Best mechanical pencils for writing, drawing & sketching

Updated 10th September 2019

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Our top pick…

The short answer to our favourite (and best) mechanical pencil is the rOtring 600 Series Mechanical Pencil. So far this pencil has lasted us 10 years, and there’s no sign of it giving up! …it features:

rOtring pencil technology - rOtring brass mechanism for precision lead advancement. Fixed lead guidance sleeve preventing break and offering an unimpeded view of the page for precise ruler-based drawing.

Ergonomic metal barrel - Full metal body providing ideal balance of weight and feeling. Hexagonal barrel ensuring fatigue-free writing and drawing.

Lead hardness grade indicator - For a rapid identification when working.

However there are still a lot of other options to choose from, and we hope the below buyers guide helps to narrow down the huge variety of other products our there …scroll down to the bottom of the page to see our runners up!

What is a Mechanical Pencil

A mechanical pencil is a pencil that has an extendable pigment core, also known as the lead. Their cores are mechanically extendable and replaceable. The main component of the lead is usually graphite. Unlike traditional pencils, the graphite can be extended mechanically when its tip gets worn away as it is not attached to the outer casing of the pencil.

There are two basic types of mechanical pencils: those that only hold the lead in position and those that, apart from holding the lead, can also propel the lead forward.

Those can propel the lead forward are known as screw-based pencils. They function such that when the screw is twisted, a slider is moved down the barrel of the pencil.

Mechanical pencils that only hold the lead in position are known as clutch pencils. They tend to use leads that are thicker than those of screw-based pencils and they basically hold one piece of lead at a time. Common clutch pencils are activated when the eraser cap at the top is pressed, this opens up its tip allowing the lead to fall through from the barrel to replace the old worn away lead.

Benefits of Mechanical Pencils

  • Mechanical pencils do not need to be sharpened

  • Mechanical pencils produce lines that are consistent since the leads in mechanical pencils produce consistent, clear and thin lines.

  • Mechanical pencils are more comfortable to use since they are made with a balancing technology.

  • Mechanical pencils can be readily refilled.

  • Mechanical pencils are completely made out of synthetic materials and can be used repeatedly, making them environmentally friendly.

  • Mechanical pencils exhibit modern and stylish designs making them attractive.

  • Most mechanical pencils are integrated with erasers that can be used readily.

What are mechanical pencils used for

Mechanical pencils are used in technical drawing to draw lines that have a constant width since they do not require sharpening hence you are able to complete your drawing quickly and have a neat result.

Mechanical pencils are also used in fine-art drawing. They are very popular with art students since they do not have to be sharpened.

They are also used in neat writing. This is because they produce writing that has a constant width and they do not require sharpening, hence the writing is quicker.

How to use a mechanical pencil

Mechanical pencils are relatively easy to use. At the top end of all mechanical pencils, there is an opening for lead fills and erasers. All you have to do is to pull the cap off and insert the lead fills. Then depending on whatever lead advancement technique your mechanical pencil uses, you push the lead to the tip and start writing or drawing.

How to choose a mechanical pencil

Build quality

The build quality of a mechanical pencil is a very important factor to consider when choosing. A mechanical pencil needs to have an impeccable good quality, such that the pencil balances perfectly on your hand. A mechanical pencil with good build quality is more comfortable to use and your output should therefore be better.

Lead quality

The quality of lead is very important when choosing a mechanical pencil. Using the right lead type can make a big difference in your work since it is the lead that determines how the pencil writes. When choosing lead, it is important for you to take the lead hardness grade into consideration. This is because leads that are softer are smoother and softer compared to harder leads. Softer leads also get used up faster as they erode quicker during use.

Lead advancement quality

Push button:

Mechanical pencils have different mechanisms that they use to advance the lead. The most common type of lead advancement technique is the push button mechanism. Mechanical pencils with this type of lead advancement mechanism have a push button that when clicked pushes a fixed amount of lead.

Most mechanical pencils with this type of lead advancement technique have the button located at the top of the pencil, but some pencils have a button built into its clip or on the side.

Shaker:

Another lead advancement mechanism is the shaker technique. The shaker technique works in a way such that when the pencil is shaken, there is an internal click mechanism that is activated by a sliding internal weight, which then advances the lead.

This technique has caught on since you are able to advance the lead without changing your grip on the pencil. This makes many people prefer shaker pencils to push button pencils.

Twist:

Thirdly, a twist mechanism. This technique allows you to make continuous adjustments to the advancement of lead through twisting and turning of a knob located at the top of the pencil to advance and retract the lead. This mechanism allows you to choose your preferred length of lead.

Bend/body knock:

The bend or body knock mechanism is another lead advancement technique that advances the lead when a specific joint in the grip section is squeezed.

Automatic:

Lastly, an automatic mechanical pencil. This pencil advances more lead when a ratchet mechanism is activated by the pressure of lead on paper. However, this method of advancing lead is somewhat bothersome since you are prompted to do most of your writing with the sleeve dragging on the paper.  

Lead size

The lead size is a very important factor when it comes to choosing a mechanical pencil. The leads of mechanical pencils come in a large variety of widths that normally defines the purpose of the mechanical pencil.

These purposes vary from trying to fit writing in a very tight space to shading broadly across a piece of paper. You can use leads that have similar sizes interchangeably, but there will still be a slight difference between their output.

Mechanical pens with different lead sizes are used for different purposes. The thinnest mechanical pencil leads (0.2mm - 0.4mm) are ideal for the most compact equations requiring small spaces and for adding the finest of fine details to art. They are also best suited for people with small handwriting.

