Choosing A Mechanical Pencil

First time looking for a nice mechanical pencil? This guide is where to start. All the options I list here are fairly affordable (though some more so than others) and very accesible to the beginner. I have no commercial affiliations with any pencil companies or vendors; this is all my own opinion.

The first choice you’ll have to make is lead size. The “lead size” of a mechanical pencil typically describes the lead diameter in millimeters. The most common lead sizes are 0.5mm and 0.7mm, but they can range from 0.2mm all the way to the rather chunky 1.3mm. For people starting out, I recommend 0.5mm or 0.7mm. Most mechanical pencils you’ll find lying around are 0.7mm. If you want a little more precision, go with 0.5.

Varying lead sizes. From left, 0.2, 0.3, 0.5, 0.7, 0.9, and 1.3mm.

Varying lead sizes. From left, 0.2, 0.3, 0.5, 0.7, 0.9, and 1.3mm.

Having chosen the lead size you want, you’ll be needing an actual pencil. Below I have listed the five mechanical pencils I most highly recommend for anyone starting out. I have kept all my choices affordable and easy-to-find. They are in no particular order.

Best Economy Choice: Pentel P205

The P205 is the pencil that singlehandedly revamped the mechanical pencil industry in the 1950s. Made by Pentel in Japan, the P205 is something of a classic. Don’t be fooled by its low price (around $4!) and light weight; the P205 is perhaps the greatest value one can find in a mechanical pencil. The low cost means it can be lost or broken without much inconvenience. the long lead sleeve and sturdy plastic body mean this pencil is precise and long-lasting. I have personally never heard of one breaking. Ever.

The All-Around Best Choice: Pentel GraphGear 1000

This is the pencil I most highly encourage a newcomer to check out. It has an all-metal body, cool technical looks, and a tip-retraction system to prevent breaking the lead sleeve when it’s dropped. You’ll be able to find it for around $15. Made by the outstanding Japanese company Pentel, the Graphgear 1000 is a choice you won’t regret.

I’ve glossed over many things (such as lead hardness, HB is fine for now), but this is the basics of getting a great mechanical pencil. I highly recommend all of the options I’ve given, and promise you won’t be disappointed.