Papermate Sharpwriter Mechanical Pencil Review

The Sharpwriter has been around for decades and remains the cheapest mechanical pencil in the Sanford/Papermate line amongst all of its properties.  It is an unholy abomination that you should probably consider killing with fire.

Now I’ll tell you how I really feel about it!  🙂 What could get me to buy a Sharpwriter?  The answer is twofold: 1) back to school sales and 2) a morbid desire to be comprehensive in reviewing mechanical pencil options.  I got the pack below for one dollar at a clearance.


Hey, I got a “free” pen!  They’ll do anything to push their better products, apparently.  In my mind, I just bought a pen for a buck and got six “free” Sharpwriters.  ;P

The Sharpwriter has always been produced in a classic muted yellow color, but in recent years it has also been produced in bright neon colors.  It’s plastic body is the definition of cheap.  The eraser at the top is not replaceable and neither is the lead in the pencil.  Once you run out of either, you’re done.  Although, people online have gone to interesting lengths to refill Sharpwriters.

I wonder if the white gloves are necessary.  I also wonder if it is worth the effort when a very simple design decision can make a pencil refillable.  I salute the ingenuity of the people who refill them, but in a way they are just playing into the hands of a wasteful corporation looking for the lowest price point.

Modern Sharpwriters still feature a tip that rotates to extend and retract lead, with the added feature of a lead cushioning system.  There is a reason why modern pencils have gone away from the twist mechanism for lead extension.  It slows you down.  It is not efficient.  The Sharpwriter is the rotary landline of the mechanical pencil world.

The lead cushioning mechanism is a pogo-stick level of springy.  It really cuts down on your ability to be precise while writing.  If I were a primary teacher I would ban them in my classroom, because heck if I’m gonna teach kids to be sloppy writers.
wpid-20150920_095703.jpgI’m pressing down hard on 5 mm of lead.  Here kids!  By giving you a liability to precision we’ll make you stronger writers!  When I was your age, I cut my arms off to force myself to be a better writer.  I also walked to school uphill both ways.

I’m certain that this lead cushioning mechanism results in less lead breakage.  A positive point!  This was the ultimate flaw of Sharpwriters that I used (whenever I could avoid it) as a kid.  Heck, as an elementary school student I hated these things.  I still do, in case it hasn’t been obvious.  🙂

The funny thing is that, in fixing that problem, they created another one.  The whole tip assembly wiggles.  It’s honestly like trying to shoot an arrow straight while someone has a hold of the nock and is spinning it in circles while you’re trying to aim.


The eraser is not refillable and is a classic pink eraser that may very well wear down before you even use up the lead in the pencil.

It’s just a tragic package.

The real joke is that Sharpwriters may be the cheapest mechanical pencil out there, but they aren’t that much cheaper than any model that can be refilled.  In that regard, I find the Sharpwriter to represent everything that a mechanical pencil should not be.  It is the ultimate nonexample. A mechanical pencil has two primary functions:  1) To speed up your writing with an erasable marking medium and 2) to be reuseable.  The Sharpwriter fails at the design level on number 2 and is only so good at number 1 as it has lead and eraser.  It is, in my mind, a mechanical pencil abomination.

To the rating scale!

Writing Experience: Bad (grip isn’t bad, but the lead cushioning mechanism ruins writing with it)

Quality: Bad (wobble in cone, eraser will disappear quickly to do any amount of erasing)

Features: Bad (It extends lead, with an annoying twist!  How novel! Lead cushioning is technically a feature.)

Cost: The cheapest, but not that much cheaper per unit than virtually anything that would have better quality and features.  It is a MBA-in-the-Boardroom-designed joke.

Sorry folks, but I feel like this review is the one review in which I can be extra snobby.  If you like the Sharpwriter, I think your opinion is coming entirely from some combination of nostalgia (fine) or ignorance (also fine).  But really folks, there’s so much more out there. This is the Sanka of mechanical pencils.

If you really want a fine writing instrument, pick anything else, seriously.  See below for twenty better choices.

Coming soon:  Lamy Scribble 3.15mm, Rotring 300 2mm, a lead holder sharpener review and a Rotring 600! *squeal*

The Top Ten:

1) Rotring Rapid Pro

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

2) TWSBI Precision

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

3) Pentel Sharp Kerry

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

4) Pilot S20

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

5) Lamy 2000

Writing Experience: Great, Quality: Great, Features: OK, Price: Expensive/Luxury

6) Tombow Zoom 505sh

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

7) Pentel Sharp P20X

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

8) Pentel Twist Erase GT

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

9) Pentel Energize Deluxe

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

10) Lamy Safari

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

Honorable mentions (in alphabetical order):

Alvin Draft/Matic, Parker Jotter, Pentel Quicker Clicker (vintage)Pilot Fure Fure CoronePilot RexGripStaedtler Mars micro 775, Staedtler Triplus Micro 774, Uni Kuru TogaUni Shift Pipe-lockZebra Delguard


One thought on “Papermate Sharpwriter Mechanical Pencil Review

  1. Kian

    Oh my word, this review is absolutely comical. A solution: just get a Bic Xtra Life pencil. It may be more expensive but at least has better value than this. Plus, it’s refillable and uses a top push mechanism.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s