost impossible to see. With this pencil, I didn't know the nose cone unscrewed until I looked at photos on the website and realized you removed the nose cone in order to replace the lead mechanism with a different size. Mind: blown.

Modern Fuel Pencil Nose Cone

Another marvel (at least for me) is the lead pipe. I've seen and used plenty of pencils that retract the lead pipe when not in use. This is a helpful feature because the lead pipe acts like a stabby syringe when shoved in pockets or dropped over body parts. It works beautifully, but I'm mostly impressed by the minute tolerances between all the parts. There's no wiggle room, but it doesn't feel rigid or stiff either. That's an incredibly difficult task to pull off well, and Modern Fuel have done it.

Modern Fuel Pencil Eraser

The other end of the pencil also operates exactly like you expect. The black eraser is always in full view, and I really appreciate the visual contract it provides against the shiny steel. It also happens to work well as an eraser. Remove the eraser and you have access to the lead storage, but this opening serves a duel purpose. There's a small hex nut in the barrel that allows you to unscrew the lead mechanism. Like I mentioned earlier, you can easily swap out the mechanism with a different lead size. The fact that the nut that controls this swap is hidden inside the barrel is yet another feat of design that delights me.

As an added bonus, you can opt for an "Eraser Plug" accessory that replaces the eraser with a flush nut. It's a beautiful, clean look and I'd imagine this is a great alternative if you prefer a larger eraser.

Modern Fuel Pencil Tolerances

The clip that came with the pencil is also black, providing some additional visual contrast to the stark metal. The clip is surprisingly strong and does a great job of keeping the pencil from rolling away. The clip does not come pre-installed, and it takes a good bit of effort to install! Luckily, it stays put and it doesn't create any scratch marks on the pencil body during the install process.

Those are the details of the pencil, but then there's the pencil as a whole. It feels great in the hand. There's a satisfying weight that's still within the comfort range. It's just enough weight to make your marks feel sure and controlled, but not too much to cause fatigue after a few minutes of use. The stainless steel quickly warms up in your hand, and even though there isn't any grip texture on the body, it's surprisingly secure. When writing, it feels like using a precise instrument instead of a mechanical pencil. It feels like a tool that was purpose-built with laser-focused vision. In short, it's a perfect mechanical pencil.

Modern Fuel Pencil Comparison

With such high praise, it seems like this pencil has it all. It looks great, it performs flawlessly, it's dependable and versatile. What are we missing? Ah, yes. The price. At $200, this is likely the most expensive pencil I'll ever use. After the initial sticker shock faded, I spent some time thinking about this object. I thought about how much I've paid for fountain pens that are produced on a large scale from a combination of plastics and precious metals. All things considered, I think $200 is a fair price for this pencil. If you understand the level of quality attached to this pencil, you'll know exactly what you're buying, and it will be worth every penny.

The Modern Fuel Pencil is certainly not for everyone, and that's OK. For those of us who enjoy exceptionally high-quality writing instruments, this pencil is a delight. If you like the design and have the means, I encourage you to pick one up.

(Modern Fuel provided this product at no charge to The Pen Addict for review purposes.)


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Modern Fuel Pencil Writing
Posted on February 13, 2019 and filed under Modern Fuel, Mechanical Pencil, Pencil Reviews.