Here’s the truth, I’m in love with my Pentel Orenz 0.2mm mechanical pencil.

Now your first thought might be “Wait, 0.2mm … that’s extremely fine!! Wouldn’t the lead break instantly when you write with it?” Well, those were my exact thoughts prior to purchasing this mechanical pencil that was designed with a “mechanism” to avoid lead breakage.

Now it’s not a complicated mechanism at all. The guide pipe is a completely separate piece that extrudes from the body via the force of lead being pushed through it. Since the pipe is separate from the main body, writing on it will shift it slightly back up into the body, revealing a tiny sliver of lead that makes contact with the paper. In short, this mechanical pencil can be used without exposing much of the lead beyond what is visible on the edge of the lead shaft. Hence their marketing slogan (for the Japanese packaging): “Write without extending the lead”. As odd as it seems to be writing on a piece of metal, it actually writes like a ballpoint pen - in short, it’s surprisingly smooth.

It took me awhile for me to get used to not having any lead visible while writing. Initially, out of habit, I would click the knock mechanism several times until some length of the lead is visibly extended out of the body before using it. Now, I keep making the mistake of not extending the lead on the other mechanical pencils in my collection and end up with not enough lead to write on. What a pickle indeed.

The other nice thing about the design is that it takes exactly one knock (or click) to start using the mechanical pencil. And when you are done using it, the guide pipe does retract back for storage making it great when being carried in a pen case.

In short, lately I seem to be reaching for the Orenz pencils - I have one for each 0.2mm, and 0.3mm configurations (Update Feb 2018: I now own a 0.5mm as well!) - more often than the traditional ones. These guys were also my introduction to using a lead thinner than 0.5mm. While I’ve been aware of the existence of 0.3mm leads, I’ve not heard of the 0.2mm version before purchasing the Orenz. Since they were approximately CAD$10 each (I bought them directly from Japan), I picked up both configurations with a metal grip section. Since I no longer use mechanical pencils for extensive writing sessions, I prefer the metal section because it feels sturdier. There are other affordable versions available that come in all plastic bodies, as well as ones with a rubbery grip section.

So which of the two do I prefer: the 0.2mm or 0.3mm? The truth is, I can’t seem to see much of a difference in the line sizes between the two. I mean, it’s a 0.1mm difference … my (old) eyes aren’t THAT sharp. But the writing experience does differ a tad bit in that the 0.2mm flow a little smoother with less of a “feedback” when writing with it. According to bleistift, apparently more torque is required to use 0.3mm which seems somewhat odd but I can work with that.

The one con I have with this pencil would be that you do see the shaft move inwards gradually as the lead wears down with writing, since you will be staring at the tip as you write. You would keep going until the shaft hits the edge of the pencil tip. Then another knock would refresh it for the next round. Now wouldn’t it be nice if it would remain extended for the entire writing session … and that’s what the Pentel Orenz Nero does! It was released earlier this year for a whooping 3,000 yen + tax and as of this writing, is pretty much sold out everywhere in Japan. I managed to snag one on Amazon Japan earlier this week before it was sold out again. Unfortunately, it won’t be shipped until the new year and since the price tag is a lot higher than the regular versions, I opted to only purchase the 0.2mm version.

Whether it lives up to its hype is something I look forward to find out. But for now, I know I’m having lots of fun with the Pentel Orenz system!