Mechanical Pencil Day: Why We Love Mechanical Pencils

This post is part of our celebrations for Mechanical Pencil Day, on 05/07 - the 5th of July, 2018.

We love mechanical pencils, but some of you might be wondering why - there's nothing wrong with wooden pencils, and pens are usually more permanent anyway. Why do some people like these little clicky things? Well, we can answer for some of us here, but we also got answers from a couple of people outside Cult Pens, so it wasn't just our opinions.

A lot of the same points come up several times, which is interesting, but each person has their own take on what makes mechanical pencils so suitable for them.

Michael (Cult Pens)

Hey! That's me! While fountain pens are usually my most-used writing instrument, I've long had a love for mechanical pencils too. For me, it's mostly the technical innovation that goes into them that appeals. I'm a geek, so I love the clever ways of solving problems you never knew you had. With fountain pens, the most interesting new stuff to me tends to happen in the mid-range of the market. The cheapest fountain pens don't often change very much, and the most interesting new features generally seem to happen in pens around the £50 - £100 mark. After that, there are lots of special and limited editions that can be beautiful, but of less interest to me. With mechanical pencils, the innovation generally happens in pencils a tenth of that price. The most innovative new features appear in a pencil you can pick up for £5 - £10, so even if you want to try every new pencil gadget out there, it doesn't get too expensive.

Well, thank you, me, for writing that for me for this post. I agree with everything I said. If you're thinking it's not like me to be so brief, you're right - I poured the rest of my thoughts into a longer blog post: Innovation in Mechanical Pencils.

Next up, a name that will require no introduction to anyone who calls themselves a pen addict - Myke Hurley. Myke is one half of the hugely popular Pen Addict podcast, where he and Brad Dowdy, well, talk about pens for an hour or so each week. Give it a listen - it's a fun show, all about pens, and Brad and Myke are both warm and enthusiastic about their subject.

Myke Hurley

I consider a mechanical pencil to be an essential part of my toolkit. I get a lot of the conveniences and things I like about a pen (durability, weight, a clip, a nock), but with the impermanence of a pencil. There are times when a pencil is the perfect tool for the job, and for me a mechanical pencil is always the perfect choice.

Next is Simon - one of the founders of Cult Pens, along with Amanda, who we'll hear from shortly.

Simon (Cult Pens)

Mechanical pencils: Intriguing and effective; intricate yet reliable; economical yet eco-friendly; versatile and diverse. From the purposeful heft of a rotring 600 drafting pencil to the wonderment of the Uni Kuru Toga mechanism to the cheerful utilitarianism of a Staedtler 777. Sliding pipe or fixed? Rubber grip or knurled metal? Pocket clip or minimal barrel? Click or twist? Fine lead or thick lead? 2B or not 2B? Pentel, rotring, Staedtler, Faber-Castell, Platinum, OHTO, Zebra, Uni, Tombow – great writing brands and all better-known for other products such as fountain pens, drawing pens, wood-cased pencils or rollerballs, but all masters of, and devoted to, the mechanical pencil. What does that tell us? That artists, engineers and virtually anyone with a scintilla of curiosity loves mechanical pencils. Me too.

Next up is Ian Hedley - artist, blogger and reviewer of all sorts of pens, pencils and paper.

Ian Hedley

Mechanical pencils are a playground for ideas and experimentation (and fun!) in a way far beyond any other kind of writing instrument. There are pencils that rotate the lead for you, that try to stop you snapping the lead, that advance the lead on your behalf. There are even pencils that let you adjust how hard or soft the tip feels on the paper. There are short stubby pencils, long elegant pencils, beautiful pencils, and pencils that wouldn’t look out of place on the side of a tank. I love this imagination and variety. It’s fascinating and never dull.

In use, I love how utterly convenient the mechanical pencil is. It’s always sharp, usually has a built in eraser, and will hold enough lead to last for months. A mechanical pencil is always ready to write or draw and for that reason I always have one close to hand.

  • Pens! Paper! Pencils! for reviews of... well, you can probably guess.
  • - see Ian's beautiful pencil drawings. You can even commission your own drawing for Ian to create from a photo.

Amanda (Cult Pens)

Puzzles and journaling, that's why I love mechanical pencils.

Crossword puzzlePuzzles. I've been addicted to puzzles from a young age. Although some people might find it odd, spending an hour or two on sudoku, logic or crossword puzzles is my perfect way for me to wind down, and a mechanical pencil is the perfect tool to use whilst doing so. Obviously I'm picky, it has to be 0.5mm with preferably a B or 2B lead (less likely to scratch newspapers). I'm a sucker for technical features so I get just as excited as Michael when we get the latest innovations presented to us. Many people remember where they were when they first heard of significant historical events. I remember where I was when I first saw the Uni Kuru Toga in action. Fortunately I work somewhere where this is not considered weird (well, not that weird).

[Michael: No, sounds quite normal to me. We were in the main office, back when that was downstairs. The Kuru Toga had just arrived direct from Japan, some time before it became available in the UK. It was green. I still have it.]

Journaling. My latest addiction. Just take a look at social media and you'll see an inspiring selection of beautiful artwork in people's journals. Not being of an artistic persuasion, I could never dream of getting close to achieving such results. What I do love is data. My journals are full of tables and graphs. I'm often not confident to achieve the right result first time, so a mechanical pencil helps. If I get it wrong, I just rub it out and start again. Again, a 2B lead is soft, easy to erase and darker than an HB, so tables can look like they've been drawn in pen.

Amanda's favourites:

  • Uni Kuru Toga
  • Zebra Delgaurd ER
  • Pentel A120

Plus, whilst the eraser that's usually hidden beneath the cap of the pencil is useful, I do like to keep my Tombow Mono eraser pen on hand.

Whilst thinking about this, I discovered that, with the wonders of technology, you can now generate your own crossword puzzles. I used my journal and my mechanical pencil (Kuru Toga), to create a MPD themed puzzle. It's not a cryptic masterpiece but will hopefully provide five minutes of fun to some. (Hint: some of the clues are in this article!)

Dave at Dave's Mechanical Pencils

And finally, Dave of Dave's Mechanical Pencils wrote a complete guest post about how his interest developed, and shows us some of his favourite mechanical pencils from over the years.

5 July 2018


  • Pam H 5 July 2018

    As a handwriting teacher, I love mechanical pencils too! There’s just so much variety in grip, weight, and lead size. Most children, given choice and time to sample, will find one that suits their hand. And they are just a little bit addictive!

Back to top