Call them training wheels for learning how to use a pen if you will, but there’s no denying how useful the best mechanical pencils are, especially during the earlier years of our student lives. One can only imagine how hectic learning to write must have been if we hadn’t had the luxury to endlessly erase out our mistakes and start over, something many of us wish we could still do with our ink pens.
And even after we’ve graduated to using pens for all of our writing needs, almost all of us find the need to keep a pencil handy, just in case. Not to mention how vital the tool is to those of us who dabble in the creative arts, making rough illustrations on paper to solidify an idea before it can be painted or digitized.
It’s only logical we’d come to develop this tool further than it’s rudimentary “lead in a column of wood” form. In fact, it’s been quite a while since we came up with the concept of mechanical pencils, with the earliest patent for the tool being filed way back in 1822!
And since then, mechanical pencils have really come a long way, so much so that the ones we have on the market now are way different than the one detailed on that first patent.
And with all the companies in on the production of this product, there are so many on the market today that it’s hard for anyone to keep track of all of them.
And that’s where we come in. Our job is to showcase the best mechanical pencils on the market today, so you can buy one that’s bound to give you all the functionality you need without you having to do a load of research on your own.
But first let’s answer an important question.
Why buy a mechanical pencil instead of a regular wooden one?
One word: Convenience.
Wooden pencils, on the whole, maybe cheaper than their mechanical counterparts, but no one who’s used the latter can deny the convenience it affords. Having to constantly sharpen your wooden pencil to maintain that ever-elusive sharp point is a thorn in your sides; better to have a pencil that lets you keep working with the push of a single button.
Plus, with mechanical pencils, you’re eliminating the need to keep a sharpener on your person, and having to deal with messy pencil shavings every time you use it.
Not to mention the fact that mechanical pencils look way classier than your regular wooden ones ever will. Though that’s a matter of personal preference, of course, I doubt many people would contest this point.
So, mechanical pencils are better than regular wooden ones. Which mechanical pencil should I buy then? Well, here are the top ten mechanical pencils on the market you can buy right now! Take a look.
The ten best mechanical pencils on the market
Starting off our list, we have probably the most recognizable brand when it comes to mechanical pencils, and Pentel doesn’t fool around with its reputation. As the name suggests, the Graph Gear 1000 is designed specifically for those of us who need to draft graphs and sketches on a regular basis, providing such a degree of efficiency and precision that even the most demanding of architects and designers would be satisfied with it.
But it’s not just mechanics and graphic designers who would find this pencil useful;
Much also needs to be said about the thought Pentel put into the mechanism of this product. While the lead advancement itself is a push-button mechanism, with a button on the top serving as the trigger, the pencil employs a ratchet system to control the amount of lead that leaves the tip.
On each push of the button, the lead advances a couple of millimeters but is automatically retracted to protect it from breaking, which means you have the perfect length every time.
There are, however, a few qualms people have had about this product over the years. Most notably, people have claimed that the pen clip, while useful, often comes in the way and snags while carrying in a pocket or case.
Familiar with the term “jack of all trades”? Well, the people over at LAMY certainly are, and with the LAMY Multi-System, the company aims to replace all the tools in your pocket with just one. How? By being a pen and mechanical pencil hybrid, of all things.
After all, why should you carry around a pen and a pencil at the same time (and fret when you can’t find the one you need) when you can just carry the LAMY Multi-System that’s able to function as both?
Besides the twin system that lets you switch from mechanical pencil to ballpoint pen with just a twist of the cap, there are also a couple of other things the product has going for it.
For one, the design of the pen is very simple, with just a smooth metal body and a metal clip that sits comfortably on the top. The pen also has an eraser hidden underneath the top push button so you can easily erase any mistakes you make with the pencil.
The Uni-ball Kuru Toga has somewhat of a legendary status when compared to other mechanical pencils at the same price point. Not because Uni (or Uni-ball) is such a big name in the stationary market (though it is), but because the pencil has one of the most innovative features on any mechanical pencil yet: a self-sharpening tip.
