The genre of mechanical drafting pencils has always been fascinating to me. They tend to look like industrial tools meant for a precise purpose compared to the grade school pencils I was accustomed to when growing up. It's a great genre, and there's a lot of interesting nuances between the different designs. Some of these pencils have special features that set them apart from the rest, but are those features always welcome? Well, it's likely a matter of preference.
The Ohto Conception Mechanical Pencil is one of these drafting pencils that has a couple of tricks up its sleeve. At $23, it doesn't break the bank compared to other higher-end drafting pencils. It's roughly the same size as a Rotring 600, although the Rotring has more heft due to the materials and better build quality. But, the Rotring 600 doesn't cost $23, either.
Straight from the JetPens product description, here's what the Ohto Conception sets out to do:
This ingenious mechanical pencil features two modes: drafting pencil mode and lead guard mode.
What this really comes down to is the ability to use or retract a guide pipe. In "drafting" mode, the pencil utilizes a 4mm lead guard for use with straightedges and other tools that the drafting trade requires. This is something we're all used to, and something that most drafting pencils have built in.
However, you can also retract the guide pipe, which allows the pipe to protect the lead as it wears down. As you write, the lead becomes shorter and the sleeve continues to retract as needed so you can continue writing. In practice, this means that there is a smaller chance of breaking the lead when writing because it never sticks out far enough to be brittle. The metal guide pipe keeps it stable and protected, but doesn't require you to advance the lead as often.
So, how do you switch between these two modes? Easy: just twist the pencil grip section to enable/disable drafting mode. There's a red section under the grip that is exposed when in "lead guard" mode, and that red section is barely visible in drafting mode.
Pretty neat trick, right? In practice, it works great. And, another great benefit of being able to retract the lead pipe is that the pencil can't poke holes in fabric or get caught on bags. This has happened to me a few times. The tiny lead pipe will either poke a hole in a shirt, or jab my leg through a pants pocket. Needless to say, that's not pleasant. Simple twist the grip section to retract the lead pipe, push the lead back in, and you're ready to go. The tip of the pen is now a round tip that won't cause any problems with clothing or bags.
But wait, there's more! The Conception has another trick. You can dial in the amount of lead is advanced when you click the cap. It ranges from 0.2mm to 2.0mm. Crazy, right? I didn't find myself adjusting this very often, but it was nice to dial it in and find my "sweet spot" for lead advancement so that it only took one click to get my ideal amount of lead out for writing. Very nifty feature.
My main complaint with this feature is that the click mechanism feels cheap and weak. The pencil works great, and I've never had any problems with it. This is purely a complaint about the way it feels. Also, if the lead guard is retracted, there is more distance in the click mechanism, and it makes a little more noise than when the pencil is in drafting mode. Again, this doesn't affect the performance of the pencil, but does detract from the experience.
Apart from that, the pencil works exactly as you'd expect. There's a tiny eraser hidden under the click mechanism, and that's also where you refill the lead.
This model uses 0.3mm lead, which is my favorite mechanical pencil lead size. You can also find the Conception with 0.5mm lead size, though.
The pencil is made up of aluminum, and the grip section is made of brass. This combination of metals give the pencil a great balance and feel.
The grip section is another area of major contention for me. It's way too smooth for me. There's a small amount of texture on the grip, but it's microscopic and offers no real texture for gripping and writing. Practically, it's smooth metal. If there is any moisture on your fingers at all, this pencil starts slipping. This was frustrating, and something to consider if you're looking at this pencil. If you'll be using it outside in the heat, you might want to look for another option that has a better grip!
Apart from those couple of gripes, this is a really cool pencil. It's a hard sell for me because I lean heavily toward the Rotring drafting pencils. At $23, the Conception doesn't make sense when compared to the Rotring 600 or Rapid Pro because they are only 10 or 17 dollars more, respectively. If the ability to retract the lead guard is important, then the Conception is a good choice. The added option to control the amount of lead that advances with each click is also nifty, but I think the Rotring is still a better pencil.
If black isn't your game, then the Ohto Conception also comes in a few other colors.
(JetPens provided this product at no charge to The Pen Addict for review purposes.)
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