Every kid fancies them and every artist owns at least one of them. We are talking about mechanical pencils also called as automatic pencils in certain regions of the world. These are specialized pencils where the lead is held in a case commonly made of metal and plastic and propelled forward mechanically.
Mechanical pencils have become so ubiquitous that there are umpteen types, brands, and mechanisms to choose from. It is not easy to select a reliable mechanical pencil without expert advice. Fortunately, you are at the right place, especially if you are new to the world of mechanical pencils. The focus of this article is to provide you with complete knowledge about mechanical pencils, their care, and maintenance. Our years of experience in using pencils of various types and styles has led to this list of 7 of the best mechanical pencil along with a helpful review of each of them.
|Dominants||Name||Rate (x/5)||Reviews||price||Buy Now|
|1st||Pentel Graph Gear 1000||4.6||2632||$9||Top Quality|
|2nd||uni-ball KuruToga||4.3||995||$7||Amazon’s Choice|
|3rd||rOtring 600||4.4||644||$17||FREE SHIPPING|
|4th||Staedtler 925 35-05||4.5||155||$12||FREE SHIPPING|
|5th||Pentel GraphGear 500||4.5||1232||$7||popular choice|
|6th||Bic Extra Precision 24 Pack||4.5||1809||5$||Student’s Choice|
|7th||Staedtler Mars 780||4.7||288||$7||Best Quality|
I. Understand Mechanical Pencils
Understanding every aspect of a mechanical pencil will help you in choosing a model that is apt for your need; it doesn’t pay to spend a bomb on a particular product and not use it optimally. Here we have briefly explained all the necessary aspects of mechanical pencils for easy understanding.
1. What is a Mechanical Pencil?
It is a pencil where the inner lead core is not attached to the external casing and can be propelled mechanically till it is completely worn out. You can refill any number of leads. These pencils do not need sharpeners like the traditional pencils. They come in varying thickness just like the regular pencils. Conrad Gessner was the first one to use a mechanical pencil way back in 1565 of course that was a very crude model. Japan has taken the lead and reinvented this superb tool and today it is ubiquitous in every school bag, architects desk and artist kit.
2. Benefits of Mechanical Pencils:
Check out the many reasons why these pencils must become a part of your arsenal.
- No need for sharpeners: The leads of the mechanical pencils are so thin and remain the same for their entire length thereby negating the need for sharpening. This saves time and effort, no pencil sharpener is needed, in addition to being mess free.
- Maintains the width of the line: Unlike wooden pencils which tend to become thicker with usage, the mechanical pencil maintains the same thickness throughout.
- Maintains balance: Since there is no reduction in the size of the pencil or the lead with mechanical pencils one can maintain balance and produce consistent work.
- Environmental friendly: There is no need to cut trees for wood when you manufacture these pencils as the casing does not require wood. The lead which is used is refillable.
- Economical: These pencils and the refillable leads are cost effective in the long run.
- Variety: There is a staggering amount of variety in these products. Right from basic plastic bodied pencils, one can get very ornate and fancy looking pencils.
3. Understand Lead:
Pencil lead is a misnomer because it is not the chemical element but a mix of graphite and clay in varying proportions. The hardness or softness of the lead depends on the ratio between these two components; the more the graphite, the softer and darker the lead.
The very first pencils were made from pure graphite which incidentally derives its name from the Greek word Graphein which means to write. It was only from the 18th century was graphite combined with clay.
The grade of lead is important for an artist and a writer to determine the degree of smoothness, smudge resistance and pigmentation.
Here we will explain some of the features of lead in detail:
A. Lead Size(width):
The size determines the thickness of lines when you draw or write. While dealing with mechanical pencils it is important to know the exact lead size as putting the wrong size into your pen will clog the barrel and even damage the mechanism. Lead sizes start from 0.3 mm to0.9mm usually. There are 2mm leads also for specialized mechanical pencils called lead holder pencils. The most common size used for almost all applications is 0.5mm. For those who tend to exert more pressure, 0.7mm will be a good size, to begin with. The higher the number the more the thickness.
B. Lead Hardness and hardness indicators:
The grading of lead is an important part of pencil manufacturing. This grading is extremely useful for artists especially as it helps them determine which pencil to use for which kind of art.
Hardness is usually indicated with the two alphabets “H” which stands for hardness and “B” which stands for black. H is indicative of the clay while B for graphite. Thus the higher the B the darker the lead and more prone to smudging. Another letter often used in this context is “F” which is inscribed on hard pencils meant exclusively for writing.
Thus the range of hardness is 4B,3B,2B, HB, F,2H,4H and so on with 4B being one of the darkest in this list and 4H lightest. Usually, HB pencils are used for writing exams and tests as it is the perfect mix of darkness and hardness.
For mechanical pencils, the range of hardness is limited as it is very difficult to make very thin leads with high graphite content.