You know how using your pencil tip takes somewhat of a chisel shape after consistent use on one side, forcing you to periodically rotate the pencil in your hands to work with the sharper side of the tip?
Well, the Kuru Toga fixes this issue by rotating the lead itself every time you lift your pencil off the paper, meaning you’re almost always working with a conical, sharp tip.
The rest of the pencil is pretty simple in design really. A push-button mechanism at the top, an eraser to quickly fix your mistakes, all in a slim plastic body. Though largely unremarkable in its appearance, keeping the design plain let the people at Uni focus on the writing aspects of the pencil, and as we’ve mentioned above, they absolutely nailed that.
Another entry aimed specifically at those looking for a good pencil for sketching and drawing, the rOtring Rapid PRO is a must-have if you’re a graphic designer who’s had just had about enough with wooden pencils and their messy shavings. And the way they’ve achieved that is by perfecting the design of the tip of the pencil.
Besides giving you a fixed guidance sleeve, so you don’t break the lead on those heavy-handed sketches, the tip itself is very thin, quite above the lead sleeve. This lets you easily view the nib of the pencil as you’re using it, letting you use rulers and other instruments without having to twist your neck in a number of uncomfortable directions.
The grip on this pencil is also pretty comfortable to hold on to, opting for a simple knurled design that goes along well with the rest of the metallic body. While the grip itself is cylindrical in shape, the rest of the body is crafted with a hexagonal cross-section, a thoughtful design choice really, since it prevents the pencil from rolling off every time you set it down.
The Zebra Techno TS-3 doesn’t deserve its spot on this list for being the best pencil out there. Nor does it bring any new features or mechanics to the table like a few others mentioned here.
No, the Techno TS-3 is by all standards a very decent but otherwise unremarkable mechanical pencil, with even its design resembling that of an ordinary pen. Save one feature that is. It’s size.
The Techno TS-3 is the smallest pencil on this list, and we’re not kidding when we say this pencil is tiny. It’s barely 4 inches in length and rounds off to a diameter of just 5.5 mm (that’s along the entire length of the pencil).
And while these numbers may not sound like much on paper, they make a hell of a difference when you’re holding the pencil in your hands and carrying it around in your pocket.
The pencil’s small size makes it very easy to use, especially for people with small hands, and carrying it around in your pocket, ready to be whipped out at a moment’s notice, is a breeze.
And who cares if the design isn’t nothing too fancy. This was a pencil designed to be as utilitarian as possible, and in my humble opinion, if a simple metal exterior with just a push button on the top is the price for convenience and solid writing experience, then so be it.
Though I personally find brand loyalty to be one of the saddest tragedies of the 21st century (Apple users I’m looking at you), I must admit there are a few out there that have always delivered great products with consistency, and Parker is definitely up there.
These guys are well known for two things: sturdy construction and their own signature look, and the Jotter Mechanical pencil is no exception to this rule. I may have called other pencils on this list sleek, but none of them even come close to the looks Parker pens and pencils have been rocking for years, and the Jotter is one fine looking pencil.
They’re basically the Mercedes of the stationary world; their signature pen clip design is almost recognizable as the Mercedes logo on the bonnet of cars.
But looks aren’t the only things the Jotter has going for it. The pencil can handle a surprisingly high amount of rough use and is therefore even suitable for heavy-handed sketching without fear breaking the tip.
In fact, the Jotter is pretty durable and long-lasting, so you’re going to be buying this pencil for life. The tip is retractable, and you’ve even got an eraser hidden underneath that button.
Suffice to say, the Parker Jotter is the classiest entry on this list without sacrificing any bit of the essential functionality you might need from an everyday mechanical pencil.
While the rOtring Rapid PRO and Pentel Graph Gear 1000 are both suitable choices for an architect or construction worker to use, neither of these two products is as geared towards those people who work outdoors than Rite in the Rain (or Rite for short). The product is advertised solely as a pencil for construction workers and engineers and goes well out of its way to serve that niche with its design.
