Posts filed under Rotring

Rotring Isograph Review

(This is a guest post by Nick Folz. You can find more of Nick and his work on his blog, Smallberry Drive, Twitter, and Instagram.)

Rotring technical pens were the subject of envy or resentment of every art student in my class. For those who have never seen one, they are famous for the ultra thin points and consistent ink flow. Engineering students used them for blueprints and wiring schematics, Art students used them for tiny details, cross-hatching and stippling. They were pricy and you needed to occasionally clean them, but they were a symbol that you had made it. Owning one meant you were good enough to need a hair-thin line and had the discipline to maintain it.

Being that my dinners sometimes consisted of a single can of corn back when I was a student, I simply couldn’t fork out the money for such a luxurious item, so I resented them. After all, who wanted to do all that maintenance? It was sort of annoying how people who used them would tilt them back with a flourish of the arm to get more ink flow, and it seemed to me that they did this more often than was really needed… Almost as often as they pointed out that Rotrings were R. Crumb’s favorite pen. Yes. We all heard you the first fifteen times. I had my Pilot V5 and that was fine enough for me (pun intended).

Well, sometimes you have to realize you were just wrong, or bitter, or both.

I got my hands on a .35 Isograph, a smaller point than I am usually comfortable with. Rotring’s Isograph is nearly identical to the more ubiquitous Rapidograph, the exception being that you can refill the cartridge of the Isograph while the Rapidograph only takes special pre-filled capillary cartridges. I was looking for something I could do some stippling and very small detail work with. I would usually just use the Pilot V5 for this, but the rollerball tip doesn’t handle the dots of stippling very well, since it relies on the roller ball movement to supply ink. The Isograph tip uses gravity and a tiny feed wire to facilitate ink flow, so the tapping of the nip will always produce a dot of ink, so long as there is ink available and it's not clogged (which has yet to happen to me, more on that later).

First impressions are important. Rotring knows this. It always depresses me to see a quality item delivered in nothing more than a blister pack. While Rotring is not exactly Apple level when it comes to this, they are no slouch either. This is the second item I have gotten from them, and their triangle shaped packaging is well thought out and considered. I feels like the kind of packaging you might find in a grandparents garage. It is still just a thin cardboard, but I like it.

This pen comes with NO INK. It is usually well labeled as such, but I would hate for someone to make the jump to buy one only to have to wait another 3-4 business days to use it. I am using the Rotring Black Drawing Ink which has a convenient tip made to fill the cartridge for the Isograph. Still, I managed to get a bit of ink on me, but it should be easy and clean for anyone who isn’t a clumsy mess like me. The empty ink cartridge that comes with the pen is a simple plastic cart very reminiscent of an empty fountain pen cart. It slides firmly onto the tip and the tip screws into the plastic barrel of the pen.

The body is slightly tapered. Since the plastic barrel of the pen is hollow, it is dramatically weighted to the front. This is different from most pens, but you use this pen differently than most pens. Technical pens work best when perpendicular to the page, or being held straight up and down. That is going to be a deal breaker for some but it is far more natural than you might expect, especially when only doing details or making a million little dots. It does still work at an angle, but not as predictably as straight up and down. A big plus of using the pen in this manner is that none of the pen obstructs your view, important when doing tiny details.

The aforementioned tilting the pen backwards to get more ink flow works like this: If you are drawing and it seems like you are running low on ink, you lift the pen, turn the pen's tip upwards and then back down. You will hear a slight "click clack." and more ink will be on the ready. I am not sure if the ink feeding system has improved over the years but the constant tipping of the pen back and forth is not that necessary. Maybe if you are filling in large black areas and then jumping to do tiny dots, but I can’t imagine a worse pen for filling in areas. Anyway, tilt it or shake it you want to, but you probably only would need to do it once or twice every half hour.

The tip of the pen is the star: sharp, tiny and chrome plated. It is durable without being bulky. It lays down a consistent fine line that is easy to control. It is long enough to be used with a straight edge or ruler, but not so long that would make it fragile. I heard horror stories when doing research about the non-stop-clog-fest that these pens can suffer from; I have not experienced one yet. It helps to use them often, and I don’t think I have gone longer than four days without picking it up. So maybe I’m the wrong person to ask about this.

