I have a fantastic mechanical pencil that I got in Japan, which I guard carefully because I don’t know where and when I might be able to get more. Since the label had completely rubbed off I had no idea who the maker or what the model number is so I was just looking around on the web to find out. It turned out to be a discontinued Staedtler 925.
Although a German manufacturer, I haven’t been able to find a single English language store online that seems to sell this model. Although discontinued, it has been replaced by a slightly different model of the same number.
Hopefully I can find an art/drafting specialty store that carries these, because I haven’t been able to find any other mechanical pencil with the same kind of comfortable, solid feel and reliable mechanical performance of this one. Most mechanical pencils, even those from a reputable manufacturer like Pentel, tend to be made of plastic, which wears down to slipperiness and lacks the proper heft to really write comfortable.
Now, pencils may seem like an awfully mundane topic in a world of wireless internet, robot dogs, and digital cameras, but it is also worth appreciating the hundreds of years of evolution it takes to perfect such a commonplace device. My borderline obsessive quest for a particular pencil illustrates well how important little variations of material or ergonomics can be in such a daily use device. Realizing how rare it is to find even a mechanical pencil that truly lives up to one’s expectations of quality makes even more remarkable the intricate high tech devices all around us.
Anyone with even the slightest interest in engineering, ergonomics or the history of technology is strongly encourage to read Henry Petroski’s book The Pencil: A History of Design and Circumstance, a book which is far more interesting than you would expect.