After I reviewed the Waterman Phileas I noticed that I have hardly reviewed the writing/drawing tools that I use most. So I making it a point to start to rectify that, at least a little bit.
The Rotring 800 is Rotring’s high end drafting pencil, and it costs significantly more than its popular counterpart, the Rotring 600. It’s also my preferred drafting pencil, and the one pencil that’s a constant in my drawing kit. While I own the Rotring 600, and I agree that it’s a very good drafting pencil, I’ve abandoned it entirely for it’s more big brother, the Rotring 800.
The Rotring 600 and 800 are both full metal (brass) bodied drafting pencils. This means that they were built for drafting (architectural plans) and sketching, not so much for writing. You can use a drafting pencil for writing, but they’re not built for that (that’s what mechanical pencils are for). Drafting pencils are metal bodied with a knurled grip, a lead grade indicator, and a sleeve that both protects the lead and allows you to more easily use it with rulers and templates, and to get a better view of what you’re drawing.
Herein we get to the problem: both the Rotring 600 and the Rotring 800 are almost perfect drafting pencils. Each one has a significant flaw, which means that you have to decide when purchasing what are you willing to live without.
I think that the Rotring 800 is a slightly more good looking drafting pencil than the Rotring 600, and it weighs more than the 800. That’s nice, but that’s not “$20 more” nice. The reason to buy the Rotring 800 is the retractable tip. That’s it. The Rotring 600’s non-retractable, sharp-yet-delicate tip makes carrying it around an issue. It can bend and it can do damage – piercing through case fabric, clothes, and I wouldn’t carry it in my pocket (ouch!).
I carry my Rotring 800 in a Nock Co Sinclair, together with the rest of my sketching kit, and I really needed the retractable tip. For that I had to pay extra, and I also had to give up on a crucial drafting pencil feature that the Rotring 600 has and the Rotring 800 doesn’t have: the lead grade indicator. This is a basic feature of drafting pencils, and I have no idea why Rotring didn’t add it here. It doesn’t bother me too much as I don’t switch lead grades that often, but it’s still a baffling choice on Rotring’s part.
I love the texture on the pen grip and the pen itself: it’s beautiful and functional at the same time. This is a pencil that will not budge from your hands as you’re working with it. Also, the added weight of the retractable mechanism means that it’s perfectly balanced and you need to apply zero pressure on the lead.
The Rotring 800 is a handsome, heavy and expensive drafting pencil. If you’re just getting to know drafting pencils the Pentel Graph Gear 1000 is what I’d recommend (it’s cheaper, lighter, has a great design, more tip sizes, and a lead indicator), as it really works as an excellent mechanical pencil as well as a drafting pencil. The Rotring is what I use because it aggravates my RSI least (YMMV),the added weight lets me work faster and yet retain control over my line, and I really needed the retractable tip (I ruined a Rotring 600’s tip). If you’re wondering whether to purchase a Rotring 800 (or 600) I highly recommend testing it out first, especially if you have small hands or have a “non-standard” way of holding a pencil, since you may find its weight uncomfortable.