Latest Update: Just added a link to the fountain pen version review, and a note that the pencil is actually a bit too thin for Filofax loops – holds in ok with the clip, though.
I’d seen pictures of the Pilot Birdie range, but they hadn’t really interested me. I don’t like pens and pencils that are too thin, and that’s the real selling point of the Birdie – thinness.
Our friends at Cult Pens chucked one in with an order for us to try, and I was really quite surprised to find that I liked it. A lot. I don’t actually use a pencil much these days, since my current obsession is fountain pens, but I do like to have one available. The Birdie has become the pencil I carry all the time, so when I’m not using a pencil, it’s the Birdie I’m specifically not using.
What Is It?
The Birdie range are designed to slip unobtrusively away, and to fit in the tiny pen loops you get in notebooks and Filofaxes. This one is a 0.5mm mechanical pencil, a ballpoint pen and a fountain pen version are also available.
- Eraser under cap.
- Not pocket safe – the sharp bit of the tip doesn’t retract, so you could stab yourself in the leg.
- Stainless steel casing.
- Quite an effective pocket clip.
- Thin enough to fit in most little notebook pen loops (5mm diameter). A little too thin for most Filofax loops, actually, but can be held in place with the clip.
- Cost: At time of writing, RRP £4.25 – £3.40 from Cult Pens
Like most things about the Birdie, the word that springs to mind here is “simple”. I like simplicity in these things, which I think is why the Birdie appeals so much to me. The body is just a tube. There is nothing more than a conical section where it slims down to the point. The eraser cap is just another tube. The clip is just a length of bent steel, acting as its own spring.
The main body section is brushed, whilst the eraser cap, clip, and conical section are all polished. The clip has a cut-out section, wich is almost the only hint of any actual styling, and the words “PILOT 0.5 JAPAN” are stamped onto it.
I think the design could fit in quite well with Lamy’s range, but they’d probably want a lot more money for such minimalism.
Imagine you’ve just got a strong, hollow steel tube, and firmly attached some pencil lead to the end. That’s pretty much how the Birdie feels. I was quite taken aback by how solid it is, and the mechanism feels strong, with a nice positive action.
The brushed steel of the body gives a good grip.
As much as I like the Birdie, I’m not sure I’d want to do a lot of writing with it. There are a few compromises made for that size…
- The width itself – there’s no big comfortable grip area. The steel itself is nicely non-slip, but it can feel strangely like writing with a toothpick.
- No retractable tip – so you take a risk if you keep it in a pocket. Most mechanical pencils these days have retractable tip sections, but the Birdie doesn’t. It’s a bit of a shame, because this would make a great pocket pencil.
- Shiny eraser cap – if the top part of this was brushed, it would be much easier to pull off to get to the eraser. It’s not too difficult as it is, and it probably looks nicer this way, but it makes the eraser a bit slower to use.
On the whole, though, the Birdie feels good in the hand, and works well. Considering it’s so much smaller than most, the trade-offs seem reasonable. For making quick notes when you don’t have anything else to hand, it’s ideal. For doing a lot of writing, I’d look elsewhere. For drawing and doodling, I find it surprisingly good.
Despite the drawbacks, I really like the Birdie. It’s convenient enough to keep stashed away in my Filofax, in case of emergency, or if I happen to need pencil for something. The fact that it also looks good, and feels so solid and well made is a bonus.
Because this one was a freebie (thanks, Simon!), I had to look the price up when I started writing this, and I was quite surprised – I’d expected it to be a fair bit more than it actually is.
If you have any sort of notebook with a pen loop that’s too narrow for your usual pens and pencils, give one a go. You can get them from Cult Pens in the UK, and there are ballpoint and fountain pen versions available too.