Best Mechanical Pencil 2020 • 7 Mechanical Pencils Reviews
A mechanical pencil helps you attain a consistency and level of precision in your writing and drawing. Our team have located the best mechanical pencils on the market by researching through a range of tests and reviews reported on the internet, including a review of pencil lead type, width and durability.
Mechanical Pencil Leaderboard 2020
What is a Mechanical Pencil and How Do They Work?
A mechanical pencil has a fine lead or graphite tip which is not bonded to the barrel and can be mechanically extended. Sometimes referred to as a clutch pencil they look similar to a ball point pen.
As the lead tip is used the remainder can be pushed up by a spring in the barrel until the point when a refill is required. A replacement pencil lead can then be inserted in to the barrel, allowing you continued best use of your pencil without the need to buy another.
What Are The Advantages of Using a Mechanical Pencil?
One of the best attractions of using a mechanical pencil is you can select the size of the lead tip, ranging from 0.3mm up. This allows for consistent, sharp lines, whether for writing or drawing. By being able to refill the tip you can best ensure maintaining this consistency. Other benefits include:
- Since a mechanical pencil can be refilled there is no need to throw a pencil out again, which is good for the environment. A mechanical pencil ought to last a few years and as refills are less expensive than pencils they should save you money too.
- By mechanically extending the lead tip you will not have to sharpen your pencil. This avoids the nuisance factor of trying to find a pencil sharpener, binning the shredding and also sharpening the point to a similar sized tip if you require consistency in your output.
- Mechanical pencils are durable and will not shrink with use like a wooden pencil. The mechanical element in the barrel gives them more weight and makes them more ergonomic and better to use over long periods.
- They come in many styles, colours and designs which means you can review the choices and select the best pencil for you.
The Range of Mechanical Pencils
Mechanical pencils come with different lead tip widths and additional features which you need to review before purchasing the best option to suit your needs. You may opt for a 0.5mm lead tip for professional writing or drawing, but you may choose the smaller 0.3mm tip for drawings which require minute detail. Lead tips also come with different levels of hardness, with soft, medium and hard being the main rating levels.
Another consideration is the mechanical device which pushes the lead tip up through the barrel. Most pencils offer a simple click device on the end of the pencil which you press to move the lead forward and up the barrel. A twist-click mechanism is another option, requiring a twist of the top of the pencil barrel. A shaker mechanism stops the need for clicking or twisting the barrel by activating a weight when the pencil is quickly shaken, which hits the button to release the lead tip.
Potential Problems With a Mechanical Pencil
Although a mechanical pencil is a fairly simple instrument it contains moving parts which can occasionally break or stop working. Unlike a standard lead pencil which you just re-sharpen or replace, a mechanical pencil is designed to last for years and so it is best to be aware of potential issues and review how to fix or address them in advance, saving you time if they do occur. Some of the more common problems you may encounter with a mechanical pencil are:
- Similar to any pencil the lead in a mechanical pencil can break or snap, sometimes at the least opportune moment. If you are fortunate you can just propel replacement lead forward from the barrel by clicking it, twisting the barrel or through whichever mechanical method your pencil uses. Sometimes this needs a good amount of clicking before any replacement lead appears, but sometimes this still does not resolve the issue. In this case you may need to unscrew the tip from the barrel and check for any obstruction such as lead jamming the mechanism. You may need to remove all the lead and use a thin gauge wire to clean out the mechanism.
- If you find the lead tip is breaking often while you are writing or drawing with a mechanical pencil then you need to review the type of pencil and the lead it contains. The lead you are using may be too fragile for the work you are doing or for your style of writing or drawing. A harder lead grade may be required or possibly a wider one. There are mechanical pencils offering break-resistant lead which may be best for your use, while coloured leads can be more fragile and may be best avoided.
- Sometimes you may experience problems with the lead tip not extending from the pencil barrel. There is a similarity here to when the lead breaks. First of all you will need to check the right lead size is fitted for the pencil you are using. If it is correct there may be a lead jam. The pencil should be gently shaken to see if this clears it, but if it does not the pencil will need cleaning out to dislodge any lead parts trapped within the mechanism.
