For writers, skechers, and scribblers alike, a reliable mechanical pencil is one of the best tools available to add to your arsenal of essential stationery items. There are countless options but if you find all that choice overwhelming we've taken the time to assemble a list of ten solid options, one of which is sure to fulfill your technical requirements and aesthetic sensibilities.
1. Disposable plastic pencils
These are our least favorite type of mechanical pencil on the market. None are recommended.
If you take nothing else from this list, we’d be pleased if you followed this one recommendation and never purchase another plastic mechanical pencil.
Why? They don’t have particularly long useful lives. After it’s empty (or it breaks) it can't be recycled. It will end up in a landfill, incinerator, or someplace like Henderson Island, an uninhabited nature preserve located halfway between New Zealand and South America in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, where it will be one of an estimated 13,000 mostly plastic pieces of trash that end up on its shores every day.
If you have to get a disposable pencil, just get one made out of wood. They tend to be orange and have a big Nº2 on the side. At least it’s biodegradable and free of toxins.
2. rOtring 600
The rOtring 600 is a solidly made mechanical pencil that is both precise and durable.
Its full metal hexagonal barrel comes in black or silver and its unique shape prevents it from rolling when laid on tables. It features a brass mechanism for precision lead advancement. Another convenience it has built-in is a lead hardness grade indicator. For example, 0.35 diameter lead might be your preference for doing math work such as large matrices, while a thicker or softer lead would be preferable for draft work.
You can easily find replacement leads and erasers for it.
It costs about USD 16.
3. Pilot S20
The Pilot S20 features a birch wood barrel with a slim body and a low center of gravity. Hold this pencil and you'll find the design maximizes both comfort and stability.
Each pencil features soft brushed metal accents, a lead grade indicator, clip, and capped eraser labeled with lead size.
NOTE: If you press down hard as you write, this pencil might not be a good choice. The metal tip the lead protrudes from (called a ferrule) can bend if pressed too hard.
Expect to pay around USD 18 for the S20.
4. Kaweco Special
If you like your pencils to have a bit more heft, then this is the one for you. The Kaweco special has a full metal body and is slightly thicker than most mechanical pencils on the market.
This pencil may not have all the bells and whistles and appears overpriced for what you get but once you start using it you’ll understand why some swear by it. The Special AL is all aluminum with an octagonal body which means it’s surprisingly light for its size, sturdy, and won’t roll. If you want a more dignified look you can upgrade to an all brass version. Not only does this material look sharp out of the box, but it ages well too. With use, it will transform into something truly unique as it grows a patina.
Aluminum is about USD 40.
Brass is USD 50.
5. Spoke pencil model 5-3 (revision 2)
While the name of this pencil doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue its considered design and ability to be repaired mean we had to put it on our list.
It features a stainless steel tip to give good writing feel and weight. But best of all that tip is replaceable so you can keep your pen working perfectly and not have to bother with throwing it away.
Since the barrel is made from anodized aluminum - available in three striking colors - it is also recyclable.
It’s available for USD 40 from Spoke.
6. Caran d'Ache 844
This Swiss-made mechanical pencil is reasonably priced, reliable, and will last for years thanks to its metal parts and solid construction.
One underrated aspect of this writing instrument? The colors. The Optic Yellow version linked to below is as bright as a tennis ball and just as hard to misplace. Standard sized leads will work with this pencil. The one shortcoming is the small eraser size.
Optic Yellow, around USD 24.
7. Napkin Forever Prima, Aluminum
This isn’t a pencil, but it also isn’t a pen. It’s an Ethergraf® based writing instrument. It uses an exclusive metal alloy patented by Pininfarina that never needs to be sharpened, will never break, and doesn't require refilling.
If you are left-handed and don’t want pencil lead all over your hand, this is the choice for you. It leaves a light mark on most paper surfaces - similar to a hard grade pencil. This inklness pen isn’t cheap but it is interesting. If you are going to be writing in one of our stone paper notebooks, you may want to pick one up. It works exceptionally well on stone paper. Strangely, it doesn't work on sticky notes.
Napkin Forever is around USD 40.
8. Sharp Kerry
“Hand-crafted with watchmaker's tools for precision, beauty, and accuracy,” all at a reasonable price. The one thing that truly sets this pencil apart is something you take for granted in a pen - a cap. It protects pockets and purses and provides balance while writing. The cap also protects the tip when not in use.
It’s also inexpensive and comes with a pencil lead that closely approximates the good old Nº2.
Available in multiple colors for around USD 10.
9. Hribarcain Magno TI
This mechanical pencil is like none of the others. First, it’s very expensive. Second, it’s made out of titanium. Third, it’s powered by magnets.
There’s a neodymium magnet inside the barrel of the pencil. That magnet is part of a mechanism designed to provide very accurate lead movement while you write. The core of the pen is made out of a steel alloy that in conjunction with the magnet makes sure the lead is in an optimal position as well.
You won’t want to lose it because it will set you back £110.00.
10. Uni Kuru Toga Pipe Slide
This pencil has a core rotation mechanism that continually rotates the pencil lead as you write. Every time you lift the pencil from the paper the lead moves so you have a more uniform wearing of the lead.
It also has a pipe slide system which makes the lead more difficult to break so your paper will remain clean without smudges from the broken lead dust.
This pencil will set you back around USD 8.
What's your favorite pencil (mechanical or otherwise)? Did it not appear on our list? Let us know!