Last updated: August 19, 2021

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It is true that any pencil can perform the same function as a mechanical pencil, but if you are one of those who write a lot and for a long time, having an instrument such as a mechanical pencil, which facilitates your tasks, is indispensable.

Whether you're looking for a mechanical pencil to help you write more firmly or a light one that won't tire your hand, we'll help you review all the aspects to consider in order to make the best purchase. We're sure you'll find everything you need to get your ideal mechanical pencil here.




Summary

  • A mechanical pencil is an instrument for writing or drawing with graphite leads that is more comfortable and precise than a pencil. It also has the advantage that you will always have a sharp point without having to use a pencil sharpener.
  • Leads are available in different diameters, the most common being 0.5 mm, 0.7 mm and 0.9 mm. In addition, you can get leads of different hardnesses to achieve different shades and thicknesses of line.
  • Among the different factors to consider when buying a mechanical pencil are the hardness and diameter of the leads, as well as the materials and additional accessories you can find on the market.

The Best Mechanical Pencils: Our Picks

Buying guide: What you need to know about mechanical pencils

It may seem that buying a mechanical pencil is something very simple, but we know that if you are a lover of writing, these tips will come in handy. Investing in a good mechanical pencil can make your life much easier than you think, and here are the features you need to take into account to get the ideal mechanical pencil for you.

A mechanical pencil is an instrument for writing or drawing with graphite leads that provides more comfort and precision than a pencil.
(Photo: nd3000/ 123rf.com)

What is a mechanical pencil and what are its advantages?

A mechanical pencil is an improved and more comfortable version of a pencil. While it is true that the pencil is an irreplaceable object for artists and draftsmen, for writers it represents an excellent investment.

The mechanical pencil is characterised by the fact that it always offers a sharp point without the need to waste time with a pencil sharpener or a penknife. In addition, most mechanical pencils have a "grip", which is a rubber or rough surface that improves the grip of the mechanical pencil, making it more comfortable and controllable.

You probably still have doubts about whether investing in a mechanical pencil is right for you, so here is a comparison table of advantages and disadvantages. Take a closer look and read on to find out everything you need to know about mechanical pencils.

Advantages
  • You don't need a sharpener, they always have a point
  • They are more comfortable and ergonomic than a pencil
  • It is a long-term investment
  • There are very stylish designs
  • They are always ready to use
Disadvantages
  • You always need to carry leads
  • They are much more expensive than a pencil
  • The lead thickness cannot be modified in the mechanical pencil
  • You cannot achieve the same effects as with a pencil when drawing

Mechanical pencils for technical drawing or school use - what should you pay attention to?

The most important thing we want to achieve when buying a mechanical pencil is that it is functional and comfortable. We can group mechanical pencils into these two categories to better understand their functions: for technical drawing or school use.

The mechanical pencil for technical drawing will also work for prolonged writing activities, while the one for school use will not be of the best quality but it is ideal for children or people who will not use their mechanical pencil intensively.

Mechanical pencils for technical drawing. These can be made of metal or good quality plastic, and are characterised by their precision and durability. The most recognised brands are Faber-Castell, Pentel, Zebra, Pilot, Steadtler, among others.

Mechanical pencils for school use. These are generally made of plastic and are available in packs of several units. They are considered semi-disposable, as they are not made to last for a long time and tend to break easily.

However, they are ideal for primary or secondary school children who tend to lose their supplies frequently and do not need specialised equipment. Well-known brands include Bic, Paper Mate, Smiggle, Pentel and Zebra (basic models).

Technical drawing School use
Material Metal, plastic Plastic
Lead thickness (mm) 0.3, 0.5, 0.7, 0.9, 1.1, 1.3, 1.6, 2.0 0.5, 0.7, 1.3, 2.0
Colours Generally black, metal or sober colours Wide range of colours

Purchasing criteria

There is an impressive variety of mechanical pencils on the market, that's why we want to give you the most important criteria when choosing your ideal mechanical pencil. We are sure that with this information you will solve all your doubts. These criteria are:

Lead diameter

There is a wide variety of mechanical pencil diameters, but the easiest to find are 0.5 mm and 0.7 mm, although 0.3 mm and 0.9 mm are also very popular. There are even more specific diameters such as 0.2 mm or 5.6 mm for sketch artists, but these are more difficult to obtain.

In reality any thickness works well, the decision to buy will depend on your taste and the way you write. Here we mention each of the mechanical pencil diameters you can find on the market.