C. Lead advancement mechanism:
Not all mechanical pencils function the same way; different types rely on different mechanisms to advance the lead. Depending on the mechanism the lead comes out evenly each time. There are the basic models that use the twist and click mechanism where just by twisting the lead advances to the most innovative and intricate designs of them all the Kuru Toga mechanism wherein you do not have to keep turning your pencil for a consistent line the mechanical pencil will do it for itself. Some of the other mechanism are:
- Auto feed
- Continuous twists.
D. Drafting mechanical pencil
These are special mechanical pencils designed exclusively for drafting. They are made of high-quality plastic, brass or aluminum and have a textured grip for more control and precision. These pencils have lead sleeves from where the lead protrudes during drawing. These pencils are classified based on their lead grade and lead size. They often come attached with thin erasers which are ideal for precise corrections. These pencils normally range between $8 to $20.
3. Features of Mechanical Pencils
You can classify these pencils based on the following features:
A. Affordability (Or Price): These pencils are more expensive when compared with regular wooden pencils. Having said that in the long run, they are cheaper than the wooden pencils because the refillable leads are really inexpensive. There are high-end models which run into $100 and are considered to be jewelry; therefore you will not find them listed in our review.
B. Extendable erasers: Most mechanical pencils come with erasers situated under the push button which also acts as a cap for the tiny eraser. Eraser refills are available commonly in all stationery shops.
C. Weight: The weight of the pencil depends on the material used for the casing; plastic is the lightest. Weight has an important role to play in the overall result; only when the weight is evenly distributed can a user have more control over the writing or drawing and produce a consistent result. Excess weight distribution either in the front or the back of the pencil will not only tire your hand but will prevent you from working for long hours at a stretch.
D. Aesthetics: Looks are important especially when there is an overwhelming choice of color, designs, and patterns.
E. Construction: The most common material used is brass, steel, aluminum, and plastic; each has its own advantages and disadvantages. The metals are long lasting and more classy while the plastic ones are more fragile and subject to breakage even from falls and bumps. The disadvantage with metal though is that they are heavier and more expensive.
F. Quality: Pencils made from the high-grade material are more durable and reliable even though more expensive.
G. Design: Mechanical pencils are usually sleek and look cool with their tapered ends.
H. Retractable or fix sleeve: It is advisable to look for pencils with retractable sleeves if you prefer to carry the pencil lose or clip it to your pocket or the thin narrow sleeve can poke and even injure. Pencils with fixed sleeves are not bad either if you carry them in a pouch or a box and protect them from damage.
I. Wobble issue in Retractable sleeve: Poor quality retractable sleeves cannot be used for drawing though they are okay to write with because wobbly sleeves do not give control required for fine detail drawing.
J. Pocket clip: A very handy feature to help you clip your pencil in your pocket. Just ensure that the clip is not uncomfortably large as it will hinder its use when you try to draw or write something by poking your hand.
K. The Grip: Though polished chrome and plastic look attractive they do not provide adequate grip to your fingers and hence are not suitable for long hours of work. Ideally, your pencil must have a ribbed texture to give you better grip and reduce stress on your fingers. It should not be too thick or too thin.
L. Rotating indicator: This indicator will guide you in inputting the correct grade of lead and the correct size to prevent damaging your pencil.
Why do mechanical pencils squeak?
Mechanical pencils consist of thin and sharp leads which alsmot protest(squeak) because of the angle and the pressure exerted by the user. The surface of contact also has a part to play. In case you find the noise annoying reduce the length of the lead and change the paper.
Which are the best brands in the market
The top brands in the mechanical pencil field are from Japan, Germany, and the USA mainly as are our 7 dominants. The most popular brands are:
- Staedtler – Germany
- Uni-ball – Japan
3. What features must the Best Mechanical Pencil Contain?
A good quality mechanical pencil must have the following features for it be listed as a Best Mechanical Pencil:
- Durable Casing
- Good quality leads
- Easy to use mechanism
- Retractable lead sleeve
4. Mechanical Pencil VS Wood Pencils?
Here we have compared both mechanical and wood pencils to give you a better perspective about these two commonly used pencils.
- Need no sharpening
- Breakage of lead almost negligible
- Comes with a clip to easily carry
- Very fanciful and attractive
- Safe for environment
- Fun to use.
- Cant draw creative lines as the line width does not vary
- Have to use short length leads or the lead breaks.
Regular Wood Pencils
- Easier to use
- Variety in line drawing using a single pencil
- Availability of really soft cores.
- Consneed to be sharpened frequently
- need to be sharpened frequently
- leads break often
- poor sharpening leaves splintered edges
- decreases in size with frequent sharpening making it uncomfortable to use.
