Rotring Technical Pens Rapidograph – Model A [1953] –

Rapidograph A-1

This post is the first one dealing with the original Rapidograph line (not to be confused with the 1980’s Rapidograph one). In 1953, Rotring launched on the market what can now be considered the true first « technical pen ». The rapidograph design rely heavily on it’s forerunner : the Tintenkuli. The purpose of this post is not to tell the history of the Tintenkuli pens which largely established Rotring’s reputation, just to say that a Rapidograph is an « improved » version of the Tintenkuli.

The aim of the Rapidograph was to provide draftsmen, architects, engineers and graphic artists a comprehensive line of pen with standardized nib size. It will be a long way to reach the perfectly standardized Din norm, but it was truly the first attempt. Rotring initially offers three differents size : N°1 – N°2 – N°3 which are equivalent to 0.25mm – 0.45mm – 0.80mm (see publicity ad below in this post). The model A was produced from 1953 to circa 1955, when a new 5 differents nib sizes line replaced it.

Except for the nib and pocket clip, the Rapidograph is an all hard plastic affair (bakelite ?), with piston-filling mechanism and removable nib. I won’t describe in detail the features and component of the pen : I have made a detailed « exploded » view of a typical Model A Rapidograph explaining all the specificities of the pen. I’ve tried to make these posts the more « visual looking » that I can, with close-up photos and captions without submerging you with my prose!

Rapidograph A-2

An important note about my classification system. I will sort the pens by : Model A – Model B… This is a strictly personal filling system. Rotring never used it, but I’ve been faced with the trouble of sorting and classifying all the design variations that a line pen encountered during his life, so I’ve ended up with this system, but remember that for Rotring, this system never existed and that whether it date from 1953 or 1977, a Rapidograph is a Rapidograph, period.

I will also try to provide as much original documents as I could (instruction sheet, publicity, catalog samples) to support my studies. For this first post I have just one true genuine box (the N°1) and can’t find the real original instruction sheet. I provide an original publicity and spare-parts list. Official documents are scarce for this one, but these pens are now more than 60 years old…

I will clearly show the variations beetwen each models in future post. Hope you will enjoy this series of post, and please, read the introduction I’ve made [here], and the disclaimer at the very end of this post, to have some clarification about the methods I’ve used to produce this body of work.

Rapidograph A-3

Rapidograph A-4

Rapidograph A-5

Rapidograph A-6

Rapidograph A-7

Rapidograph A-8

Rapidograph A-9

Rapidograph A-10

Rapidograph A-11

Rapidograph A-12

Rapidograph A-13

Rapidograph A-14

Rapidograph A-15

Rapidograph A-16

Rapidograph A-17

Rapidograph A-18

Rapidograph A-19

Rapidograph A-20

alte rotring Werbung

Rapidograph A-22 New



I’m responsible for any errors, omissions or mistakes that may appear in these posts. I’m not working for Rotring or any of his affiliates, so as the name of this blog implies, everything here is « unofficial ». However, I’m trying to be as rigorous as I can, and every information given here has been checked and verified as much as I can. Rotring history is not very documented on the Internet, and I think this is a story to be told. I will gladly accept any remarks or comments that can improve this essay. If you have any informations that you don’t find here, if you used to worked for Rotring, if you were a retailer, if you have documents to share I’ll be very happy to include your informations in this series of posts. Please do not hesitate to contact me, it’s easy to leave a comment and it can helps a lot!

All reproductions of instruction manuals, publicity, brochures, leaflets… are :

© Riepe-Werk Hamburg Altona / Rotring.

All other photos and designs are :

© Olivier Van Bellinghen and free to reproduce WITH my permission (so please, just ask!)


27 réflexions sur “Rotring Technical Pens Rapidograph – Model A [1953] –

  1. As a fellow Rotring fan, I am enjoying your blog very much! I have a small collection of both Rapidograph and Tintenkuli. I don’t know if I agree that one is an improved version of the other. The Tintenkuli needle had a rounded tip, and the end of the tube was beveled: this made it easier to write with, but line width was no precise. The Rapidograph had square cut tube and needle for much more precise line width, but it wasn’t so much fun for writing. So, really they were two different instruments fur two different purposes.

