There is currently running a Kickstarter campaign by Andrew Sanderson of Modern Fuel for a metal barreled mechanical pencil which has seen tremendous success up to this point. Andrew was kind enough to send me a sample prototype to review which I am excited to provide my thoughts and opinions on. Thanks again, Andrew.
I've seen a few names floating around for the pencil: Mechanical Pencil That Will Last You A Lifetime or the 6061 Pencil, but moving forward I will simply refer to it as "the pencil".
Prior to Andrew connecting with me about the pencil I had seen the Kickstarter campaign and the first thing that comes to mind is how sleek and modern the pencils are. Milled from either aluminum or brass, the shape of the pencils are very minimal; simple almost, but attractive nonetheless. The design is done in such a way that the seam between the barrel and tip is invisible and the lead simply comes out of a solid cone shape versus having a metal tube sticking out like you would see in a lot of other pencils. This is a distinct design element.
The modern and simple style reminds me a lot of something that a company like LAMY would produce, or one of their designers would present to the table. The pencil is a bit sexy, if that makes sense and as far as writing instruments go.
In the video, Andrew discusses his reasoning for designing the pencil: he is a mechanical designer that uses pencils a lot for sketching and drawing and was tired of throwing cheaper pencils in the trash when used up. He decided to design his own. I can appreciate the philosophy of buying something for life considering the highly disposable society we live in.
The pencil does not come with a built in clip, but all pledge levels provide a removable slip on version if you find one necessary. Personally, the design without the clip suits me best, but makes portability an issue that I think I'm willing to live with. I actually opted not to put my clip on as it seems to be a pretty tight fit and I didn't want to scratch up the barrel unnecessarily during installation. The clip is definitely an "add-on" type piece made from pressed metal and coated in black and is more of a function over form in my opinion, but doesn't really accentuate the overall barrel design. Not everything needs a clip!
Oddly enough, even whilst being primarily a pen and ink guy, I do still own a lot of mechanical pencils it seems. Upon receiving the pencil from Andrew it prompted me to pull out my collection of rOtring, OHTO, Kaweco, Pilot, and Uni pencils. With "the pencil" coming in at around $60, I wanted to take a look at it as it compares to some of these others, but not in a completely "apples to apples" type of way which I will explain. All of these I've discussed are manufactured by big companies; this pencil is not.
The truth of the matter is that there are other non-disposable mechanical/drafting pencils on the market. Tons of them, and many you can get easily for $60 or less. So, why back Andrew's project with all of these others? This will be a decision you need to make on your own, but there are a few factors which I think set it a part.
At least the barrel sections of "the pencil" were designed and are manufactured in the United States by small businesses. I live in the USA and like to support my local economy like the next guy or gal. My own products are handmade in the USA and I do take a sense of pride in that I suppose, so I get it. There are many brands that we buy and love like Nock Co, Karas Kustoms, Doane Paper, Tactile Turn and Field Notes that are made in the USA. The truth is, it costs more to do so which can translate into higher prices on certain goods, but we are supporting small business.
Even though it is a seemingly simple design, this is appealing and there isn't anything that quite fits this style on the market. The pencil is bound to stand out in a kind of cool and collected way rather than trying to make an overly bold statement. It was built to be sleek, but also functional.
Things I enjoy about the pencil are the slim and simple styling, the feel, and the subtle weight (coming in around .66 oz for the aluminum). It really is a good looking pencil that feels great in your hand while writing. The lead doesn't wobble about which is a major plus.
As I'm sure all Kickstarter projects are concerned about with reviews, I do have some things that concern me, but I want to provide some honest feedback.
The points made above are to allow the pencil to stand out in ways from its competition in the market (the "why should I consider it"), but there are certain points that should be compared to other metal drafting/mechanical pencils particularly due to the price.
The inside mechanism of the pencil is made of plastic as opposed to a brass mechanism found in many (if not most) pencils in this price range. Andrew says in his video that if something goes awry with the pencil that he will fix or replace it. This is good, but is something as a consumer I shouldn't need to worry about if the pencil is built to last a lifetime if that makes sense. I do appreciate his willingness to step in if problems arise.
In addition to it being plastic, the click in the mechanism for the pencil feels ok, but not as substantial as others. I'm the type to look at the positive in the pens/pencils I review, but in this instance the mechanism stands out to me as a potential issue/gripe for some people.
I don't want my concerns of the mechanism to come across as a criticism, but as something that could be considered for change to raise the pencil up a few notches.
Is the design great? Yes. Is there anything quite like it in the market yet? No. Is there an opportunity for the pencil to still get better? Absolutely. In backing a Kickstarter project like this you are helping to support the vision and mission of the designer, a great thing, which we hope will turn into a lasting opportunity for not only the designer, but us as consumers.
Bottom line is that I enjoy the pencil that Andrew has created and I find it to be a striking and handsome writing instrument. Would I like to see some revisiting of possible mechanism swaps (perhaps a Schmidt)? Yes. I think by updating the "innards" to more-so withstand the tests of time, this pencil will be an unstoppable winner.
Thanks again, Andrew, and make sure to visit and support his effort on Kickstarter if you want to get involved!