Since getting the Pilot “Shaker”, I’ve been interested in other Shaker mechanical pencils. I ordered the Uni α-gel “Shaka Shaker” from Amazon for 7 USD and it has arrived!
Attractive Japanese packaging!
Nice little pre-punched opening strip on the back!
This is my third Uni pencil. I also have the classic Kuru Toga and the Shift Pipe-lock models. I’ll compare the α-gel to them in a photo below.
The α-gel is known for its unique grip. It has a very “squishy” silicone rubber grip. The construction of the pencil itself is very solid plastic that does not appear to be likely to break except under exceptionally rough use.
It was hard to take the photo of the squishiness of the grip and still maintain focus. My only problem with the grip is that I usually grip pencils very close to the lead sleeve. So, the gel, although very comfortable, isn’t really positioned in the place that I need it to be to be comfortable. The extreme width of the pencil doesn’t really fit my writing comfort either. This pencil will be great for people that prefer wider grips. The lead sleeve is fixed, not pocket safe, and of the shortened “writing” size of 2 mm, rather than the standard 4 mm for drafting.
The top of the body has a solid paper clip with an attractive “gem” at its tip. It seems strong and unlikely to break under normal use, but also has a decent spring to it.
The eraser of the α-gel is the same proprietary eraser as the Uni Kuru Toga, but different from the eraser found in the Shift Pipe-lock, which you can see above is much smaller. As I’ve mentioned many times before, I’m not a big fan of irregularly-sized erasers that require difficult to obtain replacements. Thankfully, these “size S” Uni erasers are available from Jetpens. The eraser does not wobble as much as my Kuru Toga when it erases.
The Shaker mechanism works well and is not as loud as the Pilot H1010 reviewed previously. If you shook the H1010, anyone in the room would hear it. Not so with the α-gel, so the Uni model wins that comparison. The cap can be depressed lightly to advance the lead, just like any mechanical pencil. Ten presses produces about 6 mm of lead, which is on par with a classic Pentel mechanism. Ten “shakes” produced over 12 mm, so my advice is that not a lot of shaking is needed to dispense a workable amount of lead.
An added “feature” of the α-gel is that the cap can be depressed firmly to “lock” the pencil, which disables any lead advance mechanism, shaken or clicked. I guess the idea is that you’ll be able to carry it in a backpack or case while on the go and not have any lead dispensed. Nice, but not needed, in my opinion.
Pros: very comfortable grip (if you hold a pencil high), lead advance lock
Cons: not pocket safe, tiny eraser
Writing experience: Fair (likely Great for some)
Features: Good (unique grip, shaker mechanism, lock)
Price: Cheap (10 USD retail, readily available for seven or less)
Does it make the Top Ten? No.
The most similar pencil in form to this is the Pilot “Dr. Grip”, although it is not a shaker. I held a Dr. Grip in my hand at a store and found the grip to be much harder than the α-gel. This pencil seems like its the better pencil, but it would be harder to get replacement parts for a Uni here in the States.