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The 10 Best Mechanical Pencils 2017

best mechanical pencil

At some time or other we all need to use a pencil, it could be in the working environment or even in the home for various tasks and we usually reach for the trusted wooden pencil only to find the lead is blunt and you don’t have a pencil sharpener, so you reach for your trusty kitchen knife and hack off the end to expose some lead. Sound familiar?

Which brings us to the point of this article, have you considered a mechanical pencil?

10 Top Performing Mechanical Pencils

kuru toga roulette mechanical pencil

As described above, this pencil uses the rotating lead technology. Simple to operate with excellent results on top a stylish, minimalist design. A pen for a serious drafter. The Kuru Toga pencil comes in many different flavors but the standard version of the pencil is outstanding in many respects. It looks great with the solid pencil barrel not showing off the self-rotating mechanism and has a chunkier feel to it as opposed to other mechanical pencils on the market. That being said it is very comfortable to hold. What aids in the comfort of this pencil is the superb grip, the plastic has a series of raised bumps which enhances your grip. In addition, the pencil also has a strip of rubber on the nib for those people who like to hold their pencil a little closer to the nib. Even though it’s an all plastic pencil, it is very robust in design, so dropping the pencil won’t be an issue. The performance of these mechanical pencils are excellent, the rotating lead mechanism needs to be experienced, keeping that lead sharp and even when writing. It’s no wonder this pen is so highly rated and you won’t go wrong selecting the Kuru Toga as your pencil of choice.

Features

  • The exclusive lead rotating technology keeps the lead sharp at all times.
  • The pencil uses a diamond-infused lead which gives it a strength other leads cannot match.
  • Very well crafted and comfortable to hold.
  • A clean, stain-free eraser albeit a little on the small side.
  • Comes standard with replacement lead refills and extra erasers.


paper mate

A mechanical pencil of choice for many professional due to the strength and break resistant lead. Known for their ability to write on many different surfaces. A classic, simplistic look.

Features

  • The pencil uses the twist method to extend the lead.
  • Uses a cushion at the tip to help prevent the lead breaking
  • ​Sports a pocket clip for easy carrying.
  • Disposable nonrefillable pencil
  • Cheaply manufactured
pentel arts mechanical pencil

The Pentel features a professional looking metallic barrel and delivers very fine lines. A great mechanical pencil for drafting. The Graph Gear 1000 is a bit more expensive than the 500 but also feels that much more comfortable. Comes in various sizes and with an eraser included depending on the package.

Features

  • Ergonomic design with a comfortable grip
  • Metallic body
  • Standard pocket clip for easy carrying
  • Refillable self-sharpening hi-polymer lead
  • The Paper Mate Clear
magnetic mechanical pencil

If you're looking for something minimalist and unique without sacrificing much utility, then the Kaizhonglai Magnetic might be for you. Made of aviation grade aluminium but purchasable in 4 different colors black, silver, gold and pink. The lead is 2 mm (HB).
 It's on the heavy side of mechanical pencils but with a relatively thick grip, it's easy to use and will keep your hand from cramping. The only downside is that eventually the magnet which is part of the mechanism that controls the lead length will wear down. But until that happens you'll be the coolest person around.

pentel graphgear 500

A classical drafting pencil. It comes in multiple sizes 0.3, 0.5, 0.7 and 0.9 millimeters. The grip is slightly thicker as it should be for maximum control and relaxation of the forearm while keeping the rest of the pen fairly lightweight.

A brand-less clip for those of you who like to wear your pencil inside your pockets. Unlike it's smaller brother the GraphGear 1000, this is better suited for work. While 1000 although pricier is a better tool for carrying around. It's a solid affordable pen.

pilot dr.grip

A thick comfortable pen best suited for those of us who have carpal tunnel syndrome or arthritis. As mentioned before to keep your hand relaxed you need a pen that's comfortable to hold. A pen that's comfy, is a thick pen. It puts less strain on your fingers and let you do most of the work with your arm.