- If the lead keeps retracting back in to the pencil barrel it means the lead tip is too small, possibly because it has broken within the barrel. By clicking or twisting the pencil to propel more lead forward this issue should be overcome. If the lead has broken in more than one place you may have to click a few times before a suitable length of lead is in place for the pencil to best work again.
- Make sure to review the pencil you are using to make refilling the lead easier when the time comes. Check you buy the correct size lead tip refill for the pencil you have. Review any instructions you may have received with the pencil, but a replacement lead should never be forced in to a mechanical pencil as this can result in it becoming jammed.
- A key advantage of using a pencil is the ability to erase any errors before correcting them. Mechanical pencils come fitted with erasers on the end, similar to most wooden pencils. However on some models the design and look of the mechanical pencil has trumped the practicality of the eraser, ending up with an eraser which is not full-sized and soon used up. Another eraser design which does not work for everyone is having them covered, so that the user needs to remove the cover every time they want to correct an issue with their work.
- If possible you may want to try a mechanical pencil before buying to review if it performs how you require. Different types of jobs require different writing and drawing styles for which the size of the lead tip of a mechanical pencil is key.The pencil will need to feel comfortable in the hand as you may well be holding it for long periods of time and the position of the lead release button or twist mechanism should feel in the best position for you too.
Reviewing Product Tests
Purchasing a mechanical pencil requires more consideration then you may at first appreciate due to the variety of different designs and styles on the market. There are many internet sites you can consult to carry out a suitability test and analyse the best pencil to match your individual requirements.
Two such sites are Jetpens and Homethods who provide a methodical and detailed analysis of their practical tests, weighing up topics including grip, material used, lead advancement mechanisms, erasers and more.
How Product Tests are Conducted and What Was Taken in to Account
Independent review sites conduct thorough examinations of market leading mechanical pencils, as well as consulting experts in the field and using their own experience with products to evaluate their overall test results. In this way they can lay out their comparison tables with best buys after considering the main factors for which consumers would buy and use a mechanical pencil. Designs and styles are of course elements of personal taste, but these reviews are meant as guides in weighing up and comparing the many different pencils and styles you can find on the market today.
Factors which these tests analysed and evaluated include consistency and crispness of lines, lead sizing, lead tip advancement mechanism type, style and material used, pencil grip, eraser length and lead tip protection. These are key functions of any mechanical pencil which needs reviewing and consideration before purchase.
The reviews look at all these elements for each pencil before listing their results, usually in order of preference, as well as listing the pros and cons they identified for each product. In addition to the best overall buys, test results can also be viewed in categories such as different lead advancement mechanism styled pencils and best models for professional technical drawing.
Analysing the Results
With the huge amount of mechanical pencils available on the market there is going to be one for most tastes. As with the majority of products across any category price can be a determining factor on certain elements of the pencils and their design. The higher priced models will tend to be made of metal, providing a sturdier feel that many might find best and most comfortable to use. This does not mean the plastic mechanical pencils should be dismissed and if you are susceptible to losing pencils then the cheaper, plastic models may be ideal for you.
Grips also varied in the test results. If you are going to be working most of the day with a pencil you want an instrument which is comfortable to hold and as mechanical pencils vary in width and size, testing the grip to ensure it fits you is an important consideration. The price can also determine the type of mechanical pencil bought, with the rotating mechanical tips often the cheaper version. However the majority of pencils today come with a click-through mechanism which is easy to use and already quite instinctive to those who use ball-point pens.
It is one of the simpler elements, the eraser, which can sometimes be an issue to mechanical pencil users. Most pencils have an eraser on the end but a lot of them do not have one which you would deem full-size for best use.
