Homage to the Pentel orenznero

Regarding the state of mechanical pencil innovations and technologies, there’s so much going on in recent years to easily say there is a second golden era at hand for this ubiquitous writing instrument. The first era was not so well defined, as innovations were scattered widely about. But sometime in the late 1960’s some impressive changes were afoot in mechanical pencil design, engineering, and innovations. Within the next decade, some laudable advancements were made, mostly coming from Japan and Germany. But clearly, without a doubt, it was Japan who regarded the mechanical pencil most highly, inspiring several prominent companies to produce truly beautiful and functional MP writing instruments (PILOT, Pentel, Mitsubishi [Uni], Platinum, Tombow, Sakura, OHTO, Zebra, Newman, etc.). By the turn of the 21st century, those innovations had tapered off, only to be reinvigorated a decade later.

With that in mind, there are many contenders for highly regarded mechanical pencils available today. Probably the most widely talked about is the Uni Kuru Toga, especially with the advent of the Dive model. PILOT has also had a bit of a renaissance with the re-introduction of the now discontinued Automac (design more reflective of the old Automatic merged with a little TK-matic flair) and the wooden equivalent S30. But without a doubt, one of the more notable achievements has been Pentel’s Orenz Nero (or more correctly, orenznero [ オレンズネロ]). An automatic-feed mechanical pencil of drafting style inspiration, a notable descendant from Pentel’s crown achievement in automatic feed mechanical pencils – the QX05 PN305.


Evolution to the Pentel Orenz Nero

In fact, of the 7 or so members of the Pentel Orenz Nero design and management team, it was Mr. Abiko who was on the original QX05 PN305 product team and carried over his experience to the Orenz Nero mechanical design.


Pentel Orenz Nero Design & Product team members

Pentel Orenz Nero Product, Design, and Engineering Team Members

  1. Shigeki Maruyama - Pentel Sharp planning & design dept. manager
  2. Abiko Daikei - Chief specialist in sharp design
  3. Yoshikazu Ito - Sharp development section engineer
  4. Tomoaki Shibata - Sharp development product designer
  5. Mr. Wakai - Orenz Nero 0.5 development team manager
  6. Mr. Mizuguchi - Pentel Sharp marketing dept. manager


Mr. Yoshikazu, Mr. Abiko, Mr. Shigeki at Yoshikawa Factory


Mr. Wakai (left) - Orenz Nero 0.5 dev. team manager with Mr. Abiko at Yoshikawa


Mr. Mizuguchi - Pentel marketing manager for mechanical pencils

If you’d like to learn more about it, there are some useful and interesting sites to check out, thanks to @Linus2K and @ulfesharpe:

Pentel Japan - Orenz Nero, page 1, page 2.

Pentel Orenz Nero marketing manager interview, on NOTE.

Five Pentel pencil designers, interviewed; Orenz Nero included, on NOTE.

Pentel Orenz Nero launch event, on Digital Life.

Just a footnote:
If you look at the packaging, you’ll see Pentel writes the name as “orenznero” ( オレンズネロ), evoking the palindrome nature of it. The separation appears to be a Western thing, because of the established Orenz line. Even pentel.co.jp refers to it this way.


There were two limited edition releases of the orenzenro, in Blue-Black and Gunmetal. Sadly, they were immediately bought out and resold at well more than triple the price of the original… and in such limited numbers that they quickly vanished into the hands of collectors.

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Amazing insight here, with a lot of juicy information I had missed when the pencil was released — and I started to be interested in its innovations and homage to the past.

I bought an Orenz Nero in 0.2mm a few years after its first wave hit the markets: while it remains an exceptional writing instrument, the super-subtle tip sometimes makes it not exactly easy to use it as a daily runner, so I tend to dedicate it to special tasks, when I need extra precision, or I want to transfer letterforms from a small-size lettering template, or I just want to have fun writing in an extremely small space.

Funny thing: when I try to use a Pentel PG2 in the same 0.2mm size, I can’t feel the same amount of resistance: the “boldness” of the Orenz Nero is quietly mirrored by the gracefulness of the PG2’s sliding sleeve tip. Sometimes, one can spare a spring, and still get the same amazing results.

For 2024, I plan to buy a 0.5 model of the Orenz Nero, because I see its potential, and I heard that with the newest generations, some of the issues have been fixed, or at least ameliorated.

That being said, boy I do want that Pentel QX: if it feels and writes as smoothly as it appears on screen… gosh I’m blushing…

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Pentel’s crowning achievement was the development of an auto-feed system that could work with a variety of lead sizes. And it would seem the first to have an auto-feed 0.2 mm mechanical pencil. From all I’ve seen, PILOT’s auto-feed pencils are all 0.5 mm. The Automac and S30, their latest models, don’t offer 0.3 mm or even 0.7 mm.

