So, I’ve had a solid few months to really spend some time writing with my pencil collection. Frankly, what I value in a pencil has changed and I wanted to do re-do the Top Ten with these new experiences in mind.
First, I want to write a little bit about how my feelings about mechanical pencils have changed based upon the last few months. I interpret some features differently now, and those new feelings are going to factor into my Top Ten. I’d also like to define what I think about when I review a pencil in more detail, as I haven’t made that explicitly clear. I’ve purposely avoided “rating” pencils with any kind of scale because I’m doing it so people can learn a little bit about different features before they buy or commit. Nobody wants to be uninformed while they are collecting or trying to find the right instrument. At the same time, take the list for what it is: a record of MY top ten, not THE top ten.
There are a couple of changes to how I am approaching things:
1) I’m coming around to fixed lead sleeves. The reason? Retractable sleeves (whether conical or straight) tend to have play that interferes with the writing experience. This is part of the reason I’m landing on the “not care for the Kuru Toga” camp. As soon as your lead sleeve moves, it results in less precise writing on the page. Yes, I know the Kuru Toga has an awesome mechanism. Yes, I know that a bevelled edge on a pencil that changes the lead diameter is annoying. But, precise writing matters too and the Uni Kuru Toga essentially solves one “problem” in exchange for another, in my opinion. It IS comfortable to write with and I would recommend the pencil to anyone. It just may no longer land in the Top Ten.
2) Not all retractable sleeves are created equal. There is a tendency for lead sleeves that have only a single “pipe” extend or retract to have more “wobble” than those that are conical retractable or have the entire tip of the pencil extend in and out. There are some single pipe retractables that work well. Many don’t.
3) Having a firm eraser dock is more important to me than the size of the eraser or having it be retractable now. If the eraser feels solid when you erase, I’m more likely to be on board than if it has any of these other perks. I’ve graduated to click erasers thanks to my wife.
4) I’m warming up to knurled metal grips. What I mean is that I don’t consider them to be an automatic knock on a pencil. I have encountered knurling that is comfortable for me, but that often conflicts with what other aficionados prefer. To each their own. My point is that I don’t want to reject a pencil just because it has a knurled metal grip.
5) The writing experience matters to me. I’m not collecting just to “possess.” There are pencils with a poor array of features that just feel good when I write with them. There are pencils with lots of great features that just don’t feel comfortable when I write.
I write with my mechanical pencils. I use them for drawing maps for gaming and for writing professionally. In fact, I’ve written more over the last six months than I have over the last few years combined. This is a interesting story in of itself. My school is a very technology-rich place. I use that technology to improve learning experiences. I use a lot of technology in my daily life. Lately, I’ve become pretty jaded with technology. That’s saying a lot. I worked with DOS on my personal computer in the mid 90s. I’ve seen the internet change from something that was unreliable and slow to something that is accessible anywhere and with consistent reliability. I’m what many would consider a true digital native. I didn’t just grow up around technology. I worked with it when you actually had to troubleshoot problems and figure them out on your own. I worked with it when there was no google to search and you’d spend hours getting it to work right.
So why the new attitude? I’ve always found the greatest connection to an idea when I write it than when I type it. I was the guy who took copious notes in high school and college and then never gave them a second viewing. Rather than needing to refer back to them, which I know is the case for many, I needed to just have the action of writing be the “learning” for me. I have more personal ownership over something that I hand write than something I type. I have no doubts that typing is quicker and more efficient. But, as I approach forty, I like the idea of slowing my life down a little bit and taking the time to do something well rather than something fast.
So, what’s the new Top Ten? I’m working on it. 🙂 Stay tuned.