Decided to explore my favorite genre (double-knocks) by brand to see if I could uncover any surprises or learn anything unexpected.
Going in, here were my assumptions:
- Pilot is the king
- Mitsubishi produced the greatest variety, from cheap plastic models to some of the most intricate designs ever
- Colleen Jib is the brand that went all-in on double-knock appeal
- Pentel didn’t produce many
- Other brands tended to stay away from the genre, but with a few notable exceptions
Now here’s my actual collection of double-knocks broken down by brand:
- Colleen Jib — 28
- Pentel — 20
- Mitsubishi — 18
- Pilot — 17
- rOtring — 12
- Ohto — 10
- Platinum — 8
- Tombow — 5
- Staedtler — 3
I left out smaller brands like Sun-star, Alvin, Niji, Penac, and Pacific Arc, despite the fact I have a few double-knocks from each. All of their double-knock specimens are in the “¥500 or less” category and would only be worth mentioning if they had pricier companion pieces.
Anyway, here were my big surprises:
Pentel produced far more double-knocks than I anticipated, and this is without the W-knock, which is either the best or second-best double-knock in their lineup. But there’s a catch—most of these are all from one series with lots of variants: ROLLY/ClicSharp. In total, Pentel only produced 5 different double-knock models: PWP15/PSD5, W-knock, ROLLY, GG1000, and Technica-Ex. I think this is why I never considered Pentel to be heavy on the double-knocks, but in reality, there are quite a few specimens in the genre.
Pilot cannot be considered the undisputed champion, but one thing is unequivocally true—no one else produced more high-end double-knocks. Nearly all the most desirable Pilot pencils are double-knocks or double-knock variants:
- Automatic 0.3/0.5
- Grandee Priere (gold, silver, and black mirror)
Mitsubishi produced the greatest variety of double-knocks, from white-labeled cheapies to the most hardcore steel and aluminum processing. IMO, Mitsubishi’s executive-style double-knocks are some of the coolest pencils ever made (in terms of both character and construction).
rOtring is a sneaky contender in the double-knock race, but none of their pieces meet the quality threshold evident in the best pieces from Pentel, Pilot, Mitsubishi, and Tombow. And like Pentel, rOtring only offered double-knock (or similar) functionality in a small number of models: Tikky double-push and its variants, Newton 600, 700, 800, and Rapid. (Confession: I don’t own a rOtring 700, but I regard it as one of the most exquisite double-knocks.)
Tombow produced extremely high quality double-knocks, but only on two different models: W-knock series (3 variants plus a 0.3mm option) and the SH-500W, which was somehow only ¥500 new (it looks and feels like a ¥1200–¥1500 piece). I refer to the tip shape on the SH-500W as a “fat” double-knock tip; it’s very pleasant to use, but also quite rare! As far as I know, only the Pentel Technica-Ex and certain Colleen Jib pieces have similar “short cone, long sleeve” tips, but I consider the SH-500W to be the ultimate example of this tip style.
Colleen Jib is the brand you should think of when you hear the term “double-knock.” All of their designs are unique and somewhat whimsical, and aggressive but playful silkscreening seems to be the norm across their lineup. Mechanically, CJ double-knocks are very high quality and feature durable construction—a real bonus considering double-knocks get compromised through lots of usage and long-term storage.
Ohto only ever made cheap double-knocks, but one could argue they’re responsible for the most iconic double-knock of all time (the Grip500 and its variants). Indeed, the Grip500 solidified my love for mechanical pencils back in high school and is the reason I am such an avid collector today.
Platinum made some cool and unique double-knocks, including a ¥1500 specimen that is among my very favorites. Also, their W-knock series is the best expression of the Grip500 genre, both in terms of reliable construction and color options (I have black, blue, orange, green, and yellow—not sure if any others exist).
Staedtler only has one true double-knock model—the Retro, which has at least 4 variants: Gen 1, 2, and 3, and a metal version that fetches 5 figures at auction.
After reviewing these pencils, I think Pilot, Mitsubishi, and Colleen Jib are the best manufacturers to use when introducing people to the double-knock genre. Between these 3, you’ll find the widest array of designs and the biggest departure from the sameness of the ¥500 crowd.
Honorable mention goes to Pentel, though—no other manufacturer riffed on its best designs to the extent Pentel did (and continues to do today).