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.
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.