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  I bought a Rotring 600..., July 23, 2012
By cha...
I bought a Rotring 600 about half a year ago because everywhere I turned, I found that it was the benchmark against which all other drafting pencils are judged, and I was curious to see just how good a pencil could be.

I had previously been using Petel Graphgear 500s as my go-to pencils for both writing and technical drafting, and they had never left anything to be desired, so this pencil, at a price comparable to five of the Graphgears, was staggering to me at the time for a single unit.

Today, after using the Rotring for months in regular rotation with my other pens and pencils, I have arrived at a few conclusions. First, my initial impression of the Rotring was and still is that it is the finest pencil in terms of construction and fit & finish I have ever owned. The looks of the pencil are clean and striking, and small touches like the ubiquitous red ring and an embossed lead diameter indicators on the side of the barrel and eraser cap are nicely understated yet still enough to give the product as a whole a feel of luxury. It's solid brass construction is reassuring and makes the overall feel of the 600 rock-solid and hefty. This pencil feels substantial and precise in your hand, never flimsy or delicate. In fact, after using the 600 for a day and switching back to my trusty Pentel GG500, I began noticing very small amounts of play in the parts, especially of the lead within the sleeve. This is a testament to just how solid the Rotring 600 is. Internally, the lead 'hopper' is constructed of a thinly rolled steel, which is nice, and a brass clutch held in place by a molded plastic surround. The lead indicator works very well, and the mechanism delivers about a millimeter of lead with each operation, the "sweet spot" for either drafting or writing, neither too generous nor miserly.

As much as I wanted it to be, however, the Rotring 600 is not the perfect pencil. Small qualms include the inclusion of some internal plastic parts and its very thin-walled and relatively weak lead sleeve, which, especially considering the weight of the brass construction, means that it is highly vulnerable to drops (some also fault it for being non-retractable, but this is to be expected in quality drafting pencils, and if a Rotring 600 with a retracting sleeve is desired, the Rotring 800 is just that, and is as finely styled and constructed, if not more so). I had this problem perhaps a week after receiving my 600. It was easily fixed, but for a pencil of this quality and price, it should not be an issue. Also, the included eraser are very short, even by drafting standards. It is hard to count this against the 600 though, as some drafting pencils do not include an eraser at all, the ones included are meant for emergencies only, in favor of more capable, separate erasers, and the fact that they can be swapped out with the longer and admirably-performing drafting erasers of Pentel.

My one legitimate problem with the pencil is the grip. The pencil is already slim at the barrel, a mere 9mm. The grip steps the diameter down further, (understandably as it is circular and the barrel is octagonal), and this makes for a very slim grip indeed. For my medium-sized hands, this combines again with the pencil's natural weight to create a very disjointed grip in everyday note-taking or general writing tasks. Most of the time, writing becomes uncomfortable after just a page or two. I have wrapped masking tape around the grip area to alleviate this single gripe of an otherwise phenomenal pencil. For this reason, I cannot recommend it for persons with large hands or who naturally prefer large-bodied pencils. I will not detract from it, however, because it must be remembered that this is first and foremost a drafting pencil, perhaps the purest and most refined example thereof, and thus not to be judged as an everyday writing utensil (when drafting, the pencil's thinner grip and knurling are both superb, and in that capacity, are the best I've experienced).

In the end, I feel the Rotring 600 is a phenomenal pencil, but that it may not be worth it to many. In comparison to $5 Pentel Graphgear 500 pencils, it is certainly, markedly better, but for a price over six times higher, it is difficult to justify this markup (though the Rotring is of limited availability in the United States, and so this likely contributes much to the price).

However, if you are looking for the epitome of pure drafting pencils, look no further.
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