About the barrel: it’s plastic and not very durable. This is a bummer since you have a lot of screwing going on; the cap screws onto the tip and the tip screws into the barrel. If you have ahold of the barrel and try to over tighten the cap onto the tip, you are going to overstrain the plastic of the barrel and get tiny cracks on the barrel where it is connected to the tip. This happened to my pen and they really sucked the joy out of using it. The tip would come loose and it never felt right after the tiny cracks showed up, sometimes when holding it a little too tightly I could feel the threads of the tip push the barrel away and the whole thing would bend a bit. I contacted Rotring and they sent me a whole new pen at no cost. I am being very careful with the new barrel and have had no issues so far. My advice would be to hold the yellow part of the tip when screwing the cap on, that way you don't over torque the threads of the tip into the barrel.

When I got this pen I thought I would use it for only two or three projects in mind. Add a few dots there, some hatching here, you get the idea. Much to my surprise, I have used this pen on almost every drawing I have done since I got it. It is one of my favorite tools in my bag now. It works incredibly well and I would make a bigger deal out of the barrel cracking, but Rotring's customer service fixed my problem and I haven't had it happen since. You can find the complete line of Rotring Isographs at Jetpens.com in nine tip sizes that range from .1mm to .5mm.

Back when engineers or illustrators had to go through an apprenticeship, they would often receive a full set of Rotring Pens as their gift for completing their training, much like tattoo machine would be gifted to an apprentice. I can see why, they are the tools of the trade and a badge of honor. Did you know that they were R. Crumb’s favorite pen?

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

Posted on March 11, 2016 and filed under Rotring, Pen Reviews.

Rotring Rapid Pro .7mm Drafting Pencil

(This is a guest post by Nick Folz. You can find more of Nick and his work on his blog, Smallberry Drive, Twitter, and Instagram.)

Rotring is a name with a lot of cache in the world of pens and pencils. Building a brand on quality products that last a lifetime will do that. The Rotring 600 is the gold standard for premium drafting pencils and most of their products have been lauded industry wide. The Rapid Pro keeps up the tradition of innovative excellence and makes some concessions for a friendlier price point.

The Rapid Pro drafting pencil comes in three iterations: .5mm, .7mm and 2mm. Both the .5mm and .7mm feature a sliding sleeve that can be retracted to make it pocket safe.    The primary selling point is the cushion point lead mechanism, which not only extends the sliding sleeve but also protects the lead when writing. How it works is simple- one click deploys the sleeve and lead, all other clicks advance the lead. Pushing the lead back in also pushes the sleeve, making it pocket-safe.

The pocket-safe feature alone would be worth the price of admission, but it does double duty: If you press down too hard on the lead when writing, instead of snapping the lead, the cushion mechanism slides the lead back into the pencil. When you lift from the page, the lead springs back. This blew my mind the first time it happened. It takes a good amount of force, so it isn’t just sliding around when in normal use. If you press REALLY hard, the whole sleeve will slide back into the pencil. 

It's not always going to stop the lead from breaking, if you are holding it at a less than 30 degree angle with an inch of lead out, there ain't a pencil in the world that can help you. I use soft lead, 2B, and it has about an 80% success rate of sliding before breaking. It has saved me a ton of frustration.

If you use up all of the lead down to the tip of the sleeve, the sleeve will budge back down into the pencil body little by little so that you aren't just scratching the paper with the metal sleeve, also you will still be writing with the lead. While continuing to write like that is not ideal, it is better that running out of lead mid thought.

The metal body is a rounded edged version of the a hex style, a signature red ring separates a knurled grip. The tip narrows in two plateaus. The clip is very sturdy, and even after months of being abused by my pockets, its grip has not diminished. The weight is wonderful and the balance is great. Total length of the pencil is 5.75" and the balance point is roughly 2.75" from the writing end, making it ever so slightly front heavy. The black finish is a beautiful matte. After 3 months of use, mine does have some wear on it but I think it adds character. If that is something that bothers you then check out the silver model. It can hold about five spare pieces of lead, plus the one in use (I imagine the .5mm can hold more, just because of size).

There are a few sticking points, this pencil ain’t perfect.

  • The end cap that protects the eraser falls off. I nearly lost it a week into having it, and finding a tiny black cylinder is no easy task. My solution was to squish it a bit, bending the perfect cylinder into more of an oval shape, which grips the eraser part much better. I haven’t had trouble since.
  • The eraser sucks. I know, everyone waves this away as most drafting pencils don’t have great erasers, but come on. TWSBI’s Precision mechanical pencil had a decent eraser, and it would be nice to see that widely adopted. I know that tiny erasers have their defenders, especially in the drafting community, but this pencil feels very much like a writing/drawing tool and less like a drafting tool.

