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Mechanical Pencils In The Spotlight

07/05/2020

Cult Pens has deemed July 5th as Mechanical Pencil Day making this a good time to review a few models beyond the ubiquitous Pentel.

Autopoint, Pentel, Ibis Sketch, Tombow MONO graph, Pilot Opt., uni Kuru Toga, Zebra DelGuard

For years, an Autopoint has been a staple in my rotation while a few uninspiring MPs accumulated in a drawer. No love for that lot. Then came the quarantine and the time to play with the unloved bunch to which I added one that is especially comfortable in my hand. Much to my surprise, I now like all of them if to varying degrees.

Just as pens and inks need to be matched for best performance and a satisfying writing experience, mechanical pencils and leads benefit from similar consideration. How could I have missed this?

Lead properties include diameter, lead darkness, smoothness, sturdiness and durability. Pen characteristics include grip, diameter, materials, lead advancement, and eraser size. Color and form are less varied than in fountain pens as MPs are more workhorse than eye-candy though there are a few pastel and neon models in addition to black, white, and red. Doesn’t that sound simple compared to the vast world of fountain pens and inks?

Best features:

uni Alpha-Gel Shaker Soft Grip – Lead advances with only a gentle shake but the mechanism broke quickly.

Pilot Opt. – Shaker advance with wide barrel.

Tombow MONO graph – Locking shaker advance with long needle tip.

Zebra DelGuard – Tip design reduces breakage to zero for me.

Uni Kuru Toga – Lead rotates producing a very uniform line.

Pentel icy – Best value and availability.

Autopoint Jumbo All-American – Very sturdy. My first one lasted 15 years.

Ibis Art Sketch – Wide 1.8mm rectangular lead.

Zebra DelGuard, uni Kuru Toga, Pilot Opt., Tombow MONO graph

Comments:

Only the Autopoint 0.9mm with HB lead stood up flawlessly to heavy-handed use.

The Zebra Delguard 0.7mm with 2B lead did very well with soft to medium pressure. With HB lead, the tip did not break easily. This pencil is a very comfortable diameter for long writing sessions.

The uni Alpha-Gel Shaker Soft Grip 0.5 HB has a gel grip and advances the lead with a gentle shake rather than having to press a button. This significantly reduces the interruption of writing flow. Uni Nano lead is less inclined to break in it. Unfortunately, the shaker mechanism broke after only two weeks of modest use.

Pilot Opt. 0.5 has the shaker mechanism so lead advances easily. It is a bit heavier than many of the other pencils with a slightly wider diameter than most and has a soft grip. The clip is far and away the easiest to use. Just push the top against the barrel and the clip opens.

Tombow MONO graph 0.5 is another pencil with a shaker advance but this one locks so the lead won’t advance if jostled in a case or pocket. The metal sheathing for the tip is very long making it especially suited to precise lines and for use with rulers. It is paired with Uni Nano Dia 4B lead for a dark line.

The Pentel Icy 0.7mm with Pentel B or HB lead is a little more prone to breakage but it is inexpensive and available everywhere.

The Uni Kuru Toga 0.5mm has a unique tip that rotates the lead so that it maintains a consistent line shape. The tip gives a little to accomplish that feat and for me worked best with a light touch. I like it best with Uni Kuru Toga 2B lead.

The Ibis Art Sketch Mechanical pencil is unique. It comes with a flat 1.8mm 2B lead that puts down a very wide line.The lead is too solid to break and very smooth.

Ibis Sketch 1.8mm lead

Conclusions:

I already own four Autopoints, so there is no need for another. If I were to purchase a second pencil from one of the other models, it would be the DelGuard 0.7mm. In addition to lead not breaking easily, the grip and balance suit my hand very well. Uni Nano Dia lead is strong and a good match for it whether HB or 2B.

The shaker pens are very convenient to use. The Tombow MONO graph with its needle point is perfect for tiny writing and fine details because the lead tip is highly visible.

As for 0.5 and 0.7mm leads, I used Kuru Toga, Pentel, and uni Nano Dia. The latter wins as it breaks less easily in the 0.5 size than the others.

At 0.9mm, the Autopoint HB lead does not break at all. For those who are heavy-handed, this lead in an Autopoint pencil might be just the thing. The line is a bit soft but that for me has been an acceptable trade-off.

The erasers are very similar in size with the Pentel and the Autopoint being somewhat larger. I rarely use them and prefer a Staedtler Mars Plastic eraser when needed.

Not a day goes by that I don’t use a mechanical pencil. It is an essential tool in my kit and a bargain at the price.

Teoh review of the Uni Kuru Toga.

Product Links:

Available at Amazon from which I might receive a tiny commission should you purchase through these links.

Autopoint All American 0.9

Tombow MONO graph 0.5 pastel, neon or gunmetal

uni Kuru Toga 0.5 colors or black

Pilot Opt. 0.5

Zebra DelGuard 0.7

Pentel icy 0.7 (newer model)

Uni Alpha-Gel Shaker 0.5

Ibis Art Sketch 1.8mm

Autopoint 0.9 HB lead

Pentel 0.7 HB and B leads

Uni Kuru  Toga 0.5 2B lead

uni Nano Dia 0.5 4B and 0.7 2B leads

Staedtler Mars Plastic eraser block or stick

9 comments

  1. My favorite mechanical pencil is the Faber-Castell e-Motion with a 1.4mm lead that is very expressive, and the bullet shape fits very well in hand.

    Liked by 1 person


    • Good one. Who makes the lead you like?

      Like


  2. […] Mechanical Pencils In The Spotlight – An Inkophile’s Blog […]

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  3. […] Mechanical Pencils In The Spotlight (An Inkophile’s Blog) […]

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  4. What about the Pentel Kerry?

    Like


    • Can’t comment since I have never used one. What do you like about it?

      Like


      • Great retro style, convenient cap, clever design. Writes well too.

        Liked by 1 person


        • Sounds good to me.

          Like


  5. […] Mechanical Pencils In The Spotlight | An Inkophile’s Blog […]

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