I had resisted getting the Alvin Draft/Matic for quite some time because I generally don’t care for textured metal grips at the bottoms of my mechanical pencils. But, Blick had a sale and this was the last mechanical pencil that is available at this store that I was interested in. I’m glad I took the plunge because the Draft/Matic vaults to the top of my list of drafting pencils with a similar metal grip design.
The Alvin Draft/Matic is most like the Pentel GraphGear 500 in both appearance and functionality.
This pencil has a metal tip and lower body, a plastic upper body, and slight metal detailing on the barrel just above the pocket clip and below the eraser. This gives the Draft/Matic a styling that is more attractive than the very functional and bare bones GraphGear 500. This part also has a lead selector, giving it another edge over the 500.
The eraser is a standard white plastic drafting eraser. Pentel refills will fit it, but they need to be halved or so to do so. This is a definite perk as ease of part replacement is a key aspect of any mechanical pencil.
The weight of the pencil is on the heavier end and weighted towards the tip. It is heavier than the 500 but lighter than the 1000.
The grip of the Draft/Matic is its real shining point, in my mind. The problem that I have with textured metal grips on drafting pencils is that the texture usually doesn’t do much of anything to aide in the actual grip, other than the fact that it’s fatter than the usual pencil width. My only gripe with the 500 and 1000 are that they both feel a little slippery in my hand. I know that many people swear by these pencils as their “go to” writing instruments, but they just don’t feel “correct” in my hand. This is obviously highly individualized. I have small hands for a dude, in my opinion, and perhaps my hand size influences my feeling on the grips of these pencils.
What sets the Draft/Matic apart from the Pentels, and many other metal grip pencils, is that the grip actually has a rough texture. Holding it feels like you are holding a rough cylindrical nail file. I like this fact. It makes me feel like the pencil is securely gripped in my hand when I write. Writing with the Draft/Matic feels better to me than writing with either the 500 or even the 1000. This almost completely eclipses the 500, in my mind, as much as I like that pencil otherwise. The 1000 has plenty of other perks that keep it in my top five. But if I have to choose the optimal writing experience, ignoring pocket safeness, I would choose this pencil for a pure writing experience.
The Draft/Matic isn’t without its problems. My biggest concern is the tip. Most drafting pencils have some degree of tapering of the shaft down to the lead sleeve. The Draft/Matic’s lead sleeve starts abruptly after a single cylindrical tapering down from the actual shaft itself. The engineering benefit of more gradual tapering is certainly strength. So, I think that this drafting pencil would be more prone to bending of the lead sleeve than many others. This possibility is verified in many of the reviews on jetpens and Amazon. The central irony of the mechanical pencil industry is that it is so rare to find a pencil that doesn’t have some sort of engineering weakness. The rotring 300, 500, and 600 all have this similar tapering and this is part of the reason why I haven’t felt comfortable dropping 40 dollars on a pencil with a well reputation but that has such a clear engineering flaw. I’m not going to spend that kind of money just to have the tip bend at some point. Heck, jetpens sells replacement tips for the rotring 600. Great. How about we just design a tip that doesn’t require the need for replacements? I know, crazy thought.
The lead advance on this pencil is a little more variable than the 500. This pencil gives anywhere from 0.8 to 1.0 cm on ten clicks. My Pentel 500 gives out a pretty consistent 0.7 cm for ten clicks. So, the 500 gets the edge on this one, but the lead advancement profile isn’t poor by any means on the Draft/Matic.
Retail cost is 13 USD at Blick art stores and I scored it for 8.50 with the discount.
In terms of a writing experience, the Alvin Draft/Matic surprised me and ended up convincing me that it was possible for a textured metal grip to be comfortable. Alvin is an import company and I’ve heard it said that their pencils are modelled after the Koh-I-Noor brand in Japan. Update: After doing some research online I’ve confirmed that the Alvin Draft/matic is modelled exactly after the Koh-I-Noor Rapidomatic, except for a round body instead of the original hexagonal body on the Rapidomatic. People swear by the Rapidomatic and I understand why.
Pentel Sharp Kerry (!)
Ohto Promecha 1000P