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Mechanical Pencil Month – Day 7: Pentel Sharp 7

Most modern fineliner pencils come in a range of different lead sizes within the same basic chassis, typified by Pentel’s P200 range which are identical in design except for the colour of their barrels.

Pentel P200 series set

Needless to say, this was not always the case. Pentel’s early pencils each had their own particular aesthetic, with different lead thicknesses aimed at different markets.

Two Pentel Sharp 9 pencils and two original Pentel Pencils

There was the Pentel Sharp 9 (top two pencils above) which predictably took 0.9 mm leads, itself a minor evolution from their earliest fineliner simply known as the “Pentel” pencil (bottom two).

Then there was the Pentel Graph Pencil, a sleek 0.5 mm model intended for draughting.

Pentel Graph pencil

This was followed by the Pentel Mechanica Pencil, one of the first ever 0.3 mm models with a sliding sleeve, which today sells for astronomical sums (I don’t have one).

However, the most elusive of this early lineup is their 0.7 mm offering, which went by the deceptively dull name of Pentel Sharp 7. In spite of this, it managed to win a Good Design Award in 1966 – the year of the Beatles’ Yellow Submarine – and looks as if it could have been plucked straight out of the psychedelic animated film of the same name.

Pentel Sharp 7

With its bulbous pocket clip, triangular barrel and flower-power influenced number 7 logo, the Sharp 7 is like nothing else Pentel made before or after.

Pentel Sharp 7 clip detail

Based on what little evidence I have found, it was available in two models, the 7A in black and 7D in green (it’s a shame they didn’t do it in yellow). In common with Pentel’s other early draughting pencils, the lead sleeve is only 2 mm long, rather than the more usual 4 mm seen on most of their later pencils.

Pentel Sharp 7 in box

Fortunately my example came in its original box, the polystyrene tray of which includes a tube of spare leads still marked with Pentel’s official name at the time, The Japan Stationery Co. Ltd.

Pentel Sharp 7 spare leads

The back of the box is entirely in Japanese, with four fairly self-explanatory graphics being the only concession to an international audience.

Pentel Sharp 7 retail box

The pencil’s mechanism and reservoir are solid brass, with the end cap arrangement of a much simpler construction in keeping with Pentel’s earliest products.

Pentel Sharp 7 lead reservoir and cap

Unfortunately, the broad fixed clip was not as sturdy, being vulnerable to metal fatigue as evidenced by the cracks in my example. The chrome plating was also prone to pitting and flaking, revealing the darker brass underneath. Perhaps these flaws explain both its short-lived existence in Pentel’s range and its scarcity today.

Pentel Sharp 7 three view

It’s a pity, because the Sharp 7’s triangular barrel is very light and comfortable to hold for extended periods, despite the lack of a textured grip. The broad, short clip also does not get in the way when rotating the pencil in the hand, an important consideration for a fixed clip design. It was still listed in the 1970 Ozalid catalogue, but by then – like the Beatles – its time was all but over.

Tomorrow: What makes a mechanical pencil?

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