The design isn't amazing but the 0.5 mm lead and the extreme user friendliness is what makes this a solid, safe although boring choice for a mechanical pencil. Pilot is generally known in the fine arts community. Also making calligraphy pens and colored pencils. But they aren't as specialized as some other pencils on this list.

rotring 600

Now the rOtring 600 is an odd duck.  Although the full metal body helps width weight management I'm not entirely convinced by the claim that it's anymore fatigue resistant than thicker and shorter pencils like the Dr.Grip.
Outside of that concern it's a beautiful dark pen with a beveled barrel. Comes in 3 different lead sizes and 2 colors. If you are comfortable with petite pencils then this might be for you.

bic xtra

The Bic Xtra-Sparkle might be best suited for a classroom teacher who needs a lot of mechanical pencils. Although it might not be the most ergonomic or the most expensive looking, it will get the job done.
Perfect for the college student who doesn't want to grow attached to their pencils and wants something easy and cheap to replace. The packs come in various sizes 24, 48, 72 and 96 pack. All leads are the standard #2 (HB). 

kuru toga 0.7

Uni-Ball is making waves.  The rotating lead keeps your pencil sharp and less likely to break due to the even distribution of wear. The pen itself is rather ergonomic with a medium thickness suitable for most people.

Expect maybe those with big hands. But it does not have enough rubber or metallic grip, just the base plastic which can make it uncomfortable over a long while for people with bigger hands.  The 0.7 millimeter lead is more robust than the popular 0.5 version. Both pencils are standard #2 (HB). It also comes with 2 additional erasers which well although looks pretty is not as useful because there's a certain amount of force that the eraser needs to withstand and doesn't.

uni kurutoga pipe slide

Last but definitely not least I think the Pipe Slide is the new king. I love the layered design which is otherwise very minimalist. A solid choice as a mechanical pencil for drawing because it won't break easily but at the cost of the sturdiness you're used to. The only downside is the grip can be challenging for some people. It's very petite and thus people with bigger hands will have more problems.
Another annoyance, which depends on the person, is the cushioning of the lead as you write. The idea is to make it softer but some people find that annoying. 

Why consider a mechanical pencil over a wood pencil?

No need to sharpen as the lead is generally thin enough so you can keep on writing or drawing. The width of the pencil lead remains consistent. Wood pencils, once sharpened write very thin, but as the lead wears out the writing or drawing lines increase in thickness. The mechanical pencil is refillable. Unlike wood pencil which when reaching a stub you throw away, the mechanical pencil can be refilled cost effectively making them a long term investment.

Are all mechanical pencils the same?

The short answer is no, different manufacturers use different types of mechanisms for the dispensing of the lead, without going into too much detail, here are a few types:

The twist-click mechanism

The most common mechanical pencil mechanism, the top of the pencils barrel is twisted and the lead is pushed forward, you then twist the barrel and hold it to return the lead back into the pencil.

Shaker mechanisms

This involves shaking the pencil up and down, a weight inside the pencil pushes the lead forward.

The auto-feed mechanism

When the lead has worn down a cone surrounding the lead pushes back feeding more lead out of the head, this innovation means you never have to stop writing or drawing due to the auto feeding lead function.

The mechanical pencil has been the go-to instrument for architects and illustrators for decades. Known for its ease of use and never needing to be sharpened like the standard wood pencil. The mechanical pencil comes in many different variants either plastic or metal and in most cases have a replaceable lead core allowing the lead to be refilled.

Mechanical pencils are mostly simplistic in design whereby you just press the top of the pencil or depending on the style of mechanical pencil, a button on the shaft to extend the lead and start writing, drawing etc. The lead can be retracted by pressing the button and gently sliding the lead back into the pencil housing.

Wrapping it up

We touched on the various types of pencil types available with a brief review of some of the more popular choices out there. If it’s all a little confusing, the best place to start is deciding what you want to use the pencil for. If it will be exclusively for the purposes of writing, then you will want to consider a mechanical pencil with a thicker lead. If your needs are purely for drawing or sketching the lead thickness you require will be dependent on your style, perhaps considering a softer grade of lead is a choice. There are many sites online which review and or sell the many types and styles of mechanical pencil and in some cases will offer advice based on your needs and budget ensuring you make the best decision when choosing your instrument.

About the author

John Thatch

John Thatcher is a computer science educated artist. He uses technology to solve artist problems. His friends don't like it when he speaks of himself in the third person. But John does it anyway, because he's a rebel.

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