Pencil refill types: Guide to Mechanical Pencils | Cult Pens


Guide to Mechanical Pencils | Cult Pens


We love mechanical pencils. You’d probably guess that from the huge number of them we stock. There’s an amazing variety of mechanical pencils available, in all sorts of styles, with all sorts of features, for many different purposes. So we thought some sort of guide might be useful. We’re aiming for this guide to serve several purposes:

  • If you need some tips on using your pencil (pun intended), we can help. It’s not always obvious how to add spare leads, for example, or clear a jam when things get stuck.
  • If you want to buy a mechanical pencil, but you’re not sure what type would be best, we have a few ideas. The best pencil for you could depend on a lot of things, but we’ll help you narrow things down.
  • We also hope it will be an interesting read, if you find mechanical pencils interesting. We do!

What Is a Mechanical Pencil?

Definitions vary, but for the purpose of this article, we’ll consider a mechanical pencil to be any pencil with a lead-advance mechanism that pushes the lead forward in some way. We’ll mention clutch pencils briefly too, where the lead is released when you hold down a button, but we consider those to be a separate type. Woodcased pencils are obviously not counted here, but that doesn’t mean we don’t love them too.

Other Names for Mechanical Pencils

Mechanical pencils may be called different things in different places, by different people. Here in the UK, ‘automatic pencil’ and ‘propelling pencil’ are quite common terms, and people may also refer to ‘clicky pencils’. Ones designed for technical drawing may be referred to as ‘drafting pencils’ (or even ‘draughting’ in British English), or ‘technical pencils’, though these terms have also been used for traditional clutch pencils.

Although not used here, Wikipedia tells us ‘pen pencil’ and ‘lead pencil’ are used in India, and ‘pacer’ is used as a generic term by some people, though it’s actually the name of an old Paper Mate pencil. We’ll stick to ‘mechanical pencil’ here.

History of Mechanical Pencils

The first pencils were more like modern clutch pencils than what we now think of as ‘normal’ wooden pencils. Graphite was first used in lumps, with perhaps a bit of cloth wrapped around to hold it. When things started to progress towards the pencil, the first attempts involved wooden holders to grip sticks of graphite, so they could be used more easily and cleanly. The first description of a leadholder was by Conrad Gessner, back in 1565.

If you want to be really traditional, Cleo Scribent make a replica, called Der Gessner. It’s rather fiddly to adjust, because there’s no spring mechanism, but the basic elements of a clutch pencil are all there.

For many years, push-fit lead around 1.18mm in width was most common, with a twist mechanism that wound the lead down like a screw as it was used, and pencils were often decorated with ornate designs in sterling silver.

The need to write intricate characters meant Japan had a greater incentive to make thinner leads, which lead to the birth of the modern mechanical pencil there.

Tokuji Hayakawa made the ‘Ever-Ready Sharp Pencil’, which was a huge success, and his company took the name of the pencil, and became ‘Sharp’ – the electronics company we know today.

Thinner lead wasn’t possible with the traditional mix of graphite and clay, as it was too brittle. Modern thin leads are based on high-polymer organic materials that can take much more force without breaking, and they’re getting better all the time.

Why Use a Mechanical Pencil?

There are some good reasons why you might prefer a mechanical pencil over a woodcased pencil.

  • No Sharpening. If the lead is thin enough, you don’t need to keep sharpening it – just keep writing or drawing. Not only does it save time and effort, but sharpening can be messy.
  • Consistent Line Width. When a woodcased pencil is freshly sharpened, it writes a very thin line. As soon as you’ve written a bit, the line gets thicker and thicker. With a mechanical pencil, the line says the same, so it’s a more predictable tool.
  • Consistent Balance. As a wooden pencil gets shorter, the balance changes. Mechanical pencils don’t change as you use the lead. It’s not hugely important to everyone, but some artists find this makes a big difference for them.
  • Refillable. You don’t throw away stubs, you just keep putting more leads in. There are no trees to be cut down. It can be argued that mechanical pencils are the more environmentally friendly option, if you use one for a long time. Given that the leads usually come packaged in plastic boxes, though, it’s not a simple calculation to know which is better, but there’s a lot to be said for a single tool you can use for years.
  • Choice of Styles and Materials. Mechanical pencils can vary hugely in how they look – some look like technical tools, some look like luxury goods, and some look like simple plastic-bodied pencils. Some even look like wooden pencils!