The pencil uses a 1.1 mm thick lead to ensure it doesn’t break under stressful conditions and the tip just above it won’t bend easily either. The most thoughtful design feature, however, has to be the bright yellow color of the pencil, which makes finding it once you’ve put it down way easier than if you were using a normal mechanical pencil.
Unfortunately, by making sure the pencil completely satisfies the niche it’s targeting, the pencil fails to stand up as a viable product for everyday use, so it’d be hard to recommend to anyone who doesn’t work a lot outdoors and can’t really take advantage of what this pencil really has to offer.
If there’s one pencil on this list that can give the Parker Jotter a run for its money in the aesthetics department, it’s got to be the Aviation Aluminum Mechanical pencil. One look at the design of this pencil is enough to get you interested in the product, and boy is it interesting.
The Aviation Aluminum uses a twist mechanism to advance the lead, but the way its mechanism works is unlike anything we’ve seen before. Instead of an outer wheel that turns an internal set of gears to push the lead forward, the lead is instead advanced by a magnetic ring that attracts and controls the inner metal cylinder holding the lead.
Twisting and sliding the ring on the exterior of the pencil’s body rotates and advances the lead respectively, giving you complete freedom as to how much of the lead you want outside the pencil.
Though it must be pointed out that this pencil isn’t for everyone, the 2 mm lead is quite thicker than what you would normally want to use, so the pencil is really only suitable for designers and artists looking for a good pencil for sketching. That and the fact that you may have to sharpen the lead yourself every once in a while puts a real damper on the usability of this product.
It’d be a crime not to include a shaker mechanical pencil on this list, and if we have to pick one, we’d choose the Mono Graph from Tombow. Using the pencil is an utter delight (well, for fans of the shaker mechanism anyway).
Constantly shifting your grip to push the lead down with the button on the top is a real pain, and a shaker intends to do away with this by letting you advance the lead with a simple shaking motion.
The mechanism is a little tricky to get right, and most products that employ it often end up as being gimmicky instead of useful, but the Mono Graph doesn’t fall in this category. The pencil may not be remarkable in any other aspect, but the shaking mechanism is something that it has got down pat.
The rest is just pretty standard — an eraser at the top, retractable tip, and a slim plastic body. Pretty much the only reason you should buy this pencil over any other in this list is if you really want the shaker mechanism in your mechanical pencil.
No top ten best mechanical pencil list is complete without mentioning the Pentel Sharp Kerry mechanical pencil, a tool that’s gotten great reviews on almost every store it’s shelved on, and even has many experts claiming as the best pencil to get, period.
Suffice to say, if you’re looking for an all-rounder multi-purpose mechanical pencil, then you’d be hard-pressed to find one that’s more suited to the job than the Pentel Sharp Kerry.
The Sharp Kerry has a very professional look to it, meaning it’s suitable for use both in the office and in the classroom. This pencil is one of the few on the market that sport a removable cap, which both protects the tip of the pencil when it’s not in use and adds a bit of extra weight to the top to give better balance.
The pencil lies in the comfortable weight class, not too heavy a single thin make writing continuously tiring, nor too light to risk the pen flying out of your hands. And the writing experience is right up there among the best pencils in the market.
All in all, the Pentel Sharp Kerry is a well-balanced all-rounder that could work for just about any use you might want to put it through.
While any of the above pencils would be a good pick for you, there are obviously some that are way better than others. On the other hand, the perfect pencil for you may be different from that of the next person because you’d have different needs. So, to give you a better idea of what would be the best mechanical pencil for YOU to buy, we’ve divided our picks according to usage:
For everyday use:
If you’re looking for something to use on a daily basis (tackling your arithmetic homework just isn’t the same without the best mechanical pencil for math on your side), then you can’t go wrong with the Parker Jotter mechanical pencil, the Uni-ball Kuru Toga or either of the two Pentel entries on this list (i.e. the Graph Gear 1000 or the Sharp Kerry).