Engineers, artists, and writers constantly switch between the two types and utilize the best of both. For those interested in graphic designing, drawing cartoons, manga style the mechanical pencil will be a better option. Mechanical pencils are quicker too. But those into sketching and shading must look at the wooden pencil which has more options to offer.
5. Mechanical Pencils VS Clutch “Lead” Pencils?
Clutch pencils are meant for the thicker 2mm and above lead sizes. They are believed to have the best of both the wooden pencils and the mechanism of the mechanical pencil. The only disadvantage with these pencils is that you have to manually adjust the length of the lead and moreover because of the clutch mechanism the leads can fall off.
6. What Are the Best Mechanical Pencil for “Writing, high school, college, math, engineers and taking notes”
Mechanical pencils produce clean, precise and sharp lines and hence are suitable for all technical work. They are also ideal for exams as you need not worry about breaking leads and wasting time in sharpening them.
While the casing and the external looks are a purely personal choice, ideally for normal college and high school work mechanical pencils with 0.5mm to 0.7mm leads are perfect. But engineers might want thinner lines and look for leads ranging from 0.3mm. It is advisable to carry pencils which can accommodate leads in the above range.
7. What Are Best Mechanical Pencil for Artists, drawing, and sketching
While the variety wooden pencils offer for sketching and shading is unparalleled, mechanical pencils too are frequently used by artists. The wrong mechanical pencil in the wrong hand can destroy any piece of art. Most often, artists have a mix of wooden and mechanical pencils. They use the wooden pencils for shading and sketching and the mechanical pencils for filling in the intricate and finer details. You can choose these numbers below for drawing:
- Mechanical Pencils: 0.3mm, 0.5mm, 0.7mm, 0.9mm, 2mm.
- Clutch Pencils: 2mm, 5.6mm
8. What is more environmentally friendly, Wood or Mechanical Pencils?
The jury is still out on which is environmentally friendly because both these pencils have their cons. Regarding wooden pencils, a lot of trees have to be cut down to manufacture pencils. While with the reusable mechanical pencils the forests are saved, the manufacturing process itself is not pollution free. Furthermore, the plastic from these pencils is not biodegradable and hence finds itself in landfills waiting to degrade over centuries. There are innovative ideas by some companies to tackle this problem by manufacturing mechanical pencils from recyclable material.
II. Seven “top rated”&Dominants Mechanical pencils
1st Dominants – Pentel Graph Gear 1000
The best retractable mechanical pencil is the Pentel graph Gear 1000 which leaves your pocket clean and your bank balance intact. It has a comfortable metallic grip thanks to the latex pads that ensure that your work is precise and clean. This pencil is a 0.3mm size ideal for all kinds of graphic drawings. It comes preloaded with hi-polymer HB lead.
• Comfortable grip
• Removable pocket clip
• Lead hardness indicator present
• Retractable sleeve
• Eraser is small
• Pocket clip not durable.
It is considered to be an allrounder unanimously and a solid piece not only for drawing but also for everyday writing and taking notes.
2st Dominants – uni-ball KuruToga
One of the most innovative mechanical pencils to be invented the UniBall Kuru Toga is an experience in itself. The unique self-sharpening rotating mechanism used in this pencil ensures that there is minimal breakage and the lead is well balanced and sharp all the time. The internal mechanism revolves each time you press the lead thereby ensuring a sharp tip that is resistant to breakage. The lead is diamond infused to produce crisp clear lines.
• Minimal breakage of leads
• Comfortable grip
• Innovative mechanism
• Great results.
• Very small eraser
• Does not have a retractable sleeve.
They agree with the manufacturer that there is less breakage in this model and it is real value for money.
3rd Dominants – rOtring 600
The Rotring 600 is a high-quality (0.35, 0.5, 0.7mm) mechanical pencil ideal for all kinds of graphics work, especially for architectural drawings. The grip is comfortable. The full metal body is well balanced.
• Comfortable grip
• Lead guidance sleeve
• 2-year limited warranty.
• Nonretractable sleeve
• Tiny erasers
• Cleaning the knurled grip is tough.
Users feel that it is an absolute pleasure to use the pencil for writing. They like the high quality and aesthetic look of the product.
4th Dominants – Staedtler 925 35-05
Weighing just 18 gms, the Staedtler 925 is one of the more sturdier mechanical pencils around. The knurled grip provides better support while writing. The metal is cool to touch and great to look at. It is well balanced and ideal for architects and others who need precision drawings.
• Great looks
• Well balanced weight
• Sturdy construction
• Good quality eraser though small in size.
• Uncomfortable grip
• No retractable sleeve.
Users like the heavy instrument kind of feel of the pencil and almost unanimously agree that it is one of the best drafting pencils around.
5th Dominants – Pentel GraphGear 500
The Pentel GraphGear 500 is a high-quality mechanical pencil ideal for all drafting purposes.It is a combination of metal and plastic built for easy viewing of the lead during use. A comfortable grip, balance near the tip produce better results. The sleeve is fixed. The weight is great and the feel heavy for more control.
