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L&C Hardtmuth Versatil

aka Grafo / Bohemia Works / Koh-I-Noor / Toison d’Or Versatil


The Versatil leadholder was introduced in 1946 and has been under continuous production since that time unchanged (as far as I can tell) to the present. This was one year before the pushbutton clutch drafting pencil was popularized in the U.S. by the A.W. Faber Castell 9400 Locktite and two years before the A.W. Faber Castell TK 9400 was introduced in Europe, but many years after the Caran d’Ache Fixpencil debuted in 1929.

Update: 2010 April

No time at the moment to elegantly weave the following new information into this introduction so:  An early U.S. made yellow wooden Koh-I-Noor 5611 Versatil has been recently discovered by a collector.  Previously the Versatil name was only known to be used on Czech-made leadholders. 

Update: 2011 March

No time at the moment to elegantly weave the following new information into this introduction so:  An early wooden Czech-made Koh-I-Noor 5611 Versatil has been recently discovered by me. 

The leadholders on this page were all manufactured in Czechoslovakia/Czech Republic by Koh-I-Noor Hardtmuth A.S.Link Opens in New WindowI’m not sure how the various “Koh-I-Noor” companies located in several countries in Europe and the US are related. They seem to have essentially exclusive products, distributors, catalogs, etc. There are many variations of these leadholders existing, some significant enough to warrant their own page, but I like them as a group.


Catalog Numbers for Koh-I-Noor Hardtmuth A.S. (Czech Republic) Leadholders:
(This list was taken more or less verbatim from the English version of the Czech Koh-I-NoorLink Opens in New Windowwebsite, July 2001, hence the Czech-glish spelling.)

mechanicals pencils metal clutch leadsholders 5201, 5205, 5900, 5905
mechanicals pencils metal clutch leadsholders short 5228
mechanicals pencils plastic clutch leadsholders 5209, 5211
mechanicals pencils set of mechanical pencils 5217
mechanicals pencils wood clutch leadsholders 5208
mechanicals pencils metal clutch leadsholders big 5340, 5343
mechanicals pencils plastic clutch leadsholders big 5301, 5347
mechanicals pencils set of coloured mechanical leadsholders 4011, 4012

Oh, hey, I just remembered. The “Versatil” logo looks a bit like “Versatie” so I need to write it like that so people who search for the wrong name will still be able to find this page and have as much fun as those of us who are hip to the nomenclature.

L. & C. Hardtmuth “Koh-I-Noor”–Versatil 5611 (Czechoslovakia)

L. & C. Hardtmuth “Koh-I-Noor”–Versatil 5611

L. & C. Hardtmuth, Czechoslovakia

lead diameter
mechanism
composition
variations
production date
origin
2 mm
pushbutton spring clutch
wooden barrel, cast-metal fittings, brass collet
none known
1946
Czechoslovakia
   
see also U.S.-made Koh-I-Noor “Versatil” 5611

This is a beautiful, crappy pencil.  The gray metal bits are die-cast “pot-metal” or something.  The pushbutton has expanded, I think, because of the corroded brass lead tube within and the mechanism no longer functions.  Zoom in and you can see the “grain” of the casting on the nose.  Compare this thing to the similar, but different and equally not-good U.S.-made “Versatil” 5611.

But of course shortcomings are great for collectors.  This must have been a very short-lived design and all wooden leadholders have fragile finishes so finding this model in unused, however aged, condition was a stroke of luck.

This is possibly the first Versatil

Koh-I-Noor Versatil 5201

(long nose)

L. & C. Hardtmuth A.S., Czechoslovakia

lead diameter
mechanism
composition
variations
production date
origin
2 mm
pushbutton spring clutch
all metal
none
(1960s)
Czechoslovakia/Czech Republic
   
special features lead pointer in removable pushbutton
see also Koh-I-Noor Versatil History

Versatil colored lead variants
Versatil 5347


The newer 5201s have a less steeply angled nose than older variants. All of them have twist off pushbuttons that contain a tiny lead pointer. There is also a 2.5 mm version of this pencil, the 5205, which is scaled up in all aspects by about 1/3. I used to have one, but I lost it somehow. There is also a clone of the 5201 in the Nobema 8000 Gallery entry.