Not that we have anything against other types of pencils – we have lots of clutch pencils, and a huge range of woodcased pencils here at Cult Pens, and they’re all ideal tools for someone. A wooden pencil can make a wider range of marks, and has a certain simplicity that mechanical pencils can’t match. It’s perfectly possible to love them all!

Using a Mechanical Pencil

For the most part, mechanical pencils are quite simple to use – with most of them, you just click the button on the end to feed out more lead whenever you need to. Retract the lead by holding the button in and gently pushing the lead in. When one stick of lead is used up, keep clicking until the next appears. When you’re all out, just add more leads of the right size, usually through a hole under the button, often hidden under the eraser.

There are some variations and oddities, though…

Twist-click Mechanisms

This mechanism is most common in pencils that are designed to go with a matching ballpoint pen. You twist the top part of the barrel, and the lead clicks forward. Release, and the top part springs back, but the lead stays put. Twist and hold, and you can push the lead back in. It’s just like the clicky mechanisms, but twisting takes the place of pushing. These usually pull open in the middle to add more leads.

Inside, this type of pencil often uses an adapter, similar in shape to the refill for the matching ballpoint, which contains the whole pencil mechanism and lead tube. Essentially, the pencil is a ballpoint pen with an adapter fitted to turn it into a pencil. There’s usually a cap at the top of the adapter which you remove to add more leads.

(Some of the pencils at that link will be of the other twist type, but we’ll mention those specifically in the next section.)

Continuous Twist Mechanisms

These aren’t so common these days, but there are a few around, like Faber-Castell’s e-motion. The inside is a kind of screw-mechanism, where you wind the lead down as it’s used. When you finish a lead, you remove the little stub, and push a new lead into the mechanism, and wind it back up to the top. Sometimes these only hold one lead, but they often have somewhere to store spares. The e-motion, for example, has space for six extra leads hidden behind the nose-cone.

Shaker Mechanisms

Another solution to the problem of stopping to click out more lead is the shake mechanism – give the pencil a firm shake up and down, and a weight hidden inside does the job of hitting the button for you. These normally have a button in the usual place too, but a quick flick of the wrist takes less time away from scribbling down your notes.

Auto-feed Pencils

Some pencils don’t make you stop at all to extend more lead, at least until you reach the end of a stick of lead and have to click the next one through. The way these work can be a little unexpected, as you need to write with almost no lead visible at all.

There is a (usually) plastic cone around the lead. Normally, you’d have to make sure you clicked out more lead before it wore down enough to reach the supporting tube or cone, but not with an auto-feed pencil. Just keep writing or drawing. When the lead wears down enough that the cone touches the paper, the cone is pushed back up a little way. A spring inside pushes it back, feeding some lead back down with it. The result is that the lead will wear down until it reaches this cone, but then won’t go further.

It sounds as though it would be uncomfortable and scratchy to write with, but the cone is smooth and rounded so it doesn’t catch the paper. You may still find it more comfortable to click lead out the usual way when you have time, but if inspiration strikes, just keep scribbling!

Sliding Lead Sleeves

It’s a bit subtle, but we’re going to make a distinction here between pencils where the sleeve that surrounds the lead can slide up if pushed; and pencils where the sleeve is designed to slide up easily while writing. A few pencils now have sleeves with edges that are smoothly rounded, so they won’t catch on the paper, and made to slide up really easily. The result is that you can keep writing in the same way you can with an auto feed pencil. The difference is that these pencils won’t actually feed out any more lead, so you’ll have to stop and click eventually. By that point, though, there’s bound to have been enough of a pause in proceedings for you to give the button a click.

