Rite in the Rain: No. BK99
Black heavy-duty mechanical pencil + 1.1mm lead refills
This is my first experience with Rite in the Rain’s products. Jim K. from their PR team contacted me and asked if I’d be interested in doing a review of the No. 99 mechanical pencil, even though it’s a bit different from what I usually cover. But one of my main goals in writing this blog is to incorporate more handwriting in my daily life. While I usually grab for a pen instead of a pencil (and, naturally, a fountain pen at that), there are still definitely times when a pencil comes in handy. I drafted the original version of this review in the little sample pocket notebook that came along with the pencil (and I’ll have to do a review of the paper too, but I’m saving that for a later date).
What I love about this pencil:
– Its sturdy construction. The barrel is made of synthetic resin, at least 1mm thick at the thinnest point and reaching up to 3mm thick. This is no dinky plastic Bic click-pencil. The fixtures are metal, too, so there’s no sacrifice in quality on the little details.
– 1.1mm lead. I usually prefer finer points than this, but for a utility pencil it’s perfectly appropriate, not just for visibility of written text, but for durability of the refills. They are both thicker and shorter than standard refills, making them resistant to breakage inside the pen. They’re not especially soft, so while the line isn’t super dark, this lead sticks around! Note the lead at the bottom of the set: that is after about a week of use, writing this review and jotting down ephemera in my Field Notes.
The way you load the lead is also different: you feed it in from the back of the cone, and you lock it in with the included metal plunger, which not only secures it but acts as the mechanism to work new graphite up to the point. (One criticism: I’d never seen a pencil with such a mechanism and it took me a good five minutes to figure out how the heck to put this thing together. What the packaging doesn’t mention is that the plunger goes in after the graphite. Rite in the Rain could clarify this on their packaging for dummies like me!)
– Very long taper to the cone. I hold pens and pencils farther back than the average bear, and it’s my cross to bear that I’m usually grabbing onto uncomfortable threads. This cone is just under 1.5″ long from plastic base to metal tip. The seam between cone and body is noticeable, but not uncomfortable, and I find gripping right at the base of the taper to be comfortable and secure.
– Eraser is easily replaced. Several folks who’ve done reviews on this pencil sing the praises of this eraser, and I’m fond of it, too — grey with a dull shine, but very soft. The refills come in a little metal clip so you don’t have to struggle with prying out an eraser you’ve worn down too flat. (The curse of the ordinary mechanical pencil!) You just grab the rim of the metal clip with your fingernails and pull the whole thing out.
– Clip has some flex to it, and is secure. I have no problem clipping it around the whole pocket notebook they sent, and I don’t have to worry about flexing it too far.
– Branding is cool, sort of old-school-cataloging/inventory-chic. And whatever they use to print their text and image onto the barrel with is un-scratch-off-able! At least when subjected to the moderate abrasive properties of my fingernail.
When I first drafted this review, I wrote “Design is a bit ‘blah.'” I meant this aesthetically; the engineering of this pencil is excellent. But actually, over time the design has really grown on me, and I think the red and yellow versions are even snazzier than the black.
So as far as cons to this pencil, I really only have one:
– The difficulty of finding 1.1mm lead could make it hard to refill. This is one big down-side to this pencil. I have no problem ordering refills online from Rite in the Rain, but the advantage a Bic click-pencil or a traditional wooden pencil has over this guy is that they’re easily available.
Overall, I am really enjoying this pencil; it’s even spent some time in my EDC Hightower pen case this weekend. The non-pen-geeks I’ve shown it to have been enthusiastic about it, too. I can see it making a really good gift for tabletop gamers (can’t deface a character sheet with ink, of course!), or musicians who take their show on the road and frequently find themselves penciling in notes on their sheet music. Of course, it would also be perfect for outdoorsy types who like to take notes or quick sketches on a hike.
The products in this review were provided free of charge for purpose of review. These are my unbiased opinions.