    I hope that one day you will discuss the Variant pens? I look forward to all your future posts.


    • Hello Pentermezzo
      Thanks for your interest in my blog. Yes I agree with you I didn’t choose my words very wisely. The Rapidograph is not an « improved » vesion of the Tintenkuli. I think I should have said « modified ». It was improved for drafting with much more consistent and regular line, but for writing purpose it was clearly muss less adequate ! The Variant will of course be exposed in details, but I choose to present the pen in chronological order, so I need to finish the 7 seven remaining version of the Rapidograph before…

      Aimé par 1 personne

  2. Very interesting to see this. I have a Rapidograph nr.1 with box, it has an original English instruction leaflet which mentions a Rapidograph no. 0 « extra fine » making four pens in the range! This pen apparently does not have the size indicator on the end of the cap. I have a restored scan of this leaflet (it was in poor shape) if you are interested.


    • Hi PL
      Thanks for your interest in my blog. Yes, I’m greatly interested by your scan and any pictures you can provide regarding this pen. I have a Spanish publicity with 4 Rapidograph pen line, but it’s the only document regarding this elusive 4 pens line I have found. May be the were restricted to export sales as I cannot find any German document with 4 pens only. If you can send pictures it would be of great help!
      Best Regards


      • Hi PL
        Thanks for the scans. The notice corresponds to my Spanish ad, the descriptions of the 4 pens match perfectly. There’s a couple of interesting infos at the bottom of the back side : Gebea is the name of the printer, 11 55 refers to November 1955, and 7501 is the code for English notices (German are coded 7000). I have English notices coded 7501 B and 7501 C, which could tell that the one one you have is the first that were imported to UK! Very interesting document indeed. If you have time to take some pictures of the pen itself it would be great
        Thanks again for your support


      • The pen I have is the Nr.1, exactly the same as in your photo – I don’t have the Nr.0 unfortunately! The box is the same as well. The info you got from the leaflet is interesting, I guessed the numbers referred to the publication date but I wasn’t sure.


  3. I just bought a vintage rotring rapidograph pen, complete with box, instructions, key to remove the nib and blotting paper. It is very similar to what you have here but the nib size is 0.15. Any idea what year it was released? I would be happy share some images if you want. Thanks for sharing such an informative blog.


    • Hi Kat,
      Thanks for your interest in my blog. The 0.15 Rapidograph was part of the 7th variation (out of 8) of the original Rapidograph line. It was introduced in 1963 among the VL-Line type nib (a nib stronger than before and designed to last longer). You can recognize the VL-Line nibs with the following characteristics : all-around black color nibs with a red circle painted around and two writings : the nib size on one side, the « VL » mention on the other. Early nibs doesn’t have the painted red circle. Do not hesitate if you have some pictures to share…


      • Hi Kat,
        Thanks for your kind words and your photos. What you have is the latest variation of the Rapidograph. It was produced up to the very late 1970’s before being discontinued. It has a nib common with the Variant line of that era. You can see on the front of notice you’ve sent me the kind of nib I was referring in y previous reply (all black with red circle painted). I have sent you a picture on your e-mail of the original VL-line nib. Again thank you very much for your informations and for sharing !!


  4. I just stumbled across your site per chance, and the great photos of those old pens amaze me, great job!
    Just one question about the tip: what exactly touches the surface, that needle? On the closeup photo of the tip there’s just that hole.

    Also it’s curious how many spelling mistakes there are in the original ad, I counted six (Graphi_l_er, Masch_g_inenbauer, Kon_trukteure, garantier_y_, einwandfrei_r_, entfäl_i_t). The wrong y (instead of a t) indicates that ad was typed on an English keyboard (qwerty).


    • HiPaul,
      Thanks for your interest in my blog and kind words. In practice, the needle went through the hole at the very end of the nib and slightly exceed when the pen is ready to draw. When you apply the nib on the paper, this very thin needle retracts and let the ink flow. Regarding the spelling mistakes, you are absolutely right. The original ad I have is badly deteriorated (water marks) and I have to retype some parts of the text, an like an absolute idiot I’ve made some typos. I have now corrected this with an updated file, along with a corrected typo on the caption of the « spare-parts » image. Thanks for seeing this mistakes !!


