Details: Model #9705 Elite Fineline 0.5mm
Origin: leftover inventory of an office supply shop
This is my precious and inimitable $5 mechanical pencil. This pencil lives in my pen case and (except for special exceptions) is not loaned to others.
I truly love this pencil. (My heart beat very fast taking the photo above.)
The Staedler 9705 Elite Fineline is a German-branded pencil manufactured in Japan. My dedication to this pencil approaches obsession. For almost a decade, I have been using this exact mechanical pencil make and model.
Just like my beloved Muji Toothbrush, I imagine you are thinking, “Honestly it is just a mechanical pencil. What’s so great about it?” (That’s fine. I understand. I have been asked that question many times, when I politely refused to loan my pencil.)
A Love Letter to My Pencil
How do I love thee?
Oh! Let me count the ways.
- The pencil is well balanced and comfortably rests in the hand.
- The tip is slightly cushioned to reduce fatigue even after hours of handwriting.
- The cushioned grip is slightly soft but not excessively so (like a futon rather than a deep squishy mattress).
- The tip retracts to avoid marking the inside of your bag with graphite.
- The mechanism is sturdy and well constructed. I have used one pencil for 5 years before the barrel finally snapped, although the mechanism still worked perfectly.
Rising to the Ranks of Being “Collectible”
One reason that I am protective of my pencil is that the Staedler 9705 is no longer manufactured and sold in the United States.
(Credit: London Drugs.)
I found this out these pencils were not sold anymore during my final year of college. The mechanism on my pencil broke after 3 years of intense note taking in college. I visited a nearby stationary goods store with my mom, where we had previously purchased these pencil.
That day, we could not find any! 😦
The helpful store clerk checked and informed us that the pencil was no longer for sale. I was very sad and somewhat panicked because senior year exams were approaching. How could I successfully complete my exams without my trusty writing implement!?
The clerk was actually quite understanding of my dilemma. He offered me several other pencils but my heart was set on my favorite model. From underneath the counter he pulled out his own pen case and opened it up to reveal his special collection of mechanical pencils. He showed me several of his favorite models and encouraged me to try some new ones to see if I could find a new love.
While encouraging me, he commiserated with my sadness. “I know,” he said. “It is hard to give up on your favorite pencil. I have some of my own treasured ones here.”
The Hunt Begins
My mom was not ready to give up! When we returned home, she began checking online and calling office supply shops in an ever larger geographical radius around our house.
She managed to locate 5 pencils in the backroom of a shop. She bought all of them!
And that is how I still have 4 pencils with me. I use one at a time and treasure each. I know that when my supply runs out, there will be no more.
There’s my pencil, lurking in my mustard yellow canvas pencil case. Actually I have used that pencil case for over 5 years! It seems that I have lots of favorite small items. 🙂
Or… So I thought!!
Thanks to some recent internet sleuthing by K, it looks like this pencil may still be for sale in Canada. Although I was saddened to see that it received only 3 out of 5 stars. It is a 10 out of 10 for me. 🙂
A fellow pen and pencil nerd did a close investigation of several mechanical pencils on his blog “Dave’s Mechanical Pencils.” He concluded that components of the Staedler 9705 closely resembled the Faber-Castell 1335. Although that was back in 2009, and I am not sure that the Faber-Castelle model is on sale anymore either.
(Credit: “Attack of the Clones” on Dave’s Mechanical Pencils.)
My pencil might not have changed but the way I USE my pencil has changed.
Although I am still writing with the same pencil that I started using almost 10 years ago, the way that I write has dramatically changed.
I used to hold my pencil in a fist, resulting in muscle fatigue and a persistent red bump on my ring finger.
If you know about proper pencil grips, then you know that pencils should be held lightly and loosely, and that it should be resting on your middle finger not your ring finger. In other words, I had my grip all wrong.
The way I used my pencil had never really bothered me and no one had corrected it until I moved to Japan.
In Japan, it seemed that everyone had a proper pencil grip (and now that I have taught many many students in the United States, I can say that I am surprised by the number of students who incorrectly hold their pencil). And more than that, people in Japan commented on my improper pencil usage.
The comments came about once per month.
During that time, I was taking monthly boat trips onto Lake Biwa to study plankton. At the beginning of each research cruise, we had to write our names into a boat log. Someone invariably would mention my unusual pencil grip. One professor remarked that it looked like I was gripping a screwdriver.
Here is my original blog post from 2010 where I described that moment!
The boat where I decided to learn to relearn how to hold my pencil.
My Yearlong Quest to Hold My Pencil Correctly
The very next day after that comment, I visited the bookstore and purchased a rubber pencil grip designed to train proper pencil usage. I used it everyday and slowing began weaning myself off of it.
At first, my writing was incredibly slow and sloppy. But after a year, I could write smoothly using the new grip! Now four years later, I am still writing the proper way. When I am tired sometimes I go back to old habits but mostly I remember to hold the pencil loosely balanced on my middle finger. The bump on my ring finger has complete gone away.
My pencil grip is just another surprising way that living in Japan changed my simple everyday habits! (Here’s another – 7 Things Living in Japan Taught Me About Sleeping.)
Feel free to leave any questions or comments below!
Come back on Monday! New recipes and musings on Japan posted here every week.