Here’s a comparison chart to help you quickly assess which of these will suit your needs best.
Our personal favorite is the Parker Jotter, but really any of these mechanical pencils would serve you just fine as your daily driver.
For designers and artists:
If your interests are more artistically inclined than that of the average user, then both the Pentel Graph Gear 100 and rOtring Rapid PRO are the best mechanical pencils for drawing. There’s only a couple of minute differences between the two, so you would be fine picking either one.
For outdoor use and for heavy construction workers:
Rite in the Rain. Absolutely no question about it. Though the Pentel Graph Gear 1000 could be considered a candidate for the best mechanical pencil for engineers, but in our opinion, it’d lose to Rite in the Rain by a long margin.
Overall top pick
The Pentel Graph Gear 1000. What can we say, this pencil is good for just about every use under the sun.
Things to consider before selecting a mechanical pencil
While the best way to figure out if a mechanical pencil is right for you or not is to hold it in your own hands and try writing out a couple of lines with it, there are a couple of things you should keep in mind before making your choice.
That, and buying stuff over the internet means you can’t really test a product out before you order it (T-T). So, before you set out to order any of the previously mentioned pencils, take a look at these points to help you make a more informed decision.
The first thing you need to decide on before you even look at a pencil is the size of lead (that’s the diameter of the lead for those of you who’re confused) you want. Typically, lead sizes are measured in millimeters, and almost all pencils lie in the 0.2 to 1.3 mm range.
These sizes are clearly mentioned on the tiny boxes that carry these pencils leads and the pencils that use them; needless to say, you can’t use a pencil lead of a different size (say 0.3 mm) from the one specified on the mechanical pencil itself (say 0.5 in this case). Which means you have to keep the size in mind when you’re making your purchase.
So, what size of lead is best for me? Well, that’s something that’s entirely dependent on your use. The smaller the lead size is, the finer and sharper its tip will be, letting you draw very fine lines and write in a compact manner, though you need to be delicate in your use lest you want to break the tip off on every stroke. On the other hand, larger lead sizes (i.e. thicker leads) let you write with a heavier hand and create bold lines, which are great for sketching and bold writing.
If you’re just looking for something for everyday use, then the standard 0.5 mm and 0.7 sizes should suit you very well, with the latter recommended over the former if you’re someone who likes a bolder style or writes with a heavy hand.
Go for the smaller sizes like 0.2 and 0.3 mm if you’re looking to do some very fine writing and detailing, and opt for the larger sizes (0.9 mm and above) if your usage mostly revolves around heavy sketching and bold detailing.
Lead advancement mechanism
Once you’re done selecting the appropriate lead size, the next step is to decide on the mechanism you want your pencil to have for propagating the lead (advancing the tip once its been used up). There are quite a few options to choose from here:
Push button: This is the mechanism you’re probably the most familiar with. A simple button on the top to push down the lead in fixed increments, allowing you to keep working once you’ve finished off the previous tip.
The usage of the mechanism is simple enough to make learning how to use it barely a chore, and using it while you’re working really only takes a slight displacement of your fingers and thumb.
The only real problem this mechanism has is the fixed increments with which the lead advances on each click of the button. For almost every pencil that employs this mechanism, you don’t have the option to adjust the lead advancement to your liking, meaning you’re almost always going to end up pushing out either too much or too little of the lead every time you’re refreshing the tip. Push-button pencils get around this problem by letting you push back in the lead by holding down on the button, but the process does get tedious after a while.
Shaker: Though many people might not feel the inconvenience of constantly having to change their grip on the pencil to push the lead down, there are quite a few people who find this constant back and forth distracting.
This is where shaker pencils come in since they let you achieve the same result without ever having to readjust your grip; all you have to do is give the pencil a good shake, bringing it up and down with each motion.
