Recommend a Mechanical Pencil
January 31, 2021 2:29 PM   Subscribe

I am mostly a pen person, but occasionally find myself in need of a pencil. I prefer a mechanical one, but would like to upgrade from the disposable BICs I have previously used.

Things I would like in a mechanical pencil:

- Ideally 0.7 sized lead
- Sturdy - I'd prefer to buy the pencil once and use it for several years
- A good eraser that can be replaced if necessary
- Under, say, $30

What pencil am I looking for?
posted by darchildre to Shopping (30 answers total) 31 users marked this as a favorite
 
Pentel GraphGear 1000. Best pencil I've owned. Made from aluminum, nice retractable action, lovely grip, eraser that works, and available in several lead sizes. I have the 5mm, but I've just ordered a 7mm. For $30 you can have three of them.
posted by pipeski at 2:37 PM on January 31 [7 favorites]


Rotring 600 Mechanical Pencil in black or silver, for lead I use Pentel Ain Stein.
posted by Lanark at 2:46 PM on January 31 [2 favorites]


I love the Kurotga line of clever Japanese mechanical pencils. The metal ones are a little nicer than the plastic ones but they’re all very high quality and have a clever mechanism that rotates the lead as you write with it to create a consistent tapered point
posted by aubilenon at 2:52 PM on January 31 [6 favorites]


Rotring Rapid Pro plus a Staedtler
posted by DrtyBlvd at 2:54 PM on January 31


I have more mechanical pencils than I care to admit. However, I usually find myself reaching for one of my Uni-ball Kuru Toga pencils. Here is a starter kit from JetPens, and I've found this identical kit at my local office supply store. I have this pencil sitting on my desk now: Uni Kuru Toga .07mm.

JetPens will have pretty much any mechanical pencil you will ever need: JetPens - Mechanical Pencils, plus they sell a large variety of erasers.
posted by ralan at 2:55 PM on January 31 [4 favorites]


Thirding Rotring. This 0.7 mm pencil is $33.
posted by ejs at 2:56 PM on January 31


I personally use the Pentel Quicker Clicker, which is cheap enough that I don't mind when I misplace it/leave it behind, but a few steps up from the bic ones. Comes in 0.5, 0.7, or 0.9, in a few colors, and they separately sell replacement erasers. I find the side button to advance the lead to be more convenient. The only issue I've had is that sometimes the rubber grip gets soft/stretchy and falls off, or gets sticky/tacky - but that seems to be related to being left to bake in in my car's glove box in the summer heat, and I've only had that happen two or three times out of the dozens I have strewn around my house/ garage/ car/ office.
posted by yuwtze at 2:56 PM on January 31 [3 favorites]


I just use the normal Pentel "Side-Clicker" you can find in any decent office supply store. I have yet to have one break on me... EVER. Available in a variety of lead sizes including 0.7mm, and the eraser is replaceable. The problem mainly is it's plastic-y and doesn't look fancy at all.
posted by kschang at 2:56 PM on January 31 [1 favorite]


I've always used Staedtler Mars micro .7mm, just solid-
feeling enough. Usually use Pentel leads as they have a sensible dispenser. Erasers fine but I usually use a noname retractable eraser pencil-like-object.
posted by unearthed at 3:10 PM on January 31


I'm fond of the classic Pentel P200 series, which has been in production for 50 years. Some people are a lot fonder. It's more of a drafting pencil, though: the GraphGear and Kuru Toga are probably better for general writing.
posted by holgate at 3:18 PM on January 31 [5 favorites]


I use the Pentel linked by pipeski. And made most of these with one.
posted by Glinn at 3:20 PM on January 31 [1 favorite]


I'm personally a fan of Pentel Twist-Erase mechanical pencils. Not only is the eraser replaceable, it lasts a lot longer before needing to be replaced as you can just twist the cap to get more eraser. These were durable enough to get me through college, so no complaints there.
posted by Aleyn at 3:34 PM on January 31 [4 favorites]


the pencil of choice for EEs (when i was a college lad) is the pentel p205 (.5), the sister product is the p207 (.7mm).

it's really the standard very good not fancy pragmatic tool.
posted by j_curiouser at 3:42 PM on January 31 [2 favorites]


Another vote for the Pentel GraphGear 1000. I bought two in 2003, and they are still going strong. I love the feel of the metal and the little rubber nubs--not too much, not too little grip for my preferences. You can buy replacement erasers if you want as well.
posted by past unusual at 3:53 PM on January 31


A few years back, I dug one of those Pentel p207s that j_curiouser mentions out of a dirt road. I had to dig it out because it was embedded in a tire track. It was a little scratched, but it remains a delightful writing instrument to this very day.

So here's another vote for the Pentel p207 as a cheap-but-sturdy option!
posted by Hellgirl at 4:06 PM on January 31 [2 favorites]


You cannot beat a rotring. I have a large number of mechanical pencils. A large number. I use most of them, including the kuru toga, pentel, and graph gear mentioned above. But the ones I use the most are an alvin draftmatic and two different rotrings. You really will not regret getting a rotring.
posted by dbx at 4:09 PM on January 31 [1 favorite]


Your question prompted me to browse jetpens again and it reminded me of something you may find useful. There are a lot of gimmicks in the mechanical pencil world. There are pencils that will advance the lead for you automatically, there are pencils that will rotate the lead as you write, to keep it sharp. There are pencils with springs to help avoid lead breakage (the del guard really works actually). There are fixed and retracting sleeves of various lengths.