There are things about this pencil that some people have complained about that I think are non-issues. Some of the inner-workings are plastic, including the red ring (which is part of the cushion mechanism). This does not bother me one bit. I have seen drafting purists take issue with it being called a “drafting pencil” since it lacks a lead grade indicator. So, what’s in a name? As I said above, this does feel more like a well built mechanical pencil built with the best drafting pencil trappings, I never used those indicators anyways.

“Loose pencils, tight inking” is an adage I have. It was something we talked about in my comic art class. I like this idea, keep the planning loose, keep the execution tight. It is something I refer to in my head for all sorts of life stuff. Which is why I carry a pencil. The Rotring Rapid Pro makes "keeping it loose" a breeze thanks to their tight execution of a near perfect product. The total impression is that of a seriously fine tool. As an experiment, I have handed it over to several non-pen addict people when asking for a pencil and they always remark on it. It is impressive.

Just make sure you squish that end cap.

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

Posted on December 31, 2015 and filed under Drafting Pencil, Pencil Reviews, Rotring.

Rotring 600 Drafting Pencil, A Lesson In Design

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

The Pen Addict podcast has seen a lot of interest lately regarding pencils — both mechanical and wood case pencils. Because of this, I found myself browsing the mechanical pencils section one day in JetPens. I hadn't looked at mechanical pencils since I was in college at our local bookstore, which always had a nice selection of drafting pencils for the engineering classes. But, of all the cool pencils I acquired during college, I'd never seen something as beautiful and striking as the Rotring 600 Drafting Pencil. This seems like the exact pencil that draftsman would use daily in the course of his craft. It's always a bit sad to think that this craft has been largely replaced with computerized tools, but you can never completely do without paper.

To call the 600's design timeless is a good place to start. It features the classic Rotring red ring and plenty of knurling and angled edges. This pen is not soft in appearance. It's a clean precision instrument, and it oozes industrial design aesthetic.

Appearance and feel

When you first pick up this pen, you'll notice the weight immediately. The insides are brass, which contribute to that weight. The second thing you'll notice is how much it feels like an instrument instead of a pencil. This isn't the pencil you used in high school trigonometry, or even Calculus III in college. This one is reserved for the professionals.

The barrel is hexagonal except for the knurled grip section, which is round. The cap comes off to reveal a small eraser, which can be removed to add more lead to the reservoir. The top of the pen features an indicator window (knurled, of course) that allows you to select what type of lead you currently have in the pen. I'm assuming that people who use these types of pencils in their work would probably have more than one, or might swap out different leads for different tasks. Thus, an indicator.

The tip of the pencil features a pipe to protect the lead and make it easier to use with a straight-edge. It reminds me of something you'd expect to see in a space ship.

Of course, there's a red ring between the lead indicator and the push cap, which is a signature Rotring feature. There's also some text one one side of the hexagonal body that reads, "rotring 600 / 0,5mm" (mine is a 0.5mm version) in red paint. Apart from that, the pencil is devoid of any branding. I believe the design of the pen is the branding, since you recognize it as a Rotring from any angle.

The clip is really strong, and I don't see there ever being an issue with the pencil coming unclipped. It's actually a bit difficult to clip onto something due to the strong resistance in the clip. Again, it feels industrial and serious.

Writing with the Rotring 600

Since this is a drafting pencil, it's more geared toward precise drawing, lettering, and use with other tools (like a straight-edge). As such, I don't really enjoy using it for normal writing. I'm sure other people wouldn't have any problem with this, but I certainly feel like I should be doing something like drawing, sketching, or lettering when I pick it up.

That said, the pencil is extremely easy to control since it has a knurled grip. The weight and balance is perfect and also makes it easy to control the pencil. Since it's a mechanical pencil, I find myself rotating the pencil a bit every other word to keep the sharp side of the lead on the page, which is something the Kuru-Toga aims to solve.

The included eraser in the cap is a joke, but that's the case in almost every mechanical pencil.

Conclusion

The Rotring 600 is a pencil that feels like an expensive tool for specific jobs. It's not a hammer, but a micrometer. It's an example of timeless design and looks good on any desk, whether or not it's used for drafting, lettering, or other artistic purposes. If you're a fan of mechanical pencils, you owe it to yourself to try one of these at some point. And, if you're not a fan, this one might convert you.

You can pick one up at JetPens in either black or silver and in 0.35mm, 0.5mm, and 0.7mm lead sizes.

Posted on November 18, 2015 and filed under Drafting Pencil, Pencil Reviews, Rotring.