Monday, May 21, 2012
rOtring 600 mechanical pencil
Ever since I found out about Rotring I have become obsessed. I have done a lot of research before spending $40 on this pencil. Rotring is a company based in Germany that specializes in art and technical drawing. Rotring translates from German to English, meaning "red ring", this obviously comes from the red ring around the top of the pens and pencil. Sadly they were bought out by Newell Rubbermaid/Sanford in 1998. Shortly after they were bought out they discontinued the knurled grip version of the 600 and produced a smoothed grip style. Maybe the knurling was too rough for the folks at Sanford? Shortly after they discontinued this series completely, prices have gone up double to triple in price. It doesn't help that Rotring decided to stop exporting to the U.S. market all together. Rotring decided they wanted to focus on artist style pens and pencils. This stuff usually seems to happen a lot when a huge corporation decides to buy out a smaller scale company. Today the Rotring 600 "old style" is a highly sought after technical writing instrument. It really blows my mind that they wouldn't re introduce this series as it's evident they are very popular, at least judging by the money some people are willing to dish out for old stock.
The Rotring 600 is a hexagonal brass pencil with a heavy but well balanced feel to it. As soon as you pick it up you can tell it is a serious tool for engineers and architects. It weighs in at 18 grams and the dimensions are 143 mm x 9 mm and comes in .3 .5 .7 and very rarely you will find one in .9 It comes in silver or a what seems to be a powder coated black finish.
They also make a clutch style in 2mm but I have yet to pick one up. It takes about 2 clicks to get a usable amount of lead out of the tip, which seems perfect for me, too much would probably break, too little would be too many clicks for me. Some fear the heavy weight would be too much for a .5 lead thickness, I havent had any problems with lead snapping off yet. At the top of the pen there is a knurled rotating lead indicator to remind you of which lead grade you have in the pencil, HB which would be the most common lead faces on the side where the red size indicator is printed on the barrel. There are 7 grades total ranging from 4H to 2B. Under the cap is a standard small replaceable eraser, great for little mistakes but would be worn fast with heavy use. The only concerns I seen people talk about is the tip, you would have to be careful not to drop it or it will most likely break or bend due to the heavily weighted brass body, there are also some concerns about the tip poking holes in your pocket pants. The hexagon body definitely would help the pencil from rolling off an inclined drawing table. If you happen to bend the tip, jetpens.com offers replacement tips with the the whole knurled bottom half for a price of under 12 dollars, not too bad considering the alternative of throwing the pencil out.
I can tell you I havent found a better pencil in my life, I have looked far and wide, this pencil is truely a cult classic, it's a shame it's not more common. The best part about this pencil is that it is still being produced today in Japan, sadly the ball points and fountain pens wont be returning. The Japanese version can be bought on ebay or jet pens for a fair non inflated price, I picked mine up for under 40 bucks shipped and took about a month to arrive. In the box the pencil comes with a pamphlet with info in Japanese writing, seems pretty useless but neat to look at. You will not find any new stock in stores outside of Japan, as it is a Japanese market only product.
I tend to prefer German machining but the Japanese made pencil seems to have a much coarse diamond pointed knurling compared to my German made pen. Other than that they seem to be very comparable.
Overall this is my favorite pencil and one of my prized possessions, i just wish I could use it more. For the price I really can't see there being a better option and would make a perfect gift for someone in the engineering field. They are cheap enough to were I wouldn't be upset if I lost it, compared to the 100+ dollar pen. There is also an all plastic version going for 20 bucks, Rotring 500, which is an option if you prefer a lighter pencil or want a cheaper alternative.
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