Kuru Toga

Probably the biggest innovation in mechanical pencil technology in the last few years, the Kuru Toga is, quite literally, revolutionary! As you write or draw with it, the up and down movement is used to rotate the lead.

Because a pencil is usually held at an angle to the page, the lead wears down at an angle, and forms a chisel-shaped tip with a sharp point. This shape makes for a thicker line, and the sharp point can catch on the paper. Some people naturally work around this by turning the pencil as they go, wearing the lead down more evenly. The Kuru Toga does this for you. The result is a finer line, and less lead breakage.

While it probably works best with Japanese characters (yes, no surprise, it was invented in Japan!) where the pencil is lifted from the paper several times for each character, it still works well with English writing, and even helps a bit with cursive script.

Twist-extend Erasers

With most mechanical pencils, the eraser is there for emergency use only. If you needed to erase much, you’d probably want a separate eraser. A few pencils, though, have larger erasers, with twisting mechanisms to extend them, so they can last a long time. If you erase often, it’s a great feature.

Lead Jams

If you use mechanical pencils, at some point you’re likely to have a lead jam. It happens. A tiny bit of lead gets stuck somewhere in the mechanism, and stops it from working. Lead might not click forward, or it might click forward but slide back in when you try to use the pencil.

Most mechanical pencils can be dismantled to some extent to clear a jam. Usually, the part near the tip unscrews, which lets you see the mechanism. If you then push the button down against your desk, the clutch mechanism pushes up. There’s a brass ring around the clutch jaws, holding them shut – push it down, and it will release the jaws. Once they’ve sprung open a bit of sideways tapping should dislodge any tiny bits of lead.

If the mechanism can’t be opened up, blockages can usually be cleared by holding the pencil tip-up, with the button held down against your desk, and feeding a cleaning pin in through the tip to push any little bits of lead out from where they’re stuck. Some pencils include a cleaning pin, attached to the eraser, but many don’t. If you don’t have one to hand, another piece of thin wire or a pin may fit, but don’t force anything too wide into the tip. At a push, a spare piece of lead can do the job, but it takes a steady hand to feed it in without snapping it!

Multifunction Pens with Pencils

A lot of multipens have pencils as one of their functions. These are most commonly either twist-action or gravity select models, and the pencil mechanism and lead chamber are all fitted into the space of one of the tiny ballpoint refills. They normally operate like most pencils do, by just clicking a button on the top to extend more lead. Adding more lead is a bit more fiddly, and generally involves pulling the little pencil mechanism off its mounting, just like you would to change the ballpoint refills. There’s space for a few leads in the tube it fits onto, but don’t put too many in there – two or three spares is all there’s space for.

These aren’t the best pencils for heavy users, but if you only need a pencil occasionally, they can be ideal – a couple of different ballpoint colours in one pen is quite useful, and a pencil thrown in so it’s always handy!

Buying Guide

Buying a mechanical pencil is easy. It can be a bit more difficult to buy just the right mechanical pencil for you. And maybe even more difficult to buy the right one for someone else. The good news, though, is that they’re nearly all quite reliable and tough, and most are quite comfortable to use, so it’s unlikely you’ll go too far wrong.

If you’re the sort of person who likes to put a bit of thought into this sort of decision, though (and a lot of our customers are), we’re here to help.


It’s not a bad idea to start with thinking about what you’re likely to use the pencil for. If it’s mostly going to be for writing, you’re probably going to look for different features to someone who will use their pencil for sketching.


If you’re going to be writing with your pencil, you’ll want lead thick enough that it won’t break too easily. With modern leads, 0.5mm is quite strong enough for most people, but more heavy-handed people do sometimes find they snap such thin leads, and 0.7mm or even 0.9mm leads are better for them. Some have cushioned lead, where an internal spring cushions the lead against rough treatment.

