I half-way reviewed the Kuru Toga when I first started collecting mechanical pencils almost 18 months ago. I think it’s time to do a more detailed review!
The Kuru Toga is a Japanese mechanical pencil made by Uni. It is readily available at most big box stores in the United States. It comes in the basic model in a wide variety of colors (pictured and reviewed), a “high grade” model, which appears to just be larger with higher quality components (metal pocket clip), and the Kuru Toga Roulette in a drafting pencil knurled-grip style. Finally, they make an α-gel with a Kuru Toga engine too. “kuru toga” roughly translates to “sharpen while turning” and this unique mechanism is what separates the Uni Kuru Toga from other pencils.
The “engine” works by swiveling the lead a small amount each time it is pressed the the paper. It works well and all Kuru Toga pencils have a “window” of some sort that lets you see the turning of the mechanism as you press it. The purpose is so that you always have a “flat” end to the lead. There is no beveling or pointing of the lead, like a hypodermic needle, that happens naturally as you write with a “normal” mechanical pencil. In this regard, the Kuru Toga engine prevents the writer from having to twirl or rotate their pencil in their hand to
JetPens has a hilarious infomercial-style demonstration of this feature:
I say “infomercial” because it seems to follow this model of: “Are you utterly incapable of using a normal mechanical pencil without being frustrated? This pencil is for you!” It cracks me up. Poor guy on the left! If only he had what the woman on the right has! he he
The lead sleeve is 2 mm, clearly designed for writing, not drafting. I quite like the grip of the Kuru Toga. It is all smooth hard plastic. It reminds me of a vintage Pentel Quicker Clicker with contouring. Even the grip itself is good, the writing experience of a Kuru Toga suffers from the “sponginess” one would expect from a pencil in which some aspect of the tip (whether the lead or the lead sleeve) moves. In this case, since the lead depresses the mechanism ever so slightly when it contacts the paper, this translates up through the “feel” of the pencil as you write. It makes my hand-writing ever so sloppier. Not good.
The eraser is another area that I don’t like. Small is common and expected on a mechanical pencil. But this eraser also MOVES all over the place when you erase with it, slowing down the erasing process and making it less precise. It really irks me when there is play in an eraser and this pencil is the poster child for it. I also find the end cap hard to take off, which is funny because I have small hands for a guy. The pocket clip isn’t the flimsiest one I’ve ever seen, but it’s close. I can think of dozens of pencils with better picket clips.
Luckily, Kuru Toga’s are cheap and you have a lot of colors and models to choose from. So, if you want to express yourself, the aesthetics are there. Of course, it isn’t pocket safe, so you won’t be carrying it around easily.
Despite all of these problems, I do think anyone should try out the Kuru Toga. If lead beveling is a problem for you, this could be your solution.
Pros: Nice grip for a hard plastic molding, unique engine, wide variety of colors and models
Writing Experience: Good (the grip is the strength, the sponginess is the weakness)
Quality: OK+ (there are far poorer pencils in terms of quality, but it is definitely in the lower half)
Features: Good (none of the features are really anything to write home about, with the exception of the engine, which gives it a bump)
Price: Cheap (Basic model clocks in at around 5-6 USD at big box stores with lead and extra erasers, other models more expensive [8-16 USD]. It is an affordable line.)
It isn’t Top Ten material, but it certainly deserves a place in the honorable mentions. It is most similar to the Zebra Delguard, which also gets an honorable mention. Their mechanics (moving tip mechanism) is similar, but the Delguard moves the lead sleeve to reduce lead breakage, not prevent lead beveling.
What follows is my updated Top Ten as of November 1 2015, and my Honorable Mentions. I plan to do some more reviews in the coming months, as well as a video of my collection and a semi-finalized video run-down of my Top Ten and Honorable Mentions!
I haven’t done a lot of gaming lately, explaining it’s absence on the blog, but I write about what I’m interested in!