From my Notebook

Tombow Olno Swift 0.5mm Bendable Mechanical Pencil Review

Above: I draw a troubled young man with a special key

Jetpens was kind enough to send me the Tombow Olno Swift mechanical pencil for a review. The special thing about this pencil is that you bend it to make the lead advance! I was actually surprised at how cool this pencil is, not having seen it in person before. But first things first:

Lead size: 0.5mm
Pencil weight: Medium-light
Pencil functionality: “Body Knock” (bend the pencil to advance lead), or click to advance, you choose
Eraser: Present, and a bit larger than typical mechanical pencil erasers
Grip: High-friction gel-style grip, translucent
Pipe: Long pipe
Clip: Standard shirt clip, a bit shorter than normal, but a good fit for the look of this pencil
Decoration: Minimal. There is an attractive little dragonfly logo on the back of the pencil, near the middle, printed on the outside of the transparent section. Inside the transparent section you can see the red color of the lead housing.
Comfort in hand: One of the most comfortable pencils I’ve ever used.


Above: If I push the side of my thumb against the ridge in the grip, the pencil bends and the lead advances.

Looking at the pencil, and knowing about the “gimmick” where you bend the pencil, I feared it would feel clunky or unreliable. However, I was pleasantly surprised to find how solid this pencil is. It’s comfortable to hold, has a very grippy, stable feel, and there is no perceptible give when the lead touches the paper. Wow! So what about the gimmick?

With the Body Knock feature, you can actually push the side of your thumb into the pencil to bend the entire shaft, and with a standard “click” sound, the lead advances. Your thumb has to be in the right place along the side of the pencil, which is indicated by a couple of embossed stripes around the pencil grip, but once you’ve tried it, you understand it. See the photos at the JetPens site for a demo of how it looks when you bend it:

I found the Body Knock feature much more comfortable to use than the button-on-shaft pencils like the Pentel SideFX. For one, you can bend the pencil in any direction and the lead advances.

If you like a good grip on your pencil, and you use your lead advance mechanism a lot (e.g. you write or draw longer than a few minutes at a time), you should grab one of these. At $10, it’s not cheap, but $10 is nothing if you use mechanical pencils a lot.

Finally, if you don’t like the look of a translucent grip after it’s gotten a bit dirty, consider buying the Jet Black version. Either way, I’d probably keep the pencil in a case that is relatively lint free, because I like to keep my gel grips free of random hairs and dust specks that happen to float by.

A big thanks to JetPens for sending this to me—and the Limited Edition Light Silver version, to boot. I’ve had a great time drawing with it. By the way, the other tools in use here are also available at JetPens: The fantastic Maruman Mnemosyne Notebook with its fabulously smooth paper, and the Uni Boxy Eraser, which is my favorite eraser right now.