If your writing includes the sort of notes where you sometimes just can’t stop scribbling, like taking down lecture notes or meeting minutes, you might want to consider pencils that make it easier to feed more lead in a rush, with shaker mechanisms or side buttons. Auto-feed pencils can work well, too, keeping the lead usable at as you keep going.


Drawing or sketching can have quite different requirements to writing, and can require a bit of experimenting to see what suits you, and what feels right for your style.

Lead thickness is very important for drawing. Rough sketching can benefit from thick leads, for bold lines, usually using softer grades of lead. For this style, you may well want to consider clutch pencils too, as there are more of them available with thicker lead. 0.5mm is the classic size for more technical styles, but the humble 0.5mm mechanical pencil is a very versatile tool, and is used by many artists for all sorts of styles. For detailed drawing, you might want to consider 0.3mm leads.

If the pencil is going to live in a pencil pot on your desk, it won’t matter much to you if it isn’t pocket safe. If you’re going to be sketching out and about, though, it can be very important. Conical tips aren’t usually too risky anyway, but tubular tips can be a bit too sharp to want them in your pocket if they don’t retract. For quick and easy retracting, a ‘double-knock’ mechanism helps – the mechanism is retracted with either a side button or a firmer push of the end button. Others may need you to push the tip in against something while holding the button down.

If the eraser is important to you, you’ll need to make sure it’s a good size, probably of the extendable type. These usually twist up and down to expose more eraser as needed, usually with the added bonus that you can twist it back down out of the way when pocketing the pencil. For drawing, though, you may already have a preferred eraser that you’ll carry separately, in which case, any eraser would be for emergency use only.

  • Mechanical Pencils: 0.3mm, 0.5mm, 0.7mm, 0.9mm, 2mm.
  • Clutch Pencils: 2mm, 5.6mm
  • Pencils shaped like wooden pencils: OHTO Sharp Pencil, Fixpencil 22 (clutch), Caran d’Ache 844, Cleo Skribent SilverSign.
  • Chunky sketching pencils: Lamy Scribble, Kaweco Sketch Up, e+m Sketch Pencil.


Mechanical pencils can have a surprising variety of features. If you think the number of possible features to consider is a bit much when you’re trying to choose which pencil to buy, just imagine how it is for someone who has to write an article all about them!

Here are some of the features you may want to consider when buying a mechanical pencil.


The classic mechanism for feeding lead is a button on the opposite end to the tip that pushes lead forward one ‘click’ at a time. There’s quite a complicated set of parts inside to make it all work, but it’s all so tried and tested that they work very reliably, and you can usually get years of use out of even the most basic mechanical pencil.

So why might you consider other mechanisms? Well, side-mounted buttons, shaker mechanisms and auto-feed mechanisms can all feed lead a bit quicker. For most people’s use, it’s not that critical, but if you have to keep up with lecture notes or take minutes in meetings, the time taken to click out more lead might be enough to put you behind.

They’re all based on a mechanism very similar to the push-button clutch, so they’re all usually very reliable.

  • Shaker pencils have a weight inside that will knock the lead forward by one ‘click’ when you give the pencil a quick up-down shake. It’s quicker to do than pressing a button, so these can be quite popular for students. They normally have a button too, so you can ignore the shaker part when you don’t need it.
  • Auto-feed mechanisms can work really well. Just keep writing, even after the visible lead has all been used. You won’t see more lead feeding, but it won’t ever disappear back into the lead cone/tube. What actually happens is that the cone or tube that surrounds the lead is smooth so it doesn’t catch on the paper, and when the lead wears down far enough that it touches the paper, it slides back in a little. A spring pushes it back out again, and pushes the lead forward at the same time.

Most mechanical pencils have an eraser. They’re very important to some people, and completely irrelevant to others. If you rarely erase, you probably don’t care much about the eraser. Oddly, though, people who erase a lot may not care much either, because they have their favourite eraser, and they’re happy to carry it separately. Those in the mid-ground, who do care about the eraser, need to consider the size and replaceability of the built-in eraser. They can almost always be replaced, but make sure you can actually get the replacements. There are very few cases where spare erasers exist and we don’t stock them, and we do have spares for most of the pencils we stock, but it’s best to check if it’s important to you.

