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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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