It’s just a shame that the shaker mechanism isn’t as precise as the push-button in its operation. Sure, the shaker lets you advance the lead without changing your grip, but the control you have over how much the lead advances per shake is proportional to the intensity of your shake, something which you’ll have to master through trial and error.
And even if you’ve got the shaking part down pat, you’re still going to end up with the wrong amount of lead for the same reason as you would with push pencils, which is why most shakers include a push button on the top to help you control the lead tip more precisely, which you’ll ironically find yourself relying on quite a lot, especially in the beginning.
Twist: While the push button and shaker mechanisms offer only a varying degree of precision in their use, the twist mechanism stands head and shoulders above the previous two by letting you adjust the tip to exactly where you want it.
This is achieved with the help of a rotating wheel or knob on the pencil, twisting which lets you advance or retract the lead to get the tip exactly how you want it in one go. Which means you don’t have to go through the constant pain of readjusting your lead if you push it out too far as you would have to with the previous two entries.
Sadly, however, this increase in precision and control comes at a hefty cost, namely that of a loss of convenience. Being able to control the length of the tip is all well and good, but you really start questioning the advantage of this precision after a few days of use (having to readjust your grip to work the twist wheel constantly gets old really fast).
That, and you’d be hard-pressed to find twist pencils that house anything lower than a 0.7 mm lead, meaning the one application where you could actually make use of the extra precision (i.e. fine lines or drawings) aren’t really open to most pencils that employ the twist mechanism.
Bend/Body knock: Another attempted improvement at the traditional push-button concept, the body knock mechanism tries to solve the problem from a different angle. Instead of having you push a button or shake your pencil, body knock pencils have you bend the pencil itself, with the lead advancing similar to how it does in push-button pencil; basically, using a button hidden inside the pencil which you push down on by bending the pencil.
The best part about body knock pencils is that they let you use them without changing your grip or having to shake them vigorously. The pencils are pretty flexible, and you only really need three fingers to be able to bend them and advance the lead. You can even bend the pencil in whatever direction you like, meaning you aren’t restricted into holding the pencil in a certain way.
However, while all of this sounds good on paper, body knock pencils are far from a very practical choice. Their precision as to the amount of lead you’re able to advance with each click is the worst among all four mentioned so far, and it’s hard to judge how much you have to bend the pencil to get the lead out the way you want, even more so than with shaker pencils.
All of these things make using a body knock pencil very awkward in the beginning, which is why many people who use them just give up and switch to a shaker or a push-button instead.
Automatic: Forget buttons, shaking mechanisms, and even twist wheels, what if you could write without ever having to stop to advance the lead yourself? That’s right, with pencils that employ the automatic lead advancement mechanism, you don’t have to move a finger to propagate the lead, literally!
Thanks to a ratchet mechanism that activates every time your lead nib runs out, and pressure is applied on your lead sleeve, your lead is continuously pushed out as you need it, letting you experience truly automatic writing experience.
Though it does merit mentioning that writing with an automatic pencil isn’t exactly the most comfortable experience. This is mostly a side-effect of the automatic mechanism itself; since the lead can only be propagated when there is a significant amount of pressure on the lead sleeve.
This means you’re going to find yourself constantly dragging your lead sleeve across the surface of the paper, which is a lot more bothersome than it sounds. Some might even see the novelty of the automatic pencil wearing off because of this limitation, so keep that in mind if you’re looking to buy an automatic pencil.
The grip section is what you should turn your focus on to next. While most people tend to buy pencils paying more attention to the overall looks and aesthetics of the entire pencil, they often overlook the testing whether or not the grip section is one that’ll work for them in the long run.
Which is why it’s not surprising when they start regretting their purchase after a few days of use, simply because the grip on the pencil they selected isn’t comfortable enough to work with. It’s important to get a pencil that looks good and has the right mechanism and lead size, but it’s equally important (dare I say even more important) to select a pencil that isn’t a pain for your fingers to work with for long continuous bursts.