In most pencils, the erasers won’t last long, because they’re so small. If you expect to use the eraser enough that this is a problem, look for pencils with large extendable erasers. Several different brands have pencils with long erasers that can be extended by twisting.


You probably have some idea how much you want to spend, or at least how much you’re willing to spend! There are plenty of perfectly good mechanical pencils around for less than £5, but you might need to spend more to get what you want.

  • Tougher build. While even the cheapest plastic-barrelled pencils should last well, something with a metal body is likely to be tougher.
  • Features. You may have to pay a little bit more if you want a big extending eraser, say, or a quicker way of advancing the lead.
  • Looks. A cheap plastic pencil will be perfectly functional, but might not look the part in a meeting. If you’re wearing a nice suit, it would be a shame to have the cheapest pencil poking out of your pocket. Your tastes might be more towards the technical or machined-metal look, but again, you’ll need to invest a little more for the right look.
  • Feel. In some ways, this can be the most important thing. If your pencil feels right in your hand, it can make a big difference to how much you use it. The most critical part is the grip – you might love knurled metal for the grip, or find it too rough; rubber is best for some people, while others like a smooth surface to touch. The rest of the pencil is probably less important to the feel of it, but it can still make a difference. More expensive pencils will usually feel more solid than the cheaper ones.
  • All our mechanical pencils, cheapest first

Lead Thickness

If you know what thickness of lead you want to use, this is a great way to narrow down the choices. Many pencils are only available in one size, so if you know you want 0.9mm lead, it’s no good looking at pencils only available in 0.5mm. Many of the more technical style of pencil are available in several different widths, most often 0.5mm, 0.7mm and 0.9mm, while some add 0.3mm or 2mm to the range.

The thickness you want depends very much on your usage, and depends a lot on personal taste, too. If your writing is small, or your drawings detailed, you’ll need thinner lead. If you’re heavy-handed, you’ll need thicker lead. 2mm leads are similar in width to the core in a standard wooden pencil, so for most purposes, you’d need to sharpen them to get a sharp enough point.

Other Types of Pencils

While this article is all about mechanical pencils, there are other types of pencils to consider – a mechanical pencil isn’t the right answer to all problems for all people!

Woodcase Pencils

We’re all perfectly familiar with wooden pencils – a stick of wood with a ‘lead’ core, sometimes with an eraser on the end. They don’t have the predictable line width of a mechanical pencil, and they get awkward to use when you’ve worn them down with sharpening. There’s a simplicity about them, though, that’s impossible to beat. That simplicity means you always know it’s going to write, and you can pass one to anyone without having to explain anything.

Clutch Pencils (Leadholders)

Clutch pencils are closely related to mechanical pencils. They use a very similar clutch mechanism to grip the lead, but they lack the extra complexity required to push the lead forward with a click or twist. Then usually have a button on the end, and when you press the button, the lead is released. You manually move the lead to where you need it, then let go of the button.

They are only normally available for 2mm lead and thicker, and there are plenty of clutch pencils available in sizes up to 5.6mm.

To many people, they combine the best features of mechanical pencils with the best features of woodcase pencils. They don’t vary in length as you use them, and while they can be sharpened to get a good point on them, sharpening isn’t vital if you really need to keep scribbling. They keep much of the simplicity of a wooden pencil, though, with big, simple clutch jaws gripping the lead, and just a spring to make them close and grip.

The thick lead makes them less practical for many, though, as you do need to keep sharpening if you need a reasonably thin line.