Even if I owned an Orenz Nero in 0.2 mm, I’d not have the experience of using it for very long periods of time. Relying on what others have written, it is a mixed experience. And it sounds like your take on it is best used for limited but precise work, if the auto-feed mechanism is to be relied upon. I’ve seen some people complain of lead breakage (but that’s an inherent problem with 0.2 mm anyway) and lead slippage (last bit of lead isn’t fully utilized while pushed forth by the subsequent lead behind it, is it ends up falling out). Still, the Orenz Nero in 0.2 mm is a beautiful work of engineering.

I’ve written a few pages worth with the 0.5 mm Orenz Nero and it’s good. I don’t find it scratchy. And the lead advance trigger happens pretty easily. I think you’d enjoy it.

One other thing to note – the Orenz Nero is a moderately light pencil. One might think it’s purely plastic, but as I understand it the body is a composite using polymers and metals. While not weighty as a brass or steel barreled pencil, it still feels more substantial than an all plastic pencil.

When I removed the nose-cone on my 0.5 mm, the lead advanced significantly and I couldn’t easily funnel it back into the tube… so I compressed the mechanism and pulled the lead all the way out, then inserted it back in through the back.


(Photo taken from Bleistift blog)

The 0.2 mm vs. 0.5 mm looks to have a slightly different design. On mine, the front metal cylinder isn’t one uniform piece. There’s what appears to be a groove/seam on it, as seen in this Pentel supplied photo:
image

Did your 0.2 mm come with a lead clearing tool, as pictured above? My 0.5 mm didn’t come with one.

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I never used the first orenzneros 02 and 03 long enough to detect any issues with the mechanism, but the machining of the grip section in that first batch wasn’t as perfect as it is now in the newer iterations. I recently received a 05 and the grip is smooth and perfect, while in my original 03 it feels a little more coarse — that is, not as polished.

Two quick follow-up replies:

@cytherian I confirm the presence of the clearing pin on my 0.2 model, shaped in the same “ribbon-style” as per the Bleistift-Blog picture. It’s a nice touch, and it helps in the remote case of a jam (maybe only the 0.2 and perhaps 0.3 sport the pin, in view of the very fine lead cores, and extra-tiny splinters thereof).

@ulfesharpe I don’t have a clear way to date my Orenz Nero: when I removed the pocket clip I found a tiny “9J” imprint, in the same yellow colour as the “0.2” on the side, and I don’t know whether it can be a production mark or a shorthand for the date. Still, the grip section feels very smooth and pleasant to handle, so I assume it’s from a later batch — or I’m just not that sensitive when it comes to my fingerprints.

That is a build date of October 2019.

The number is the last digit of the year, and the letter is A to L corresponding to January to December.

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In this case, it is very apparent what year.
In some cases such as a Gen 6 P205 with a date code of 6H, that could be August 1996, 2006 or 2016.

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Made one more edit, a footnote about the original name (which is “orenznero”, the intended palindrome) as “Orenz Nero” is a Western modification. Because of the original product line “Orenz,” it’s a natural move to write “Orenz Nero.” Even JetPens does it. Oddly enough, the USA or “international” Pentel.com site doesn’t even show this lauded pencil.


Also, on Pentel’s site they say:
“Nero” means black in Italian.
The matte black coloring that covers the entire mechanical pencil is inherited from Pentel’s previous mechanical pencils, Graph 1000 and Smash. orenznero’s goal is to create a simple and sturdy product that is both tough and universal. The dodecagonal shaft used in the body resembles a block of carved metal parts. The body material is a special material that is a mixture of resin and metal. The low center of gravity balance provides both a satisfying grip and ease of writing, providing you with an unprecedented writing experience.

There was a limited release of the orenznero in 2 different colors – one a kind of grey and the other a very dark blue. Can’t find out much about them. But when they were being sold, the price was more than double than for the original black orenznero.

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Pilot had a 0.3 Automatic but not one since.

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…and it never seems to be working. Every piece I’ve seen on secondary markets had a broken lead advance.

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I have both LEs (did I really spend the double price? :-0 ). The colors are very similar to the normal black, especially the blue one, in somewhat dark lighting they are not distinguishable.

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Seeing that QX up there in all its WD-40 glory… made me put an end to the QX listing I had on Feebay until minutes ago.

I’ve been forced to sell many pencils and fountain pens that I know I will never find replacements for (like the Technopress, the QNX Caran d’Ache, a masterly Conid BF, the Tibaldi Impero or that rather unique TWSBI Micarta), but I can’t let go of my QX for now… how many are out there?

Thanks!

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