Write Dudes GL 560 Mechanical Pencil Review

Write Dudes is a new manufacturer in pencils that most aficionados are going to explore out of morbid curiosity.  These pencils are cheap, but have a surprising array of features.

My last review of a Write Dudes pencil wasn’t terribly flattering and this one isn’t going to be that different.  If its possible to simultaneously love and despise a writing instrument, Write Dudes is your company.  It is owned by MegaBrands, Inc., which owns RoseArt (the Kia of the art world) and MegaBloks, which is all owned by Mattel/Fisher Price.  Yes, a toy company.  Write Dudes got their start selling magnetic dry erase boards in the early 2000s.  As an educator, that isn’t terribly impressive to me given how much companies have gouged educators on products like that.  Dry erase boards:  Good.  Dry erase boards at a huge “education” markup:  Bad.

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Write Dudes has an interesting marketing strategy for it’s pencils.  It can be boiled down to:  “Our pencils and erasers might be made in China but our SUPER STRONG GORILLA LEAD is made in Japan!”  *facepalm*  This is obviously meant to impress the average Target consumer who is choosing between the cheap plastic BICs and the cheap plastic Papermates.  I mean, if that’s your angle, good luck.  If it works, it works, right?  I mean, you get three extra useless erasers and 12 extra leads with two “drafting style” pencils for seven bucks.  These may be a Target exclusive because I’m struggling to find this exact package’s information ANYWHERE online, including target.com and writedudes.com.  Way to stand behind your product.  Fishy.

This particular model (GL 560) of a really crappy brand is interesting because these are drafting-style mechanical pencils beings marketed at a low price point.  That may actually be unique.  These are clearly modelled after the Pentel GraphGear 500 in terms of the overall look.  I am not a fan of the 500, but I fully respect its quality compared to these.

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Right off the bat we notice the metal knurled grip (which actually feels pretty good) and the branding proudly proclaiming “Write Dudes™”, model and lead size, and “China” on the side.  Folks, I don’t think your trademark is in any danger.  An MBA, somewhere in the world, was more worried about trademark than anything.  Like the Pentel GG 500, the grip and tip are metal, the pocket clip is metal, and the body of the pencil is plastic.  The lead sleeve is retractable, which is always very much appreciated as a design feature.  More on this in a bit.

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The erasers are drafting size and are protected by a glossy plastic cap.  This is where the quality starts to disintegrate.  There is a huge amount of play in the mechanism when you erase.  As in so much play that it prevents you from being precise.  I imagine an executive at Write Dudes designing this pencil and never actually bothering to test it.  Or, maybe they did test it but improving it would cut into their margins?  I don’t know.  As I personally tested this pencil, the entire eraser mechanism popped out one of the times that I took the cap off.  It was clearly not designed to do that.  It just fell apart.

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When you click, the mechanism doesn’t sound too bad!  But if you notice the amount of lead dispensed in the image above:  that is after only two clicks.  One click to extend the lead sleeve and one additional.  That’s WAY too much lead for two clicks.  I think the standard is pretty much 6mm for ten clicks and you’re looking at 20 mm for ten clicks with this abomination.  That doesn’t allow lead breakage, it invites lead breakage.  I don’t care how “gorilla” strong your lead is.  That tells you everything that you need to know about the “design” of the mechanism, if we can use that strong of a word to describe the decisions involved.

But here is where the plot thickens.  The retractable sleeve is actually a sliding sleeve!  That shocked the hell out of me.  And of course, by sliding sleeve, I mean that the sleeve gradually retracts as you write, preventing you from needing to click if you are “in the moment” and don’t want to pause.  I fully tested it.  It is a classic sliding sleeve!  Do you know how many sliding sleeves are readily available at retail stores in the US?  Usually exactly zero.  Folks from Japan and Germany, I’m sure you might have some options.  But here?  Nada. I mean, given the rest of the quality of the pencil, I’m suspicious that this just might be a happy accident.  As in, the lead sleeve is SO poorly designed that it happens to slide?  Ha ha.  I’m not sure.  But, its true of both pencils.

So, these pencils are a total enigma.  I love the sliding sleeve and the grip, and I hate pretty much the whole rest of the pencil.  Poor, cheap construction combined with a really rare feature and design for a big box store.

Pros:  A rare place to purchase a sliding sleeve pencil in a store, grip feels pretty solid, retractable, bonus accoutrement

Cons:  Poor construction, eraser is a joke (even by drafting standards), huge play in eraser mechanism, click mechanism is imprecise

Writing Experience: OK+ (solid grip and sliding sleeve, mechanism knocks it down from Good, it feels better in my hand than a Pentel Graph Gear 1000.  If that hurts your feelings, I’m sorry.)

Quality: Poor

Features: OK+ (sliding sleeve alone gives it a narrow bump from OK)

Price: Cheap (6.99 USD for the set)

So, the verdict is that if you are desperate for a sliding sleeve and don’t have access to a credit card to purchase online, at least you have an option!  This is also probably better than any of the other Write Dudes pencils available at Target, any BICs and any Papermates. So, that is their angle and I at least respect them trying to be at the top of something.  The thing is, you can buy a Pentel P207 in metallic pastels at Target.  So, Write Dudes, you have failed.

Please read through the Top Ten and honorable mentions and consider any of them as an alternative, I beg you.

The Top Ten:

1) Pentel Sharp Kerry

Writing Experience: Great, Quality: Great, Features: Great, Price: Moderate

2) Pilot S20

Writing Experience: Great, Quality: Great, Features: Good, Price: Expensive

3) Rotring Rapid Pro

Writing Experience: Great, Quality: Superb, Features: Good+, Price: Expensive

4) Tombow Zoom 505sh

Writing Experience: Great, Quality: Good, Features: Good, Price: Expensive

5) Pentel Sharp P205

Writing Experience: Great, Quality: Good, Features: Good, Price: Cheap

6) Pentel Twist Erase GT

Writing Experience: Great, Quality: Good, Features: Great, Price: Cheap

7) Tombow Mono Graph Shaker

Writing Experience: Good, Quality: Good, Features: Good, Price: Cheap

8) Pentel Graphgear 1000

Writing Experience: OK, Quality: Good+, Features: Great, Price: Moderate

9) Uni Shift Pipe-lock

Writing Experience: Good, Quality: Good, Features: OK, Price: Moderate

10) Alvin Draft/Matic

Writing Experience: Good, Quality: Good, Features: Good, Price: Moderate

Honorable mentions (in alphabetical order):  Pilot RexGripPilot S3, Rotring Tikky, Staedtler Triplus Micro 774, Uni Kuru Toga

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