• Great construction
• Comfortable grip
• Great looks
• Removable clip
• Fixed sleeve
• The tip is not sturdy and distorts easily
• The barrel works itself free from the body.
The gnarled metal sleeve takes time getting used to but it provides a great grip and is a solid pencil at the very attractive price and in attractive colors. It is built to last.
6thDominants – Bic Extra Precision Pack (Best Affordable Deal)
If you are looking for an affordable deal the Bic Extra precision pack is where your search ends. Consisting of delightfully bright and sparkly colors and designs these 2 dozen mechanical pencils are set to wow the user. Though the body is plastic the pencils are durable and last well. The pencils come with quality erasers.
• Convenient retractable design
• Doesn’t tire the hand
• Erasers don’t smudge
• Attractive colors and designs
• Leads last long.
• Not all 24 are up to the mark
• Reinserting lead is troublesome.
All users unanimously agree that the pencils last really long and suitable for all age groups especially children.
7st Dominants – Staedtler Mars 780 (Best Lead Holder)
The Mars 780 is one of the best lead holders in the market. This Great mechanical pencil is made in Germany and is really durable. It is suitable for #2 lead. The pencil comes armed with a metal clip and relies on the push button advance method. Each pencil comes with its own sharpener.
• Well constructed
• Textured grip for better support
• Suitable for both sketching and writing.
• The lead pointer is small and hard to use
• No built-in eraser
• Not the best advancement method.
Everybody agrees that the pros far outweigh the cons and this is one of the best mechanical pencil with multipurpose uses.
II. How to choose between them
You must have realized by now that the competition is tough and selection not easy. Your ultimate choice should be based on the following criteria:
a. Purpose: The features of mechanical pencils vary based on the purpose of use. For example, for writing, you need pencils with a slightly thick lead for easy visibility but for architectural drawings you need thin leads and for sketching you need really thick leads. Choose according to need.
b. Mechanism: Choose a mechanism based on how quickly you prefer the lead to be loaded. Though the most common method is the push button system.
c. Build quality: pay attention to the feel and comfort while using the pencil.
d. Quality of lead: do not compromise on this aspect. Choose high-grade lead and also check the easy availability of refills.
e. Presence of eraser: This feature is very subjective because invariably the erasers are small-sized and not everyone likes them.
f. Price: Buy based on your budget because there are several expensive models which need not be what you need or the best. They just have additional features which might not be useful for you.
V. Mechanical Pencil Accessories
1. Lead Refills
Unlike normal pencils, mechanical pencils can run forever if you have ample supply of lead refills. There are scores of brands selling lead refill for mechanical pencils. Choose based on your need, usage, the darkness of lead, the thickness of drawn lines etc. The thickness ranges from 0.33 mm to 5.6 mm wherein 0.3 is the thinnest and is normally used for technical drawings and for filling finer details. The thickness increases with increase in number just like normal HB pencils. The normal lead size commonly used is 0.5mm to 0.7 mm.
2. Clic Eraser Pencil-Style
These are erasers that come in the form of a pen. They have a pocket clip to advance or retract the eraser. You can refill the erasers too. They can be used like regular erasers.
3. Travel Pencil Holder & Pouch
It is important to keep all your pencils, pens and erasers in a holder or a pouch to prevent them from getting lost and the leads of pencils from breaking. There is a deluge of pencil pouches and holders in all kinds of material, styles, and budgets. For example, hard cases are meant to prevent breakage from falls and bumps while flexible pouches are more for stuffing into minimal space. Most of the pouches and cases come with mesh pockets and straps to keep items from moving during travel.
|big holder for many pencils||Big Holder||$18||Buy|
4. Pencils holder:
Mechanical pencils are delicate and must be taken care of from accidental falls. A good pencil holder will provide a place for keeping your pencils in sight on your table or desk. Most of the pencil holders also have compartments for keeping pins and erasers.
5. Led Desk Lamp
Many a time you might have to work long hours late into the night. To reduce eye strain and provide proper illumination without pushing your electricity bill too high you need the service of a LED desk lamp. There are several sleek space-saving options to choose from.
6. 2mm Lead holder refills for Staedtler Mars 780
Staedlar Mars is a German brand known for its high-quality products especially pencils used in engineering writing and drawing. The 2mm lead holder is a classic example of high-quality mechanical pencil and having stock of the leads is advisable.
7. 2mm Lead sharpener
A good quality lead sharpener with adjustable sharpening cone will be a great addition to your pencil pouch.
We hope you are now armed with adequate knowledge to select the best mechanical pencil suited for your specific need. Remember to focus on the key features; any other additives are incidental.
We would like to hear about your experiences with mechanical pencils and which are your favorite brands. Do not hesitate to leave a message in the comment box below.