There are two factors you need to consider to figure out if the grip on the pencil you’re looking at is right for you:
Diameter: Just as mechanical pencil leads come in different sizes, the pencils that house them are also available in a number of diameters. However, unlike the leads, mechanical pencils aren’t standardized to have exact diameters for their grip sections, so you can really only compare the pencils between each other to see if one pencil’s diameter is bigger than the other or not.
Typically, the diameter ranges from that of a very thin pen to a thick marker, but most mechanical pencils lie towards the median of this spectrum.
Deciding on what diameter pencil you should get is pretty easy. If you have fine, delicate fingers or small hands, you’d be better off selecting a thinner pencil, since it’d be easier for you to hold it and work with it for long periods of time.
On the other hand, if your hands were a bit on the meatier side or if you suffer from arthritis or other hand issues, a pencil with a larger grip diameter would be far more comfortable to use for you.
Material: Deciding on the material of the grip you want is a little tougher than choosing the diameter, largely because this is something you can only be absolutely sure of once you’re actually holding the material in your hands.
And the wide variety of materials don’t exactly help to make this choice easier; most mechanical pencils have their grips made out of plastic, metal, rubber and/or silicone, but there are quite a few that use a few more unconventional materials like glass and even stone.
The good news is, however, that you’re probably already familiar with what you’d like. If you’re someone who’s used to working with metal pens, then a mechanical pencil with a metal grip should work just fine for you. If plastic or rubber is more your forte, than pencils in these materials would be more to your liking, and you could even give the silicone a try.
Though, fair warning, rubber and silicone grips come in a variety of flavors themselves, ranging from firm but grippy to ones that have pillow-like squishiness to them, so keep an eye out for that if you’re looking to buy a pencil with such grips.
And do watch out for textured grips on some pencils, especially the ones made of metal. Some people like them for the extra grip they provide for your fingers, while others feel like they’re largely unnecessary and ironically end up making the writing experience more uncomfortable.
About the eraser
Having an eraser on the top of your pencil is undeniably convenient, and it saves you from the trouble of carrying a separate eraser on your person to erase out any mistakes you make when writing. Therefore, buying a pencil with an eraser on the top is only a logical step, and most manufacturers agree, which is why almost every pencil comes with an eraser attached to the top. Question is though, how useful is that eraser exactly?
The major problem with every eraser on the top of a pencil is how small it is, meaning it’s bound to run out way before the pencil itself becomes worn out with consistent use.
When that happens, finding a replacement eraser to fit into that same hole might be a tremendous pain, since most companies don’t really do replaceable eraser sticks the way they do replaceable pencil leads, if you catch my drift.
Better to just stick to using a proper separate eraser; you’ll be able to erase your mistakes cleaner and wouldn’t run out of usable eraser for a very long time.
You should still get a pencil with an eraser on the top though since it does come in handy every once in a while. Especially when you don’t have your eraser on you and you need to quickly edit what you’ve just written.
Though the exact process varies from pencil to pencil, most have a removable top that you can screw/pop off to reveal the internal chamber that houses the lead. Just drop in a new lead and click the pencil a few times to push it out of the tip and you’re good to go.
While this is mostly a personal preference, we feel that the traditional push-button mechanism deserves this honor. Simple yet effective, it’s no wonder most of the companies on the market employ this mechanism into their products.
That depends entirely on whether or not the eraser refills are able to fit into the hole on the top of your pencil. If you’re able to stuff a replacement eraser without jamming up the pencil, then I say go for it. Otherwise, you’re better off just using a separate normal eraser.
Yes, as long as they’re the same size as the ones your mechanical pencil uses, you can use leads from practically any company on the planet. The quality may be inconsistent since not all brands produce the best mechanical pencil lead, but that’s another can of worms altogether.
Now that you know what the best mechanical pencil in 2019 is, I’m pretty sure you’d be able to buy the one that best befits your need.
Last update on 2019-11-21 at 01:30 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API