Uni-Ball Kuru Toga High Grade

Uni-Ball’s Kuru Toga line has a smart idea, but fails to deliver.

The idea of the Kuru Toga is that the lead rotates as you write so that you get even wear from all sides of your pencil lead.  Having ripped many sheets on the upstroke of using my pencils, I thought I’d give this a try.  A rotating tip would also mean that I could get a thinner line with a thicker lead.

The Kuru Toga comes in two varieties, the normal kind and the “high grade.”  The main difference is the barrel of the pencil.  The normal kind is made of plastic, and the high grade has a metal grip section.

The weight and shape of the pencil is run-of-the-mill.  The grip section is just that, a grip section.  There’s no hatching or rubber to actually provide any grip.  The clip is fixed and provides a firm hold without damaging what it’s holding.

There are two rubber rings at the top and bottom of the pencil that serve mostly as decoration; I would appreciate a rubber addition that actually served some purpose over a slippery metal grip.  The pencil is definitely not ugly. It features a little viewing window that demonstrates how the lead is rotating, but what should be the Kuru Toga’s great achievement is actually its Achilles’ heel.

The way the mechanism is activated is that as you push down on the pencil to write, the internal barrel pushes up a little, and rotates.  What makes the pencil so weak is the little vertical give that seems to initiate the rotation.  The deceptive extra millimetre your hand must move makes it surprisingly exhausting to write with the pencil.  You tend to hit the paper at the exact right force that causes your lead to make that high-pitched white-noise sound as your write.

I’ve been writing with it for a few weeks now, hoping to get used to it.  I guess I prefer it to my Pentel GraphGear 1000 because it’s not as heavy, and I won’t be as heartbroken if I lose it.

It does produce a consistently thin line as you write, but anyone who cares enough to invest in a rotating pencil will also care enough that the barrel pushing up precludes any detailed or precision writing.  It’s not a horrible pencil, but it’s not worth the odd feeling of writing on a piece of foam.

3 Responses to “Uni-Ball Kuru Toga High Grade”
  1. Alex says:

    I actually disagre with ur review. This mech pencil is fantastic.

    It depends how u write, this pencil is developed to “japanese like” symbols, that means lots of little, fast and short lines, wich this mechanism works perfectly.

    Now, to ocidental letters, if u hav long and connected letters, u may not like how this mechanism works, becauz u hav to do little pauses and restar wirting over and over, like my writing ocidental style, wich is letter by letter and not connected at all.

    You should consider it when u’r going to buy this mechanical pencil, this may not be as good mechanism for some ppl, but its marvelous for writing styles like mine.

  2. Alex says:

    and sorry about my bad english ;x

  3. Robert says:

    I rather agree with the review. It’s not horrible, but it’s certainly overhyped for what it does. I write in traditional Chinese, and it’s not that beneficial.

    I took a 0.5mm Zebra Color Flight, a 0.5mm Kuru Toga, a 0.3mm Pentel S473, and a 2.0mm Staedtler 925-25-20 and wrote a page of text, half in English and half in Chinese. The 0.5mm were both the same Ain B grade, the 0.3mm in Ain 2B, and the 2.0mm in Uni HB.

    The results for the Kuru Toga were indeed more consistent than that of the Color Flight, but only when I wasn’t manually rotating the latter. When freely rotating the pencil in-hand, I encountered less muscle strain and achieved similar consistency overall, while gaining some precision in tight spots in small Chinese characters.

    The 0.3mm was even better when working with small characters. The heavier barrel also helped maintain control without excessive tension in the fingers. Needing to advance the lead more often also gave the hand an occasional, which reduced soreness a lot.

    Oddly, the smoothest, darkest, and sharpest was the HB 2.0mm leadholder. A lot of that has to do with weight and vibration dampening, but it was by far the best writing experience. The only negative was that after several lines of writing, the tip was sufficiently worn that it needed to be repointed. When done properly, line consistency was still quite good, and allowed much better detail.

    I think the KT is OK, but it doesn’t solve any problem I have, and it (at least the standard model) brings with it problems that I attribute to lighter pencils like greater muscle fatigue and strain, and then makes the situation worse with the vertical play of the mechanism, encouraging additional grip tension to compensate for the perceived loss of precision.

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