All-purpose mechanical pencil leads are the most common lead size (0.5mm - 0.7mm) since they give you a wide range of pencil styles and features to choose from. All-purpose mechanical pencil leads are suitable for writing at most sizes and drawing details at most sketching sizes. 

Thick mechanical pencil leads (0.9mm - 1.3mm) are uncommon and are best suited for people who make bold sketches, have extra large handwriting, or press with a very heavy hand. Thick mechanical pencil leads feel way smoother compared to smaller lead sizes and they do not dig into the paper.

Grip

The grip of a mechanical pencil is usually a very important factor to consider when choosing your mechanical pencil. Different mechanical pencils have different grips that take influence from the respective designers of the mechanical pencils.

The grip of the pencil influences how you write. The shape of a mechanical pencil affects the grip. Some mechanical pencil designs may focus too much on the cosmetic aspect of the pencil creating a pencil that is too wide affecting the grip and comfortability of its users.

Mechanical pencils that have a wider grip are best suited for people who have larger hands or people who are suffering from issues with their hands such as repetitive strain injury or arthritis. Mechanical pencils with narrower grips are best suited for people with a grip that is narrower.

The best choice is one which has a grip that is designed to divert heat away from the hand. This helps to keep your hold of the pencil steady by avoiding your hands getting slippery with sweat. 

Eraser

Most mechanical pencils usually come with a built-in eraser. However, the erasers are usually very small. in some instances, once the eraser has been completely used up, it cannot be replaced. It is therefore important to choose a mechanical pencil that has a larger eraser than others and the eraser is replaceable if you intend to use your mechanical pencil’s eraser regularly.

Ergonomics

You need to consider ergonomics. Mechanical pencils that are ergonomic have been designed to reduce fatigue and minimize the stress on your hands allowing you to use them for longer periods of time.

Materially

The material used to make the grips of mechanical pencils also influences the grip of the pen. The most common materials used to make grips are rubber, plastic, metal, and silicone. Grips made from plastic are firm and get warm quickly when you use a pencil. Grips made from rubber and silicone, on the other hand, can have a pillow-like squishiness or a firm yet grippy feel when you use them. Grips made from metal have a heavier feel but are able to remain cool for longer than when compared to plastic grips. 

Lead cushioning

Lastly, lead cushioning is another very important factor to consider. Several mechanical pencils have different ways of preventing the leads from breaking. The most common way that the lead is protected from breakage is by use of a sliding leas sleeve. The sliding sleeve protects the tip of the lead while you write. The sliding sleeve is constantly pushed back by the paper surface as the lead wears down.

Our top and best pick for 2019

rOtring 600 Mechanical Pencil

01 - The iconic rOtring 600 Mechanical Pencil is the ideal professional tool for technical writing, drawing and sketching. True to rOtring’s original design, the 600 features a full metal black hexagonal body and comfortable non-slip knurled metal grip. The pencil’s unique hexagonal shape means it won't slide when you set it down, so it’s there when you need it. For precise ruler-based drawing, the sliding sleeve provides a high level of break resistance and an unimpeded view of the page.


rOtring 1900184 800+ Mechanical Pencil & Touchscreen Stylus

02 - Premium mechanical pencil, combining both modes at the same end with a unique retractable mechanism. Precision stylus tip for high accuracy, control and speed. Soft tip glides smoothly and is compatible with all capacitive touchscreens. Ideal technical writing instrument for all sketching, writing, drawing and touchscreen applications. Featuring an ergonomically enhanced full metal body, the 800+ offers an ideal weight balance and a comfortable non-slip knurled grip, so you can work for long periods without experiencing discomfort or fatigue.


Pentel Graph Gear 1000

03 - The Pentel GraphGear 1000 mechanical pencil is a superior drafting pencil for architects, draftsmen, artists and enthusiasts. The 4mm tip design makes it ideal for use with rulers and templates. A unique, dual-action retractor advances and retracts the pencil tip to protect lead from breaking. The built-in lead hardness indicator allows you to easily identify your lead type. It comes pre-loaded with Super Hi-Polymer HB lead, which never needs sharpening and produces a clear dark line.


Caran D'ache Metal Mechanical Pencil

04 - The Maison Caran d’Ache 849 pen has a hexagonal shape and the ultra-comfortable proportions of an iconic model. The robustness, the flexible clip and the user-friendliness of the pushbutton make the 849 a trusty everyday companion, thanks to the many different styles in which it comes. Pure, luminous colours, along with fluorescents and metallics entirely cover the bodies of the ballpoint pens and mechanical pencils. The exceptional performance of the Goliath cartridge, capable of writing up to 600 flawless A4 pages, complements the timeless design of the 849.


rOtring 800 Lead Holder Clutch Knock System - 2 mm

05 - The highly sought after pencil has a weight and feel that represents what a professional drafting pencil should be. It has an all metal brass body with gold accents, traditional knurled grip and knurled top piece, and a sturdy metal clip. The Rotring 800 lead holder has a very technical look and will appeal to engineers and artists for its solid construction and lead advancement mechanism. This 2.0 mm lead holder has a clutch system, allowing you to extend lead in small amounts with each click of the top knock button.


LAMY Scribble 3.15 mm Black Paladium Mechanical Pencil

06 - Lamy scribble pencil is perfect for sketching and drawing whilst on the move. 3.15mm clutch mechanism (also available in 0.7mm finelead pencil). Matt black plastic body with palladium-plated metal fittings. Clip is removable.


Staedtler 2.0mm Mechanical Pencil 

07 - Staedtler drafting pencil featuring all-metal construction with a satin chrome finish to the barrel, polished chrome trim and a knurled metal grip section. Fixed point, lead grade indicator, removable pocket clip, replaceable eraser with clearing pin under the push button.

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