Finding the Perfect Mechanical Pencil

A few weeks ago, I came to the realization that the tools I was using for gaming weren’t the right ones for what I was trying to accomplish.  What exactly was I trying to accomplish?  Well, I feel a very strong connection of writing utensil to paper.  I’m not a good artist, by any measure.  My handwriting is pretty atrocious.  But, I find ownership over what I create with writing utensil and paper, more so often than blogging.  After all, writing is literally physical and blogging is ones and zeros.  If a server somewhere at WordPress headquarters is destroyed in a fire, I’ll lose all of my work here.  But a physical copy?  It may not be any safer than the server, but at least I know I have control over it.  Long story short, I have always felt that if an intellectual has a signature “tool”, for me it is a writing instrument and this is my foray into finding the style of mechanical pencil, specifically, that is best for me.

Personal metaphysical philosophy aside, my current project is making a map of a large castle that I can use in future games, specifically the DND 5th campaign I’ll start up at school this year.  Pictures to come.  Right now it stands at 19 stories high and three basement floors with intentions to “dungeon” the basement a lot deeper!

Here are the four mechanical pencils I’ve bought and tried over the last few weeks.  None of these are my ultimate ideal, but that price range is something I’d have to save up for as a goal.  These are all cheap.  The first pic shows all four, with a sample of their writing, and their basic features.

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Uni Kuru Toga

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The Uni Kuru Toga is manufactured in Japan.  It has a special mechanism that twists the graphite as you write.  Not advances.  Twists.  As you write with a pencil, the graphite goes from cone shaped to a sharp point like a hypodermic needle.  Normally you would have to twirl your pencil to work off this edge.  The Kuru Toga solves this problem with this mechanism.  It is very light in the hand and feels great.  It came with extra graphite and erasers for the rock bottom sale price of two bucks.  It retails for six to seven.  My big criticism is that the eraser casing wobbles a lot when you erase.  You don’t really spend a lot of time erasing with the cap erasers of these pencils anyway so overall I give this high marks.

Tul Mechanical Pencil

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This was an impulse buy when I went in to get a deal on cheapo pencils for kids for the upcoming school year.  I paid retail (seven bucks) for two pencils.  The background for Tul is that it is Office Max’ new “fancy” brand of pens and pencils that has been around for a few years.  This pencil features a pretty unsophisticated retractable tip that is cone-shaped rather than the classic hypodermic nature of a drafting pencil.  The body is uniform, without any aides for holding it near the grip.  The eraser is extendable out of the top and that is what sold me on trying it.  My ideal pencil will have a retractable point with an extendable eraser. That is, unfortunately, not an industry standard for the professional-grade pencils.  This is the best compromise of all worlds that I can find.  Its cheap, and the eraser does get pushed in when you erase with it so it is far from ideal.  The supposed best twist eraser mechanism is on the Pentel Twist Erase III, but that one is not retractable.  It writes just fine: better than a cheapo mechanical pencil which is what one would hope for given the price range.

Alvin Draft-Tec Retrac

I reviewed the Alvin a few weeks ago.  You can check out the review here.

Pentel GraphGear 1000

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The Pentel GraphGear 1000 sits at the top of the class of affordable, easy to obtain pencils.  It retails for 20 USD.  I paid six on Amazon with free shipping, because I try not to pay retail for anything.  The body is brushed aluminum and the grip has lovely little latex free plastic grip dots on the bottom.  There is a classic small Pentel eraser at the top, which is exposed when you lift out the eraser cap, also aluminum.  The clip on the side is not only functional in the sense that it will hold it in your pocket, but also in that it retracts the graphite sleeve.  This pencil sounds great.  The tip extension, the retraction, the graphite extension: everything sounds very satisfying.  My only concern with this one is the weight.  It is the heaviest of all four.  If you were doing extended writing with it (which I usually don’t), you’d get hand fatigue unless your profession was constant writing or drawing.  This pencil comes in a subdued version, the Pentel GraphGear 500.  I’ve held one in my hand and it is slightly lighter than this.  I don’t like the 500’s textured metal grip.  I prefer plastic or rubber that is softer on my hands and isn’t scrapey.  If the weight is my only concern, I’ll have to declare the 1000 my tentative winner of the four.

Pentel GraphGear 1000 (most satisfying writing, action, and sounds)

Uni Kuru Toga (feels great in the hand and ingenious graphite rotation)

Alvin Draft-Tec Retrac (Pentel GraphGear 1000 light sums it up)

Tul Mechanical pencil (better than a cheapo and still possesses retraction and an extending eraser)

Honestly, I’ll use all of them. 😉

To wrap up this post, please follow this link with sound on:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IRsPheErBj8

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32 thoughts on “Finding the Perfect Mechanical Pencil

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