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The World of Mechanical Pencils

Updated on August 11, 2010

Are you a Stationery Addict?

So many people love stationery. For some it is a fascination with paper. For others it can be a love of pens, diaries or desk tools like staplers and dispensers.

My personal favorite stationery items are the pencil case and the mechanical pencil.

I like stationery so much I have my own stationery blog - The Leaky Pen.

I have also created a lens for The Leaky Pen here. Please visit either webpage sometime and enjoy my stationery musings.

This lens will showcase why I like the Mechanical Pencil so much and point out the many important features you should consider when buying one. There are also some web resources for you to consult and some videos.

I hope you come to appreciate Mechanical Pencils as much as I do.

Mechanical Pencils - An Anatomy

A Staedtler diagram showing the internals of a Mechanical pencil
A Staedtler diagram showing the internals of a Mechanical pencil

What exactly is a Mechanical Pencil?

A mechanical pencil is similar to your average pencil. There are however two primary differences.

With a Mechanical Pencil the lead can be easily replaced. Secondly you can easily advance the lead. This means that simply clicking will push the lead however far you want.

With a Mechanical Pencil you can change the lead type or color when it suits you. There is also no need to sharpen the lead.

How a Mechanical Pencil Works

Another Staedtler diagram showing the internals of a Mechanical pencil
Another Staedtler diagram showing the internals of a Mechanical pencil
A Staedtler diagram showing the internals of a Mechanical pencil
A Staedtler diagram showing the internals of a Mechanical pencil

Why are Mechanical Pencils so Fantastic?

Advantages of a Mechanical Pencil - Part 1

There are several advantages to mechanical pencils over wooden pencils...

1. No need to sharpen - Lead refills come in a large range of sizes and they don't need to be sharpened because they are already so thin and fine.

2. Consistent line - Because of their size refills offer a consistent mark on paper.

3. Balance - The size and weight of a mechanical pencil doesn't change enough to affect the balance in our hand. Most are designed to sit well in our grip.

4. Refillable - When you run out of lead simply put more lead refills inside it.

5. Environmentally friendly - Because of their refillable nature you can use the same mechanical pencil over and over again. Assuming your mechanical pencil is of reasonable quality, and you treat it with respect, there is no reason why your mechanical pencil can't last for a very long time. Some mechanical pencils are even made of recycled material.

6. They feel better to write with - Many mechanical pencils come with padded grips and are shaped ergonomically.

7. Choice - There are so many styles and design of mechanical pencils there is sure to be one perfect for your needs. There is even an opportunity to make a fashion statement with your choice. I do, everyday.

A Rotring multi-pen Ihave had for over a decade.
A Rotring multi-pen Ihave had for over a decade.

A Rotring multi-pen I have had for over a decade.

Advantages of a Mechanical Pencil - Part 2

8. Precision - Drafters and those that use pencils to construct designs need precision and mechanical pencils provide this. Mechanical Pencils also provide the necessary precision to write Kanji (Asian pictograph writing system). Those with small handwriting can also benefit from this precision.

9. Look cool - Arguably mechanical pencils look better than your average wood pencil. To me anyway.

10. Versatility - A mechanical pencil can be a part of a multi-pen that you can carry around in place of multiple pencils or pens. This makes life much easier for me. Multi-pens can also have a mechanical pencil, and different colored pens all in the one pen - hence the name multi-pen. Some multi-pens come with three pencils in one - all with different lead sizes. These are my favorite mechanical pencils.

11. No mess - No pencil shavings, no lead smudges.

12. Easier to erase - Depending on the lead you use mechanical pencils can be better for computer scanned test papers and work where neatness counts. Make sure you have a good eraser too.

13. Portable. Many designs feature clips and retractable points making mechanical pencils easy to carry around without stabbing yourself in the thigh or piercing a hole in your pockets.

14. Attached eraser - Most mechanical pencils come with an eraser attached.

My Sources? - Kudos where Kudos are due

I had substantial help creating the above list from the following two websites;

The benefits of a Mechanical Pencil - A Video

A short spiel describing why Mechanical Pencils are so good.

What Features Should You Look For in a Mechanical Pencil?

Mechanical Pencil Features

When you are next shopping for a Mechanical Pencil consider the following features;

Lead Size - Lead sizes vary from 0.2 right up to several millimeters in width. Make sure the pencil you choose has the right sized lead.

Lead Sleeve - This can be conical (for writing) or long and thin (for drafting). The sleeve helps to protect your lead from breaking.

Retractable Tip - The great mechanical pencils can retract their lead sleeve to protect your pockets and the sleeve itself in when you are on the move.

Lead Grade Indicator - This allows you to remind yourself or others what grade of lead you are using - HB, 2B etc

Grip - Some pens have a rubber grip, others a metal serrated grip. Some have ergonomic triangular grips. Choose one to suit your needs.

Clip - I have a Mechanical pencil with a swivel clip to attach to pockets, books or lanyards. My most expensive mechanical pencil doesn't have one at all.

