< Piro >
Monday - October 18, 2004
[UPDATE: uh... i didn't plan it this way, really.... remember how i said we were having trouble getting the Pentel Graph 1000 for the store? We placed an order for them literally over two months ago and had pretty much given up on ever seeing the darn things. Maybe writing this rant triggered something because a box of them arrived today ^^;; So... guess what we have available in the store now? ^^;;; Just to clarify, the Graph 1000 is what i've been using since i started Megatokyo four years ago. The Pilot S5 is the one that i picked up in japan this year and just broke (the one pictured above). The Graph 1000 is the one we have in the store, and we've bundled it with some erasers and lead to make a pencil set. We do NOT have the Pilot S5. *I* don't even have an S5 anymore, at least, not yet :) - piro]
It is with a heavy heart that i must report that i have recently suffered a personal loss. It is like a good friend has passed, someone i relied on, someone i was comfortable with, who would listen to all of my angst and anger and joy and sadness and never complain. Someone who always worked for me (well, except for those few times it got jammed) It feels like such a short time since we first met, and now... my friend is gone. My favorite mechanical pencil... broke.
It happened the friday before last. I was sitting down to draw in my sketchbook, not doing anything out of the ordinary. I was scribbling my usual scribbly garbage and i simply did what you do with all mechanical pencils -- i just pushed the button to advance the lead. I do this countless times, almost without thinking. It is a natural movement for a mechanical pencil, and almost never is there a problem. This time, however, catastrophe struck. The plastic threads at the front pencil where the nib screws into the barrel of the pencil gave way, breaking in a way that no glue, duct tape, or crying and weeping will ever fix. My favorite pencil will advance lead no more, ever again. ;_;
How to continue? This pencil had traveled great distances with me, and i've always made sure not to loose it. It has been used for many, if not all megatokyo drawings in the past eight months. It was the most comfortable mechanical pencil i'd ever owned. Going back to what i was using before feels awkward, out of place. I suppose i will get used to it (actually, i'm pretty much used to it already, but lets keep that hushed for a moment). Still... Why not get a new one? Am i saddened that i can't replace an old friend? Do i not want to dishonor the memory of my 0.5mm Pilot S5 pencil?
Er, no, that's not quite it. I just can't get this damn pencil in this country, that's why :P
It really was an 'oh crap' moment when my Pilot S5 broke. People often ask what kind of pencils do i use, and you'd think i'd have tons of them to choose from, but the honest truth is that over the past four years i've really only used three mechanical pencils to draw Megatokyo. Actually, four, but i had just started using #3 when i got the Pilot pencil while in japan. But i am starting this tale in the middle. For those suffering from m4d boredom today, i shall present the Tale of Piro's Pencils, in brief fullness.
I've always been a big fan of mechanical pencils. They are pretty much standard issue for architecture students and draftspersons, and i've had many over the years. While most drafting these days has been replaced by computer aided drafting (CAD), back when i first got out of college i used mechanical pencils quite a bit in the production of construction documents, floor plans and elevations. The move from hand drawn plans to CAD documents and the effort that went into giving them some modicum of spark and life is another rant. Lets just say that I got used to using .5mm pencils with HB lead early on. (note: I am purposefully leaving out drafting lead and lead holders. After years of sharpening and jabbing them into Styrofoam to clear away the graphite, i found that i could get the same range of line thickness with a mechanical pencil so i abandoned them with glee.)
Most mechanical pencils you come across are not designed to last forever. Most are disposable, school-grade things that are nothing more than bic pens with pencil leads in them. If you draft a lot and you were willing to spend some money on your mech, things get a little better. Plastic pieces are replaced by metal barrels and resin bodies. Most 'better' mechanical pencils cost from $8 to $20, so it's not like they are THAT expensive, if you use them a lot.
One problem I have with most 'drafting' pencils is that i really think pencil manufacturers think that draftspersons have no feelings in their fingers. I think that they assume that most of us have fingers that are so callused that we need the equivalent of metallic sand paper to keep the pencil from slipping out of our hands. Seriously, look at the knurled metal grips on most pencils. Then look at a nail clipper, and look at the nail file. Its the SAME THING!!! I'm sorry, but if you draw a lot, your fingers starts to hurt. I have quite a number of very nice mechanical pencils that are nice, some very heavy, some just difficult to use. There are reasons that there are so many kinds of pens and pencils -- what's comfortable for one person is not for another, and vice versa. You just have to buy the darn things till you find one or two that you really like and doesnt remove layers of skin with use.