L. & C. Hardtmuth "Versatil" 5201
L. & C. Hardtmuth "Versatil" 5201

Versatil 5201

(Reg. U.S. Pat. Off.)

L. & C. Hardtmuth, Czechoslovakia

lead diameter
mechanism
composition
variations
production date
origin
2 mm
pushbutton spring clutch
all metal
none
1950s
Czechoslovakia
   
special features lead pointer in removable pushbutton

Koh-I-Noor Hardtmuth Versatil 5201

(short nose)

L. & C. Hardtmuth A.S., Czech Republic

lead diameter
mechanism
composition
variations
production date
origin
2 mm
pushbutton spring clutch
all metal
none
circa 2000
Czech Republic
   
special features lead pointer in removable pushbutton
see also Koh-I-Noor Versatil History
This model is currently (2007) available with gold or nickel plating on the fittings and with or without a clip.
Grafo Versatil 5201

Grafo Versatil 5201

(short nose)

L. & C. Hardtmuth A.S., Czech Republic

lead diameter
mechanism
composition
variations
production date
origin
2 mm
pushbutton spring clutch
all metal
none
circa 1995
Czech Republic
   
special features lead pointer in removable pushbutton
see also Koh-I-Noor Versatil History

This is a pencil I purchased new in the Czech Republic in 1995. I’m not sure what the Grafo brand is. Possibly it is used only for domestically sold pencils. I didn’t learn much of the Czech language while I was there, but I think maybe “Koh-I-Noor” when pronounced in Czech means something like “Big Red Fucker.” Hence the resistance to labeling the pencils as such.* All the Grafo pencils share identical model numbers with their Koh-I-Noor brethren.

* I just made that shit up to be funny. Stand down soldier. Put that thing back in your pants. You make me nervous.

Versatil 5628

L. & C. Hardtmuth, Czechoslovakia

lead diameter
mechanism
composition
variations
production date
origin
2 mm
pushbutton spring clutch
all metal
barrel color: green, red
1950s
Czechoslovakia
   
see also Koh-I-Noor Versatil History

It seems to me that early in the production of the Versatil line of pencils, the model numbers all began with 56. See this model above from the 1950s is 5628 and the model below purchased in the 1990s is 5228. Why I wonder.** It could be some arrangement with another instance of the L. & C. Hardtmuth company such as the one in the U.S. which had their own distinct models that all began with 56 (5611, 5612, 5613, etc.). Another model of Versatil, the 5617 is now known as the 5217. The 5617 model number is used by the U.S. Hardtmuth since about 1956.

** The one below is a Grafo and this one is an L.&.C Hardtmuth. Grafo is a trade name of L.&.C Hardtmuth. The Versatils are/were available in several brands and they all share the same model numbers.

Grafo Versatil 5228

L. & C. Hardtmuth A.S., Czechoslovakia

lead diameter
mechanism
composition
variations
production date
origin
2 mm
pushbutton spring clutch
all metal
barrel color: red, green, ?
(1950s) to present
Czechoslovakia/Czech Republic
   
special features lead pointer in removable pushbutton
see also Koh-I-Noor Versatil History


Toison d’Or 5900

L.&.C Hardtmuth A.S., Czechoslovakia

lead diameter
mechanism
composition
variations
production date
origin
2 mm
pushbutton spring clutch
all metal
none
(1950s) to present
Czechoslovakia
   
special features lead pointer in removable pushbutton
see also Koh-I-Noor Versatil History

Koh-I-Noor Toison d'Or 1900 wood-cased drawing pencil
WBP

unknown model

WBP, Germany

lead diameter
mechanism
composition
variations
production date
origin
2 mm
pushbutton spring clutch
all metal
barrel: black, silver
circa 2000
Czechoslovakia
   
special features lead pointer in removable pushbutton
This pencil I bought in an Ann Arbor shop in 2001. It is sold as a product of the German company WBP and retails for $10. This is five thousand percent more than I paid in Prague for a new Bohemia Works 5217 in 1995.