Sorry, couldn’t resist. But I did acquire three new mechanical pencils over the last week. Here is my review of each!
Blick had their recent 20% off for members sale recently and I wanted to use that as an opportunity to acquire a few models that I didn’t yet have for the collection.
The Pentel P205 is the go-to drafting pencil for many professionals and I understand why. It is simple and elegant. Plastic body with inset grip molded from one piece of plastic, long drafting sleeve at the tip and very light weight. Removable eraser in cap. It basically does the most important aspects of a mechanical pencil only, downsized to make it very light. And its weight (or lack thereof) is its great strength. In addition, I find that the compromise to a plastic body does not lower the experience of using it. The body is twelve-sided, making it very close to a completely smooth design. The materials may be cheap, but the construction is solid. There is very little wiggle with the lead when you write and no detectable wiggle in the eraser when you erase. This last point is key as I’ve found that many mechanical pencils have a very annoying wiggle of the whole shaft mechanism when you erase. It is especially pronounced in Staedtler, Alvin, Uni and the rock bottom cheap models yet almost non-existent in Pentels. The lead advance is standard for a Pentel and well controlled. The cost is around five bucks at Blick.
Overall, it’s a great experience, and easily makes my top three.
Pentel PG525 “GraphGear 500”
The GraphGear 500 is the poor man’s version of the 1000. The cost is about six bucks compared to a retail of 20 for the 1000. It is lighter than the 1000, but also has a clear weight imbalance toward the tip. That doesn’t bother me. The grip of this pencil is much more pronounced than the P205, as you can see in the photo. There are very fine dimples all around and four deep grooves circling the bottom of the metal part of the shaft. I actually find that this makes it harder for me to hold. I actually find it slippery in the hand and I’m wondering if there is some way that I hold a pencil that makes this particular grip worse for me. It is solid construction with a standard Pentel eraser. Like the P205, it is not pocket safe as the lead sleeve is fixed. The main body of the pencil is plastic and is hexagonal in shape. It isn’t that different from the little rubber nubs on the grip of the 1000, so I may be being too hard on it. The lead advance is “Pentel standard”, without too much lead being advanced with each click. The one upgrade that I like over the P205 is that the eraser cover on the 500 has a fat edge on the end to make it easier to pull the cap off, identical to the 1000.
Overall, Pentel has really high quality, but for me as a user, my impressions are perpetually “you can have your cake, but you can’t eat it too!” There isn’t a Pentel out there that has my perfect combo of features. I can dream!
Write Dudes 0.5 mm
These pencils have been sold by Target for a few months now. Given how cheap they were (pack of two with twelve leads for 2.89…which is cheaper than the low-end Papermates and Pentels that really sacrifice construction), I decided to take the plunge and try them out, expecting full well that they would be utter crap. I wasn’t too far off the mark, but the price is right for something that is a clear attempt of a cheaper entry into the bottom of the barrel Papermate/Bic market. It seems an appropriate “upgrade” for Target, in that regard.
The pencil actually has some things going for it, despite its price. It has a retractable lead sleeve that is the straight variety, not the cone that is present on many other retractable models (Staedtler Triplus Micro, Tul). The eraser actually erases quite well, and is of the white polymer variety.
Of course, there is plenty to be desired too. The grip of the pencil is a triangular design with intricate grooves and inset into the shaft of the pencil. The plastic is rough and looks and feels cheap. I find it hard to grip with this design. I feel like I am all over the map in my desired grip profile, but I know this isn’t it. The eraser is very small. I am able to get a Pentel eraser to fit in the slot, but honestly I wouldn’t bother wasting a good eraser on such a low end pencil. The eraser holding assembly is wiggly when erasing. The lead advance is incredibly variable, with about 2 mm being released on three of every four clicks and almost 5 mm on the fourth! No thanks. The pencil is very clearly labelled as made in China, but they make a point to emphasize that the lead is made in Japan! Thank God. Its like cooking a Filet Mignon over a really crappy pan. The pan isn’t going to do the steak justice.
So, you get what you pay for. I’m not complaining too much. The Tul mechanical pencil gets the nod over this one for sure. I’m not crazy about either. The Write Dudes pencil is a far better value, which is a very loose statement because you sacrifice a lot of quality, but its way less expensive than the Tul.
I find it fun to explore these things and I’ve definitely been hand-writing an drawing more since I got into investigating one of my childhood loves!