Unlucky for some, the Staedtler 925 85 REG is one of those pencils that elicits mixed opinions. Released by Staedtler’s Japanese division in 2004, its short name comes from the lead regulator feature that allows the user to select precisely how much lead is advanced with each click.
Personally, this is not something that I find myself getting frustrated by when using ordinary mechanical pencils, but it is admittedly fun to fiddle around with.
The REG is an unusual pencil in other ways too, not least for its exaggerated industrial styling.
With its cog-like lead grade selector, knurled adjustment ring and sliding regulator gauge, it practically screams “technical pencil”, especially when compared to the more restrained Bauhaus aesthetic of the Rotring 600.
This makes Staedtler’s decision to eschew the usual stepped cylindrical point for a conical one – reminiscent of their classic 1970s Micrograph fineliners – all the more incongruous.
To my surprise, I couldn’t find a patent for Staedtler’s lead regulator feature. That’s because it had already been patented in 1981 by Tombow Pencil Co. of Tokyo (Google patents here, DEPATISnet here) and sold as the Tombow Variable. The same functionality can also be found on the OHTO Super Promecha, still in production today unlike the Tombow or Staedtler. However, the fact that it appears on so few pencils suggests that the added complexity outweighs the benefits. A common complaint of REG owners is the rattly end cap that is most likely a consequence of the regulator mechanism.
Even so, the pencil still changes hands for relatively high prices, often several times the cost of a Rotring 600.
Ultimately, the Staedtler REG is another solution to a problem that never existed in the first place, and all the more interesting for it.