Review by Tina Koyama
First, I must begin by admitting that I am not a huge user of mechanical pencils. Though I use clutches with certain art materials, I’ve always preferred woodcased pencils to write with. Call me fussy, but many mechanicals I’ve tried are either too heavy, too light, too cold, or just too engineer-y.
That’s why I surprised myself when I discovered that I love the Caran d’Ache Fixpencil 884 ($22). Also known as the “Junior” model, the Fixpencil 884 takes 2mm leads. It’s available with a green, red or blue barrel. (A similar Fixpencil model comes in matte black with colored knocks.)
According to The Gentleman Stationer, “The history of the Caran d’Ache Fixpencil begins in 1929, when an engineer in Geneva invented this unique clutch pencil as a hedge against potential wartime disruption of the woodcase pencil supply. After launching a year later, the Fixpencil became a global success. The Caran d’Ache Fixpencil was the world’s first modern mechanical pencil.”
Something about its sleek, classic design and especially the clip evoke Seattle’s mid-century Space Needle.
plastic aluminum barrel (A pencil community member corrected me: The Fixpencil is made of powder-coated aluminum, not plastic.) is lightly textured, which makes it comfortable to hold. Its well-balanced weight is also comfortable – not too heavy, not too light. Most significant, however, is its hexagonal shape, which was obviously designed to mimic the woodcased pencils that were expected to be in short supply during the war.
It’s probably no coincidence that the 2mm lead it takes is also close to the size of a standard woodcased pencil core. All of this explains why the Fixpencil appeals to me: It’s the woodcased pencil of mechanical pencils!
As is true with most mark-making implements that wander into my hand, my first impulse was to draw with it. I was told that the graphite lead that comes with the Fixpencil is about a B grade, which is harder than I like for sketching, but the barrel is pleasant to draw with, and the 2mm lead size has the same line variation as a woodcased pencil. (I’m going to put a Uni Mitsubishi 4B lead in it to draw with, and then I’ll be happy.)
Bonus: 2mm is the size of the Caran d’Ache colored leads! (Drat – if the Fixpencil also came in yellow, I could get one of each color to match the four leads. Really, Caran d’Ache, you didn’t think of this? Why doesn’t anyone ever consult with me on these important matters! I guess the replacement buttons will have to do.)
Writing is equally pleasant as drawing. One of my objections to writing with most mechanical pencils (such as those with .05 mm leads) is that the line stays perfectly consistent (which is one of its benefits for drafters and other technical people who require a consistent line and those who prefer it), thereby eliminating subtle line variations that can be expressive for both writing and drawing. With a 2mm lead, however, my writing shows some thicks and thins.
As for the Fixpencil’s mechanics, they are as streamlined as its appearance: Push the knock on the end, and the lead advances. Pull the knock off, and there’s a convenient lead pointer inside. It will do in a pinch. However, to get a smooth, beautiful point, I recommend the Möbius + Ruppert brass lead pointer ($6), which has two holes to accommodate 2mm and 3.2mm leads.
Finally, a mechanical pencil that I can love!