What is most important for me, and why I recommended the ones I did, are: solid construction and feel, pleasing, positive, measured lead advancement, grip location, and visibility to the page. Preferences will vary on most of these, but you will really want a retracting sleeve if your pencil will be traveling at all.

Another thing you might consider is lead hardness. The standard is HB, equivalent to a #2 pencil. I have been using 2B for many years and could not possibly go back. It's a little softer and a little darker. With 0.7 lead, you don't need to worry too much about breakage unless you've got a really heavy wrist, and the smoother, darker lines make a difference.
posted by dbx at 4:20 PM on January 31 [1 favorite]


I have most of the pencils mentioned so far, and think that the GraphGear 1000 might be the best buy among pencils currently available.

I’m intrigued by dbx's mention of pencils that advance the lead automatically; the only pencils I’ve found with that feature are some old (not made this century) Niji's in which the mechanism requires a sliding sleeve to make contact with the paper, and that leaves something to be desired.

Another feature I like is a spring loaded lead for extra smoothness and consistent force on the paper, but only a Rotring 600 with retractable point does that among pencils I’m aware of that might still be in production.

I also want to amplify dbx's recommendation about lead hardness. If I were buying only one pencil, I’d make it a 0.5 because you can get 3B and 4B leads for those, and they make writing with a pencil almost as smooth as a fountain pen.
posted by jamjam at 4:49 PM on January 31 [1 favorite]


I have been in love with the Pentel Sharplet 2 for decades. I actually had one I kept for 20 years before losing it in an airport. It's inexpensive and reliable.
posted by roosterboy at 4:53 PM on January 31


Check out the Zebra Mechanical Pencil, it has a mechanism that keeps you from breaking the lead when you press too hard. I love them.
posted by jzb at 5:52 PM on January 31


Nthing the GraphGear. It's a pure pleasure to use every single time. The weight of the metal, great looking matte aluminum body, etc. It's a fantastic pencil.
posted by thegreatfleecircus at 5:53 PM on January 31


The Pentel 207 is very utilitarian, very solid, very reliable, and very plain. I have one at work and one at home and they get daily use. One of the two I bought in 1986 and have been using it for drafting and note taking ever since. The eraser is tiny.
The Kuru Toga Roulette (in .5mm) is one that rotates the lead. A neat trick, and I like it a lot, but I worry about dropping it and damaging it. I do love the grip feel of the knurled barrel, and the eraser is normal pencil sized.
Zebras. Low cost, not as tough as the pentel 200 series, but arguably a bit better looking. Tiny eraser.
Graphgear 1000, solid pencil. I'd say they area as durable as the pentel 200 series, which are bomb-proof. Better looking, has a mechanism to retract the lead and metal sleeve entirely into the body of the pencil. I had to get used to the knurled grip with little silicone rubber dots, but it has grown on me. Tiny eraser.
I have no experience with a Rotring, but I do not doubt they are a fine instrument.
I don't think you can go wrong with any of the recommendations I've seen in response to your question. I deal with the tiny eraser issue by having a pentel clic eraser and/or a pentel hi-polymer white eraser close by.
posted by coppertop at 6:23 PM on January 31 [1 favorite]


My fav is the Pentel Side Fx in .7 mm.
posted by Rad_Boy at 7:14 PM on January 31


My absolute favorite pen is the Zebra F-301, and I really like the mechanical pencil version of the same, the M-301. Not cheap, but definitely not expensive - I just like the way they feel to write with, especially in fine point. The medium, though, is just as serviceable.
posted by stormyteal at 12:35 AM on February 1


I like a mechanical pencil that a) has some heft, b) has something ergonomically thick and squishy to grip, and c) is economical enough to buy several, if necessary. I've used my Pilot Dr. Grip for probably a decade or more.
posted by Bill Watches Movies Podcast at 1:59 AM on February 1


I agree with those who said Pentel GraphGear 1000. The retractable tip (not just the lead, but the easily-damaged metal tube) is a game changer for me. (0.7mm is my favorite size)
posted by kidbritish at 9:15 AM on February 1


I love the pentel sharp kerry pencils so much I bought three of them! They come in an array of colours.
posted by Lucy_32 at 11:20 AM on February 1


I use Pentel e-sharps, which are cheap but last for years and you can replace the decent-sized erasers. A nice step up from a Bic but not something you'll cry if you lose / you can buy one in a normal office supply store and probably find the erasers, too.
posted by momus_window at 2:48 PM on February 1


the ones I use the most are an alvin draftmatic

Alvin went out of business a little while ago, but a few art/drafting suppliers still list the 0.7mm Draft/Matic as available, and there are eBay sellers with new-old stock. It's a solid bit of kit.
posted by holgate at 5:43 PM on February 1


I, too, really like the Alvin Draft/Matic — that gnarly metal grip! — but I outfit mine with Pentel AIN Stein leads.
posted by D.Billy at 5:52 PM on February 1 [1 favorite]


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