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.)