      • That’s very interesting, I’ve never drawn with such a needle-pen (I’m more the fountain pen type 😉
        You catched all but the last typo: entfäl_i_t -> entfällt. I wasn’t aware you typed that, it definitely looks original. Btw, if you ever need someone translating German, just send me an email, I’d gladly offer my help.


      • The writing/drawing experience is very different with a tubular point pen vs. a fountain pen. The purpose of these technical pens is to deliver a constant controled width line with precise size. So the drawing is much more « rigid » and « straight », there is no line width variations. These pens were mostly used by drafters, architects, engineers and graphic designers to achieve precise line control.


  5. Hi Olivier,

    I’ve spent hours looking through your blog and all of the interesting Rotring equipment especially the fantastic pens.

    I have several newer isograph pens (marked W-Germany) which I use for doing my line drawing, recently I have bought a new 1970’s rapidograph (0.3 nib) complete with box, instructions and tool but today I’ve managed to buy a Model A rapidograph No2 with box and leaflet.

    Can you help me with something, what tool do I need to remove the nib from a Model A rapidograph? the cone shaped nib is smooth so how do you unscrew it to remove it?

    Many thanks



    • Hi Hugh,
      Thanks for your kind words, I really appreciate! Removing a nib from a Model A Rapidograh (or Variant, or Varioscript) can be very tricky. Due to the fully rounded conical shape, you usually ended up with no grip. That why Rotring later introduced bevelled shape nib (and provide a small plastic tool) to remove the nibs more easily. However, if your nib is clogged, I recommend to let it « soften » in gently warn soapy water for a day or two, then try to remove it. I’ve got not special trick to give as long as there is none… Cleaning and lubricating the nib is the only way to try. You can use soapy water, special Rotring cleaning fluids, ultrasonic cleaner… I have some fully clogged early Rapidograph that I never succeed removing the nib (and I broke a few too!). Hope it’ll helps a bit…


      • My Model A is new but quite shinny whereas yours is matt black, also the rings on the cap of mine aren’t painted white, I’m thinking of doing a bit of restoration and filling them in with white acrylic paint, what do you think?


      • Hu Hugh, Would not recomend under any circonstances to fill your Rapido with acrylic paint. It is much too thick and will clog your nib for sure. If you want the acrylic to flow you will need to dilute the paint with so much that water that your mix will be transparent and therefore useless. You should look for Rotring white ink which is easily available


  6. Hi Olivier,
    No no you’ve misunderstood… I would never fill my pen with paint!
    I’m talking about the engraved rings in the cap-end (number 62 in the diagram) that indicate the nib size, the grooves on my cap-end are black the same colour as the plastic.
    I want to restore the cap-end to same as you have in your blog pictures with white circles.




    • Ooooh sorry Hugh, my bad! Yes, you could restore the white rings with acrylic paints. The original paint usually peeled off, and its a quick way to restore the cap. By the way, that’s what I’ve done with mine…


  7. hello, i’m doing a reserch on this pen, the rapidograph model A, and I’d like to know if you can help me. Where can i find books that talks about this pen?
    thank you,


    • Hello elisa, thanks for your interest in my blog. Unfortunately there is (to my knowledge) virtually no book that deals with Rotring products! This is one of the reasons that make me started this blog. I have gathered a large documentation over the years about rotting (catalogs, brochure…) so if I may help you on a specific subject, please tell me. Best Regards


      • Do you know who is the designer of the rapidograph model A? is Wilhelm Riepe or is smeone else? Have you got more specific informations about materials? Have you got a catalog or a brochure that talks about this pen? If you got it can you send me some picture of it?


      • Hi Elisa, The development of the Rapidograph starts in 1953 and lasted at the end of the 1980’s when it was discontinued. To my knowledge there have been at least 9 design variations of this pen. I have a lot of documentation regarding these pens and be happy to share with you. Please contact me on my e-mail, I think it will be much easy to communicate this way :


  8. Very nice page! One comment regarding the parts 68/69: On my later Rapidograph 0,3 there is a tiny gap very close to the thread. It is visible only with a loupe.


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