16 December 2004

[design, tools] Rapidoliners No More?

I love Rotring Rapidoliners. Drafters, artists, and designers know what of what I speak.

For those of you who don't read on.

There is a wonderful tool called the technical pen. These are liquid-ink pens, with sophisticated nibs, that can draw lines of precise dimension. They have tubular points and the point is the dimension of the line. A weight with a wire leading down through the point not only keeps the tube clear but also gives the mechanical motion necessary to cause the ink to flow.

They are wonderful for drawing...and they absolutely must be cared for. A nib clogged by dried ink can be, at the very least, a pain to get clear. But for the quality of the line produced, it's worth the trouble.

The biggest worldwide maker of tech pens is the Rotring (pronounced wrote-RING, it's German and means red ring (think Blaupunkt, which means blue dot, and enough digressing)) company. It originated the famous "Rapidograph" line, of which an American version is made and marketed by Koh-I-Noor. Rotring "ArtPens" are widely available in craft and art-supply stores. And I'm digressiing again.

Tech pens can be expensive to acquire (if you want a better quality point than the steel) and, as mentioned, require maintenance. They've had an alternative, though, the "Rapidoliner". This is a limited range of point sizes (but the most used point sizes) designed to be discarded when done. The complete pen is a heavy plastic barrel and a long insert with a color-coled point (yellow is .35mm, blue .25mm, brown .50, etc). The refill insert is activated simply; remove a plastic spacer-ring, place the insert in the barrel, cap the pen and click it closed. This sends the point home into the ink reservior, activating the pen. Rattling the pen back and forth for a minute or so (a move I call the "Rapidograph shake") causes the ink flow to actually begin, and the pen can then be used. When the ink is exhausted, throw away the insert and get a new one.

Today at Art Media in Clackamas I was looking to replace my lost pens. I found just a handful left in a box marked "DISCONTINUED-50% OFF" and no more on the hangers, and nonoe of the .35mm-my favorite size.

One of the clerks there said he'd heard a lot of dismay over this; the Rapidoliners always sold well. He guessed that the manufacturer was ceasing production on them.

That's quite possible. Entering www.rotring.com into my browser takes me to the home page of "NewellRubbermaid", which seems to be a conglomerate which has done a great deal of aquisitions in the last few years. Rotring was acquired in 1998.
I can't find a corporate website devoted to anything having to do with any Rotring product

It looks as though that Rapidoliners are fading off into the sunset, which is a shame; there are fibre point and other sorts of solid-point pens out there. but there's nothing like drawing with real liquid ink. Finding a substitute for this will be a long search. Possibly fruitless; this is and was a one-of-a-kind product


pril said...

No pen compares! What a bummer! I've had mine for ten years and it's still in great working shape. Oh but if i LOSE it! Oh NO! The bastards!

Samuel John Klein Portlandiensis said...


Ten years? Rapidoliners don't last that long...are you sure you aren't talking about Rapidographs there?

Rapidoliners are grand pens, no doubt, but they just aren't that durable. Rapidographs, OTOH, are designed to keep going and going and going if you take care of them.

If that's a Rapidograph there, I don't think you have anything to worry about. Matter of fact, I'm not all that sure Rotring has stopped making them. All I know for sure is that Art Media has discontinued offering them, and this was on the word of a clerk who wasn't entirely sure. I plan on researching the issue and finding out what I can. I'll post the info here.

FWIW, the Rotring corporate site has been found at www.rotring.de. Click on the Union Jack for the English version, or just read it auf glorische Deutsch!Sam.

Anonymous said...

Man... Nostalgia. I still have the Rapidograph set I used in arts high school and on from there. When I needed a point size that the set didn't contain (and a size I wouldn't use often enough to justify the expense of purchasing a new Rapidograph), I'll pick up a Rapidoliner. They were also great for non-black inks without the hour long process of cleaning and switching inks in a reservoir pen.

That's a real shame that such things are slipping into disuse and obscurity.

If you're looking to stock up, try Pearl art stores. They should be online, and they have a catalog for ordering. I don't know how big they are on the West Coast here, but they're much larger on the East Coast than Art Media is anywhere. If any art retailer has a supply of these, Pearl will.


C'est moi, M. Pariah

Anonymous said...

FYI, Michael's--or at least the one in Taulitin on Nyberg Road--is still carrying Rapidoliners for $15.59. They've also still got out on the shelves refills, though I forget for how much.