Leading Mechanical Brands on the Market
Mechanical pencils are a popular choice for many people which is reflected in the level of choice and the amount of brands available. Reviews can help guide you to understanding the best buys around, summarising the strengths and weaknesses of the different pencils. Listed below are ten of the best mechanical pencil brands currently on the market:
- Paper Mate
- Uni Kuru Toga
Origins of the Mechanical Pencil
Although the first patent for a mechanical pencil was issued in 1822, a basic version of this type of pencil is recorded back in the 16th century. A Swiss naturalist called Conrad Gesner had invented a version of a mechanical pencil which required manually adjusting the lead in order to sharpen it.
The wreckage of HMS Pandora, which sank in 1791, was then to provide the first find of the earliest form of a mechanical pencil. The patent applied for in 1822 in Britain by Sampson Mordan and John Isaac Hawkins was the first which was to contain a lead propelling mechanism. Mordan would soon buy out Hawkins patent rights and he went on to make mechanical pencils through to the second world war.
However he was not to be alone in this industry. Between 1822, the year of the first patent, and 1874, there were a further 160 patents applied for as others brought improvements on the original to the market.
Using Your Mechanical Pencil
Most mechanical pencils you come cross are straightforward instruments to use. Many have a click button on the end which you press when you require more lead to be propelled up the barrel and in to the tip.
While holding the button down you can retract the lead by gently pushing it back up the barrel. Once all the lead is used up you just need to purchase a refill of the same size for the pencil. Other mechanisms exist, but they are all fairly straightforward and usage is down to personal preference.
What you will want to review is how you will be using your mechanical pencil. If you are consistently writing then a thicker lead might best help protect against the lead breaking from constant use. The 0.5mm lead in today’s pencils will suffice for most people, but you may still prefer to opt for a slightly thicker lead. For drawing you may need to experiment with the best lead for your needs.
Aside from the different lead propelling mechanisms available, mechanical pens have a few other features which best aid practical use and comfort. One of the most important considerations of a mechanical pencil is the grip, especially if you will be holding it for long periods.
The width and shape of the barrel should fit your hand comfortably, but the grip on the barrel can also add to the comfort levels. Materials for grips include plastic, metal, silicone and rubber and you should review and compare the options to find what is best for you. Mechanical pencils with retractable sleeves usually best protect the lead from breaking.
Retractable tips can stop the metal sleeve on the tip causing damage in your pocket and case, or simply from scratching a surface when it is put down. A mechanical pencil with a dual-clutch feature prevents lead being wasted, in particular the final piece in the barrel, since it holds the lead being used while the next section of lead comes in to place behind it. Other innovations specific to some brands of mechanical pencil include auto lead rotation which allows the lead tip to remain consistently sharp.
Looking After Your Mechanical Pencil
One of the main ways to maintain a mechanical pencil and keep it working to its best is to control how you refill the pencil. Companies such as Rotring recommend filling a mechanical pencil with three fine leads to achieve the best balance for the product, and also to avoid overfilling the barrel which can lead to dust building up. The barrel of the pencil needs to remain clean and obstruction free in order for the lead propelling mechanism to work at its most efficient and to avoid unnecessary lead breaks.
You should refer to the manufactures guide which accompanied the mechanical pencil for information on refills and eraser replacements. Mostly these are simple processes but using the wrong grade or size of lead will lead to a jam in the pencil if it is too thick, or it simply dropping back out if too thin. Occasionally you may find you have propelled too much lead forward. In this instance you are best to retract a quantity of lead to prevent it from snapping.
Alternatives to a Mechanical Pencil
Traditional wooden pencils remain popular and offer an alternative to a mechanical pencil. However they do not offer the consistency and precision of a mechanical pencil, elements which are key in a professional capacity. A wooden pencil’s appeal is in the simple nature of its design and use, but as they wear down the point loses consistency. Even with sharpening you may not return to the exact tip point you were previously working with, introducing an inconsistent finish if precision was a key concern.
Closer to the mechanical pencil is the clutch pencil. These type of pencils do not have the mechanism which controls the lead as it is propelled up the barrel. When you click on a clutch pencil the lead is released but the juxtaposition is you then have to manually adjust the lead length before using. Clutch pencils contain thicker leads, ranging up from 2mm and you have the option of sharpening if you need a finer point for your work or project.
