Three Things to Look for in a Mechanical Pencil

Lead thickness? Feeding mechanisms? Here’s what to know.

Mechanical pencil and pad
Though simple in its design, there’s a lot to consider when buying a mechanical pencil.Pixabay/Gaustin

Mechanical pencils offer lots of strengths—when they’re good. You get a consistently sharp point, you can refill them with lead (which reduces the need to replace standard wooden pencils) and they’re satisfying to use. But which one should you buy?

BIC Mechanical Pencil Variety Pack, Assorted Size, 0.5mm, 0.7mm, 0.9mm, 60-Count, Black
This set comes with five dozen writing implements in a rainbow of colors.BIC

Unlike with wooden pencils, you can’t adjust the sharpness of the point after you buy a mechanical pencil. That means it’s important to figure out what width works for you before you buy. There are several available, ranging from 0.3 mm to 0.9 mm, with larger numbers providing a thicker stroke. The smallest ones are more suited for architectural work than writing; opt for a 0.5 or 0.7 if you’re planning on using your mechanical pencil mostly for longhand writing.

Pentel GraphGear 1000 Mechanical Pencil, (0.5mm), Black Barrel, 1 Each,Brown
This item allows you to pull back the lead when not in use, so it doesn’t break in your bag.Pentel

There are multiple types of feeding mechanisms, which refers to the way in which the pencil delivers more lead to the tip. The most common is a click method, in which you click the top part with the eraser to extend the lead. More recent advances have an automatic feeder which steadily feeds the lead as you write—but those pencils tend to be pricier.

Rotring 600 0.5mm Black Barrel Mechanical Pencil
With a hexagonal shape, this product won’t roll off the table.Rotring

Mechanical pencils come in two main materials: plastic and metal. Plastic ones are cheaper, and are often available in cheerful colors; they’re ideal for kids, who might lose them. Metal ones and heavier and designed to last for years. Because they’re more expensive than plastic as well as heftier, these are best suited for adults.

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