0.5 mm. This is the perfect diameter for people with small handwriting who need more precision in their writing. The line has a fine, faint finish, but leaves a stronger mark on the paper.

0.7 mm. This lead also gives a very precise line, but does not require as much pressure as a 0.5 mm lead, and therefore leaves fewer grooves in the paper.

0.9 mm. An ideal thickness for sketchers, as it is easy to erase without leaving marks on the paper due to the pressure. The line is darker and a little rougher.

Please note that once you choose the diameter of your mechanical pencil you cannot change it, as each mechanical pencil is made for only one diameter. But if you need different diameters to have different line qualities, we recommend you to buy a mechanical pencil for each diameter.

If you are in doubt about which one to choose, the best thing to do is to choose a 0.7 mm and try it out for a few days. If you are not very comfortable with it, you will know whether to get a thicker or thinner diameter, and you will also have more line thicknesses to highlight notes or draw more interesting things.

The comfort of a good mechanical pencil surpasses that of any pencil.
(Photo: gaustin11/ Pixabay.com)

Hardness of the lead

The hardness of the lead, just like in a pencil, determines how light or dark your line will be. It is measured by a very simple system based on two letters: H (hard) and B (black). H means that the lead is harder, leaving a very faint line, while a B lead will be softer and darker.

Once it is established whether the lead is H or B, the level of hardness or blackness is determined on a scale of 0 to 8 using only the pairs. For example, a 2B lead will be slightly black, while an 8B will be very black. A 4H lead will be medium hard, while an H will be barely hard.

There is also the HB lead, which is a good middle ground between black and hard. If you are in doubt about which lead hardness to choose, HB is your best option.

Diameter of the mechanical pencil

This is an important factor to consider, as it will greatly affect your performance when writing or drawing with a mechanical pencil. Most mechanical pencils are about the same diameter as a number 2 pen or pencil, plus grip. This is a standard size and fits most people well.

However, some mechanical pencils offer a larger diameter for people who cannot press as hard, and this is much more comfortable for them. For other people, such a large diameter affects the control they have over the mechanical pencil, and they prefer to press harder for more precision.

In short, if you write in large letters or need a mechanical pencil that feels soft in your hand, you should choose a thick one. On the other hand, if you need one that gives you maximum control and precision, you should choose a thin (standard) mechanical pencil. Only you know what you need to achieve the ideal balance between comfort and precision.

Materials

You can find mechanical pencils made of plastic, metal and even wood. The best manufacturers take care that the mechanical pencil is not too heavy, but if it is too light it can greatly affect your writing. Here are the main characteristics of these materials:

  • Plastic. Plastic mechanical pencils are the cheapest. Some will have a metal tip and/or bright colours. They are ideal for primary or secondary school children. Their average weight is 18 grams.
  • Metal. The material of choice for drawing or writing professionals, as well as architects and designers. Their weight ranges from 20 to 30 grams and they are usually the most ergonomic.
  • Wooden. They can weigh between 9 and 18 grams. They are not so popular on the market, but are characterised by their stylised design (some look like ordinary pencils). They generally do not have a grip and are sought after more for their aesthetic value than their functional value.

Grip materials vary, usually some version of silicone rubber, but can also be some texture of the same material as the rest of the body. This may not be as comfortable if you have very sensitive fingers.

The mechanical pencil material you choose should be the one you like, always taking into account that the grip will work well and your fingers will not slip. Remember that if you buy on Amazon and you are not satisfied, you can always return the product and buy another one.

Nothing like writing comfortably and accurately.
(Photo: Cristina Titrat/ Pixabay)

Additional accessories

Mechanical pencils almost always include a small eraser, but this is not an important attribute to consider, as you will usually need a regular-sized eraser to erase comfortably. In fact, the eraser often serves as a cap for the leads, so it's best not to use it at all.

In addition to the eraser and leads, another accessory you may find useful is a sharpener. This item is a great help in shaping leads of any diameter to get a slimmer line quality. It works like a normal pencil sharpener, but the hole where the lead is inserted is smaller and the blade is thinner.

There is another, more basic type of sharpener that works like a knife sharpener. This can achieve an even more personalised result, but it is a larger object and not so easy to carry around. However, if you are not a professional draftsman or architect, you can do without this accessory.

(Featured image source: Ian Petrovskii/ 123rf.com)

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