Ten Frequently Asked Questions About Mechanical Pencils?
Which Mechanical Pencil Lead is Darker?
Most countries use the lead grading system of HB, with H standing for hardness and B for black. The more B’s in the grade, the softer and darker the lead.
Whereas the standard writing grade is HB, the grade 6B is at the top end of the black range, indicating the lead is extremely soft and dark. At the other end of the scale would be 6H for a very hard but light lead. While this is the normal range some manufacturers do produce leads which go further.
How to Change a Mechanical Pencil Eraser?
Most mechanical pencils have an eraser on the end, although they can vary in size and therefore how quickly they may be used. Replacing an eraser is straightforward since with most mechanical pencils you should just be able to pull the old one out and replace it with the new eraser.
When purchasing a mechanical eraser it is always best to keep the eraser in mind and review your options to make sure they are easy to source. You will need to make sure the replacement eraser is compatible with your mechanical pencil.
What is a Shaker Mechanical Pencil?
Mechanical pencils use a mechanism to propel the lead forward through the barrel. The shaker mechanical pencil is a version where the user shakes the pencil firmly when they need more lead tip. A weight positioned inside the barrel hits the button to propel the lead upwards.
Why Use a Mechanical Pencil?
Precision and consistency of output are the best reasons for using a mechanical pencil. With wooden pencils, as they are used the lines will get thicker until it is re-sharpened back to a finer point. A mechanical pencil sees the lines remain the same, providing consistency and predictability to your work. A mechanical pencil is more ergonomic too. It does not shorten in size like a wooden pencil, so once you find a mechanical pencil which is comfortable to hold for long periods you know this will not change.
Why Does My Mechanical Pencil Squeak?
If your mechanical pencil is making a squeak it would be best to review how you are using it. Aside from the paper or surface you are writing or drawing on, the main cause of squeaking is likely to be the angle or the pressure being applied on the pencil lead. Lengthening or shortening the lead tip is worth trying to see if it better suits your writing style and eliminates any squeaking.
How Are Mechanical Pencils Made?
The mechanical pencil is assembled from individually made component parts or from a mould once the design has been completed and reviewed. The barrel is made from plastic, metal or possibly plastic and rubber combined. Whichever way they are produced they tend to be designed to hold up to 10 pieces of lead. The lead propulsion mechanism is normally made from metal before being inserted in to the barrel and then checked to ensure it works properly. The tip is designed with screw grooves to best secure it to the barrel.
Can You Refill a Mechanical Pencil?
Refilling a mechanical pencil is one of its best features. Once you have a pencil you are comfortable working with over a long period of time you do not have to replace it when the lead runs out. Review the available refills and ensure you purchase a refill compatible to your mechanical pencil and with the correct lead size. Mechanical pencils are easy to refill, but having the correct lead size is important to avoid the lead breaking and jamming the barrel of the pencil.
What is a Good Mechanical Pencil for Drawing?
There is a large range of mechanical pencils on the market, but some features make a pencil more suitable to drawing compared to purely writing. The pencil should be well built and durable, feeling good to hold over an extended period of time. A non-slip grip can give you best confidence in a steady hand while drawing precision detail.
Why Was the Mechanical Pencil Invented?
When Sampson Mordan and John Isaac Hawkins applied for a patent for their mechanical pencil design in 1822 it was to improve upon the existing leadholders. At the time these leadholders simply held the pencil lead in position and would need manually adjusting to sharpen. The patent of 1822 introduced the idea of a refillable pencil with a basic mechanism for propelling the lead forward, removing the need for any manual adjustment.
This would be more convenient and quicker, meaning less time lost when writing or drawing with the new design. After 1822 a number of further improvements were brought to market for further convenience and comfort when using a mechanical pencil.
Can You Sharpen a Mechanical Pencil?
Although you can sharpen a mechanical pencil they are designed that you should not have to. As the lead is propelled forward the consistency of the lead tip should be retained. One of the exceptions may be pencils with thicker leads which tend to be used by graphic artists. The Koru Toga pencil rotates the lead as you write for a uniform sharpness of the point.