Zebra DelGuard (Mechanical Pencil)
Can you believe that the Japanese mechanical pencil is over a hundred years old? Commonly known as shar-pen in Japan, this handy invention has perhaps been taken for granted for quite a while, and also little about it has changed aside from evolving into a form of personal style and expression, with shapes and sizes ranging from the elegant to the kawaii. But the time for change has come. Zebra, one of the leading manufacturers of mechanical pencils in Japan, has introduced a new contender into the mix called the DelGuard. This long-awaited upgrade aims to extinguish one of the biggest technological challenges for mechanical pencils – lead breaking.
Founded in 1914 by Mr. Tokumatsu Ishikawa, Zebra is one of the oldest Japanese companies specializing in pens, markers, and mechanical pencils. Legend has it that when he was looking for a name for his company, he decided to go backwards in an English/Japanese dictionary. Starting at Z, he didn’t have to go far – “Zebra” soon caught his eye, and the striped look and gentle personality of the animal was a perfect fit for his vision. Zebra was a pioneer in the industry for decades – embracing ideas like double-ended markers, multi-color pens, and two-in-one pen/mechanical pencils – so it’s no surprise that they would constantly be looking for new areas in which to innovate.
The DelGuard had been in development since 2009, when it was initially conceived by two of Zebra’s engineers. They were aware that a long time complaint from users of all brands of mechanical pencils was the frequent lead breaking that would occur when a certain amount of pressure was applied. Indeed, the thin strands of graphite pencil lead that act as refills for all mechanical pencils are quite delicate. No matter how cheap or expensive the mechanical pencil itself, the danger of the lead breaking was almost always the same. Press too hard, and the lead would surely snap, potentially damaging the writing surface and most certainly ruining a highly important piece of design, text, or sketch. Sounds like a simple challenge? Well it took until late 2014 to finally release a consumer-ready version.
According to Jim Laudenbach of Zebra, the DelGuard’s proprietary system enhances the vertical clutch that is common to all mechanical pencils. This clutch is what holds the lead in place and guides it out from the tip, but there is very little diagonal support as people apply pressure. The new spring system in the DelGuard takes on the diagonal pressure resulting from writing and drawing, and allows for a smooth and seamless stroke. A guard also automatically wraps around the lead tip when a significant amount of pressure is applied. They even added a system to prevent jamming, as well as a rubber system to make the pencil silent. But what’s most amazing is that they fit all of this in without altering the size of the pencil or requiring the use of a non-standard lead refill.
The DelGuard takes away the frustration that people might sometimes associate with mechanical pencils. But it’s also a great way to reduce pencil lead waste and ultimately save money on refills. Hopefully, at least for a little while, we won’t take for granted this new leap that is opening up new possibilities for writers and artists alike.
Zebra Pen Corp.