Lead Advance - Most mechanical pencils have a simple top press button to advance the lead, others advance because of a twist or even a shake. Which one would you prefer?

Eraser - Some mechanical pencil erasers are too small and hidden away inside the pencil itself. Others are quite big. I prefer a separate eraser pen altogether.

Cap - I don't like caps on the end of my mechanical pencils. Others love them. Some people even like a cap on the front of their mechanical pencils so they look like fountain pens. Each to their own.

What are the Top Brands?

Shopping Online

My Favourite Online Stores

It is hard to find mechanical pencils with a difference if you just walk down to your local department store. If you are willing to buy on-line however you can snap up some great buys. I have some favorite stores I like to buy from and they are listed below. Browse their goodies and have fun!

A short list of Mechanical Pencils - A Video

This video goes through some Mechanical Pencil options for you if you are looking to buy one.

My Favorite Mechanical Pencil Websites & Blogs

Online Mechanical Pencil Resources

Be sure to check out the blog roll at each website for even more Mechanical Pencil resources.

But the BEST Mechanical Pencil website is .... Dave's Mechanical Pencils

Dave's Mechanical Pencils

If you need to find out about Mechanical Pencils in general, or one pencil in particular, you have to try Dave's website. You can go there by clicking here.

If you consider yourself a Mechanical Pencil aficionado but haven't seen his website then you are just a pretender. Seriously, where have you been? You may be interested in his article Top 5 Mechanical Pencils. I can easily spend hours on his website.

When you arrive at Dave's website you will notice the conspicuous absence of advertisements. This guy is for real. He writes about Mechanical Pencils for the sheer love of it. Nothing more, nothing less.

Thanks Dave for your tireless work.

Other Mechanical Pencil Stuff

Why wouldn't you use a mechanical pencil?


Mechanical Pencil Inspired Videos

The Life of a Mechanical Pencil - A Video

A short film showing a day in the life of a Mechanical Pencil. Enjoy.

Where is my Mechanical Pencil? - A Video

An odd little cartoon about a bloke who loses his mechanical pencil.


If you are a Mechanical Pencil addict too and want me to add your web page or resource to this lens please contact me (Atticus Parker). Use the Guest Book below or access my profile.

Please leave some Feedback :)

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    • Tradeshowhobo profile image

      Tradeshowhobo 5 years ago

      Thanks, I love lenses like this. Well done.

    • profile image

      will12 5 years ago

      did you have a fun cartoon

    • profile image

      will12 5 years ago

      @OfficeSupplyGeek: good job

    • AtticusParker profile image

      AtticusParker 6 years ago

      @anonymous: Why, thankyou :)

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      Excellent Resource mate.

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      I like how you laid out the information in this lens. I actually started a blog sometime ago about fountain pens and pencils and whatnot. I also checked out your blog and like the way you laid out the information; the pictures are clear and nice as well. Anyway, great lens and if you want to check out my latest post on the Parker Duofold Pencil please do. I've written quite a few articles on the history of pens as well from many of the top manufacturers so you might enjoy that.

    • profile image

      OfficeSupplyGeek 7 years ago

      Thanks for mentioning my blog! This is a very thorough write up!

    • Charlino99 profile image

      Tonie Cook 7 years ago from USA

      This is a wonderfully informative lens for those who would like to research this subject. Great for students of commercial art or engineering. I've been using mechanical pencils for many, many years for every day note taking.

    • teacher2 lm profile image

      teacher2 lm 7 years ago

      I must say that your lens impressed me! I expected a lens selling me mechanical pencils but instead I found a lens teaching me about the benefits of mechanical pencils. Being a teacher myself, I also am quite fond of mechanical pencils. I certainly learned a lot on this lens. Thank you for sharing all this information with us, readers.

    • AtticusParker profile image

      AtticusParker 7 years ago

      Ha! Stationery drags you in. Kick and scream all you like, it won't save you. I have been addicted to Mechanical Pencils for years now :)

    • profile image

      RinchenChodron 7 years ago

      Wow - when I saw your topic - I thought boring - but came to visit anyway. Actually you have done an excellent job! Keep up the good work - I'm FAVing it.

    • AtticusParker profile image

      AtticusParker 7 years ago

      Thanks for your kind feedback. Squidoo is very addictive. Hmmm, what to write next?

    • hayleylou lm profile image

      hayleylou lm 7 years ago

      Good quality lens with lots of info, thumbs up:)

    • LizMac60 profile image

      Liz Mackay 7 years ago from United Kingdom

      Well done you're certainly getting the hang of this lens making. I found the subject fascinating.

    • FlynntheCat1 profile image

      FlynntheCat1 7 years ago

      Really good lens!Add to by best Art Lenses on Squidoo lens :D

    • MicheleWebber profile image

      MicheleWebber 7 years ago

      Great article, I love geeky stuff like this, excellent resource.