A few months before i started drawing Megatokyo, i was in a drafting/art supply store somewhere in Detroit (a Charette, i think) when i picked up a .05mm Pentel Graph 1000 FOR PRO (PG1005) (i'd link to to the thing, but it's one of those goddamn flash sites - go here and enter the product catalogue, and look under "automatic drafting pencils" and pick "Graph 1000") . It's a sharp looking thing, black barrel with a matt finish, all metal parts, and one particularly nice feature - rubber grips. I liked the thing enough that i picked up a .3 and a .7 mm version as well (tho i rarely ever used them). I never realized how much i'd be using that Graph 1000, and i think that one of the best things about it is that it is a simple shape, yet its comfortable and doesn't bite into you with use. I also happen to know that parts of this pencil are made with brass. Why? Because over the course of two years i wore off the black paint on the edges of the barrel. :P
Oh, a small side note on line thicknesses with mechanical lead. You might think that you need a dozen or so pencils with lots of different thicknesses to get various pencil widths. Thats not true. There are few people that draw with the pencil straight up and down, drawing with the flat of the lead, drawing a -true- 0.5 mm line. Most of us draw at an angle, and as we draw, the lead develops a angle (take a look for yourself). the way you control line thickness is that you can use this 'angling' of the lead to vary the thickness of the line you are drawing by turning the body of the pencil. for thin lines, you turn the pencil around till you have a sharper line (sorta like a chisel), then turn it again once it flattens out. You'll feel and see the line thickness and learn how to work with it. Need a thicker line? flatten out the angle more, and draw of the line several times, to each side of the line till its the thickness you want. keep a piece of paper nearby that you can scribble on to sharpen the point when you need it sharpened. You'll find you can do a lot with that, and varying pressure, with just simple .5 mm HB lead. That is seriously all i ever use.
OK, back to the pencil story thing. I used that original Graph 1000 a LOT. The first two years that's pretty much all i used. It dawned on me that I really should get a few more of these pencils, just in case the thing broke, or i lost it. The biggest problem with the Graph 1000 is that it's not that easy to find. I had to order it from Michigan Book and Supply (you can try to do the same at a local drafting supply store or you can just wait till we manage to get some for the MegaGear store - we're having trouble getting our hands on the darn things -_-). Right now, i have three 0.5mm Graph 1000s. The original one, the one i used till February of this year, and a newer one that i haven't used that much (the one i am using now.) So, what about the pencil that just broke on me?
When i was in Japan in January, i didn't do a lot of shopping. Most of the time i was either at AX Tokyo, or wandering around the city investigating places where Megatokyo takes place (yes, i still need to show you all of those pictures :) and just general poking around. Since i was going up to Sendai i didn't want to load myself down with stuff. When i was in Sendai, i wandered into a Stationary store. Now, i gotta tell you, the Japanese have a far better selection of pens, pencils, stationary, and other things that we do here in the states. At this store they actually had several Graph 1000s - just no .5 mm ones. In japan they have .3mm, .4mm, .5mm, .7mm and .9mm lead to choose from. Good grief. I almost got a .4 mm version, but then i realized that it would be next to impossible to get lead for it here :(
What i did do was look at some of the various other pencils, just to experiment. One that picked up was a Pilot 0.5mm S5 series mechanical pencil (HPS-50R-TB3/TB5). What I really liked about this pencil was it was one of the few that had a large rubber grip, and it had a slightly larger diameter than the standard mechanical pencils i had been using. I didn't really think about it when i bought it, it was one of several i tried. It wasn't until i started using the pencil that i found that i tended to like it better than all of my other pencils.
There are only two problems with this pencil. The first problem is that much of it's construction is that it is made of plastic, which (as i sadly discovered) can break over time. This wouldn't be a HUGE problem, if i could just buy a new one. Sadly, Pilot does not sell these pencils here (we looked into it) so, that's the second problem.
It's not one thats THAT hard to overcome - my friend Uguuu-sensei has already picked up some replacements for me and will be shipping them to me from Japan. Also, if you look at that link, you will see that there is a S10 series of pencils that Pilot makes that seems to be all metal construction but... notice the grip. It's that knurled metal again. (grumble) Why can't they have the nice comfortable grip on the metal pencil??? GAH! (stabs at things).
So, as i wait for my pencils to arrive, i've gone back to using my trusty Graph 1000 pencil. As much as it may sound like this is a bad thing, its not. This is a great pencil, and i've been doing ok work with it, so i have no issues with it. :)
Boring, huh? Next i could go into a brief history of my experience with erasers, but that might result in people stabbing their eyes out in boredom (for the record, i use two click erasers - a Y&C Eraserr (two 'r's) and a Papermate Tuff Stuff eraser stick. The Y&C is a soft, general eraser, and the Tuff Stuff one is stiffer and better for tight areas that need erasing... oh, and i also use a Pentel Hi-Polymer brick eraser, and a Factis Extra Soft for very wide areas that need...)