Starting about 1979, a craze by Japanese schoolgirls for drawing cute cartoon figures caused skyrocketing sales of mechanical pencils. Dozens of companies began designing and manufacturing mechanical pencils and they haven't stopped. Today, Japan is to mechanical pencils as Switzerland is to watches.
Of course, there are exceptions, but for a really good mechanical pencil, the place to go is Japan. "Look for unique features like retractable tips and auto-rotating lead mechanisms," explained Elaine, the mechanical pencil expert at Jetpens. "These details are small yet practical, and they'll be appreciated by artists, students, engineers, and everyone in between."
Jetpens provided six of their favorite mechanical pencils, priced at $35 or less, for me to use and abuse.
The lineup that arrived:
|Uni Alpha Gel HD Shaka Shaker Pencil||$10.00|
|Pilot Delful Double Knock Mechanical Pencil||$8.25|
|Pentel Sharp Kerry Mechanical Pencil||$19.50|
|Pentel Graph Gear 1000||$16.50|
|Uni Kuru Toga||$16.50|
Except for the German-made Rotring, all of these pencils are Japanese.
A lot of what makes a mechanical pencil good or bad is in the eye (and hand) of the beholder. The grip and feel that appeal to me may not work for you. So let's begin with the cold hard facts and figures.
|Pen||Body Material||Lead Advance||Weight (grams)||Tip/Pocket Protection Method||Finger feel||Weighting||Advance per click (shake)|
|Uni Alpha Gel HD Shaka Shaker Pencil||Plastic||Shaker||17.4||None||wide, cushioned, smooth||Front||.0450 inches|
|Pilot Delful Double Knock Mechanical Pencil||Plastic||Shaker||20.1||Retracts||wide, smooth||Front||.0450|
|Pentel Sharp Kerry Mechanical Pencil||cap metal, body plastic||Push||21.6||Cap||medium, smooth||Neutral||.0169|
|Pentel Graph Gear 1000||Metal||Push||20.5||Retracts||medium, knurled||Back||.0210|
|Rotring 600 Metal||Metal||Push||22.5||None||narrow, knurled||Neutral||.0225|
|Uni Kuru Toga||Top plastic, bottom metal||Push||15.1||None||medium, knurled||Front||.0225|