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Geniously simple - simply genious: The success story of the clutch pencil

The TK 9400 has been inspiring for more than 70 years with its equally simple and convincing technology. Now it is experiencing a revival as a “digital” drawing tool.

Artists and creative professionals have been able to combine the advantages of a classic pencil with the benefits of a digital device since the introduction of a real novelty one year ago: the Repaper Graphic Tablet, which the Grenoble-based start-up company iskn launched in cooperation with Faber-Castell. Thanks to its "Augmented InteractionTM" technology, drawings made with pen and paper can be given digital life. It has now been possible to make another analogue writing and drawing instrument compatible with the Repaper from iskn: The new Repaper Clutch Pencil, which was only launched at the beginning of December, converts drawings and notes into digital formats – the birth of the first "digital" clutch pencil. Reason enough to look back on the success story of this extraordinary creative tool:

Reliable constant with nostalgic potential

There are things that awaken beautiful, wistful or long forgotten memories. But when an object with such nostalgic potential is at the same time highly topical, it is a real phenomenon: the TK 9400, produced by Faber-Castell for over 70 years, inspires generation after generation. To this day, the clutch pencil is the declared favourite writing instrument not only of the technicians, business people and artists originally intended as a target group, but also of countless graphic artists, fashion designers, architects, bloggers and other creative people. Slim, simple and discreet dark green, the TK 9400 is one of the most consistent bestsellers in the range of writing instrument manufacturers from Stein near Nuremberg.
From drawing fans to number crunchers: as different as the fans of clutch pencils may be, they all agree on its qualities. The TK 9400 is considered to be uniquely robust and economical, always ready to hand and safe to use – a reliable constant in sometimes more than turbulent everyday life. 
This is due to the equally simple and convincing mechanism, the principle of which has not changed since its development in the early 1940s: In this pencil, the lead is not directly encased in wood, as is the case with conventional pencils, but is located in a tube. This ends at the bottom in a pair of pliers with three jaws, a kind of claw. If you press the push button at the end of the pencil, the claw opens and the lead "falls" out. When the push-button is released, the pliers close again and fix the lead. Ingeniously simple – and simply ingenious. Because this way, the lead can be pushed in again and again and thus almost completely used up without changing the pen length. Gone are the awkward handling of pencil stubs, time for a new, more dynamic writing and painting in the workshop, office or studio!

Successful premiere 1948

This period finally came to an end when Faber-Castell was able to resume production, which had been interrupted in the Second World War, and thus also produce the innovative clutch pencil in larger quantities. The first model came onto the market in 1948 with a 12.5 centimetre long wooden hexagonal barrel (from '49 in a plastic version). Its golden logo, which is made up of the abbreviation for the technicians, merchants and artists mentioned at the beginning and the serial number 9400, initially still bore the addition "Germany" – but otherwise the design and look have remained essentially unchanged to this day. On the one hand, this proves the classic qualities of this product and, on the other hand, ensures its enormously high recognition. Because anyone who digs in his memory – or in the drawers of his parents' house – will quickly find what he is looking for: Almost everyone remembers seeing the characteristic dark green mechanical pencil in use during training, in their grandfather's workshop or during their first drawing lessons. 

From practical to even more practical

Small creative variations resulted from the expansion of the TK repertoire. In 1949, for example, Faber-Castell presented the TK 9420 Color for coloured leads, in which the snap fasteners are coloured accordingly. This was followed shortly afterwards by Model 9500 with a clip that can be easily attached to the breast pocket of a shirt or smock. Finally, the TK 4600 came up with another practical detail – a sharpener integrated into the snap fastener.
The range of refillable leads, which are made of graphite and clay, as with conventional pencils, has also been constantly varied: They are available in diameters of 2.0 or 3.15 millimetres and now in 14 degrees of hardness. In 1953, to make it easier to find the desired model, the hardness markings were applied to all six sides of the shaft, as well as a white decorative ring at the end, which distinguished the pencil from the TK Color. Since 1960, the spiral fluting at the tip has provided an even more secure grip. In 1998, Faber-Castell took a little trip in the direction of glamour – and ennobled the indispensable companion on the occasion of its 50th anniversary with a limited edition in sterling silver.

Sustainable right from the start

So you will find clutch pencils for all cases. Versatile in use, practically unbreakable, extremely material-saving: this is how the clutch pencil presents itself as a prime example of a sustainable everyday product. Since the invention of the TK 9400, the "thorough people at Faber-Castell", as it was called in a series of advertisements in the 1960s, have been checking with each individual copy whether the lead is firmly enough seated so that it never slips through when writing – in times when longevity and respect for resources are written in capital letters, such a guarantee of quality is as important as ever.