If you’ve read all that and you still want to know more about mechanical pencils, you might have a bit of an obsession developing! We do know a few great places to send you, though, if you want more:

Mechanical pencils and lead holders

Mechanical pencils are particularly suitable for drawing, sketching and writing. Their major advantage is that you don’t need to sharpen them (with the exception of the 2-mm leads for leadholders). This means that they don’t get shorter and shorter over time like conventional pencils; instead they can be refilled with lead and you can continue using your pencil. Find the right mechanical pencil to suit your needs that offers you optimum handling.

High-quality STAEDTLER leadholders for detailed drawing

Leadholders are suitable for drawing, sketching and writing. They have a 2-mm lead. By pressing the push button, which opens the drop clutch mechanism, the user can advance the lead to the desired length. Products from our range include:

STAEDTLER Mars technico 780

  • Leadholder for sketching, drawing and writing
  • Hardness grade: HB
  • Six further hardness grades available as an option Line width: 2 mm
  • Integrated lead sharpener in the push button
  • Metal clip with hardness grade indicator for the lead used

STAEDTLER Mars technico 788

  • Leadholder for sketching, drawing and writing
  • Hardness grade: HB
  • Six further hardness grades available as an option
  • Line width: 2 mm

The STAEDTLER mechanical pencil: An excellent writing instrument

Various characteristics of our mechanical pencils:

  • Pocket-safe: The protective lead sleeve can be retracted so that when mechanical pencils are carried in a shirt or jacket pocket, the metal sleeve will not damage the pocket. Applies to Mars micro, triplus micro and graphite 779.
  • Cushioned lead for high break-resistance. Applies to Mars micro and graphite 779.
  • Protective lead sleeve slides back while writing. This enables you to write longer without having to advance the lead again via the push button. Applies to triplus micro and graphite 779.

Products from our range include:

STAEDTLER graphite 779

  • Mechanical pencil for writing
  • Hardness grade: B
  • Line width: 0.5 mm or 0.7 mm
  • Holds up to 12 pencil leads in one go = the total contents of a typical STAEDTLER lead tube, allowing you to work longer without refilling
  • Non-slip rubber grip
  • Mechanical pencil with eraser at the end of the barrel 
  • The lead is cushioned inside a spring, providing increased break-resistance
  • Available in the following barrel colours: red, blue and black

STAEDTLER graphite 777

  • Mechanical pencil for writing
  • Hardness grade: B
  • Line width: 0.5 mm or 0.7 mm
  • Mechanical pencil with extra large eraser at the end of the barrel
  • Special lead guide for increased break-resistance
  • Available in the following barrel colours: blue, orange, grey, green and magenta

STAEDTLER triplus micro

  • Mechanical pencil for writing
  • Hardness grade: B
  • Line width: 0.5 mm or 0.7 mm
  • Thanks to its ergonomic triangular shape, the pencil sits comfortably in the hand ensuring relaxed and easy writing. It is particularly suitable for those who spend a lot of time writing with a pencil.
  • Extra long twist eraser

STAEDTLER Mars® micro

  • Mechanical pencil for drawing and writing
  • Hardness grade: B
  • Eraser with protective metal cap at the end of the barrel
  • Line width: 0.3 mm, 0.5 mm, 0.7 mm or 0.9 mm
  • Non-slip rubber grip
  • Lead sleeve can be retracted completely into the pencil. You can therefore keep the STAEDTLER mechanical pencil safely in your pocket without having to worry about your shirt or jacket pocket getting damaged.
  • Holds up to 12 pencil leads in one go = the total contents of a typical STAEDTLER lead tube, allowing you to work longer without refilling
  • Cylindrical lead sleeve ideal for applications requiring a high degree of accuracy, e.g. when working with rulers and templates
  • With ISO colour coding for line width identification
  • The classic model for technical drawing

How do you refill mechanical pencils? Refill mechanical pencils easily with the right accessories

When the lead runs out, there are two very easy ways in which you can refill STAEDTLER mechanical pencils with pencil leads:

  1. A lead tube (STAEDTLER Mars micro carbon 250 or Mars micro color 254) is simply attached to the end of the mechanical pencil and tipped up. All 12 leads fall into the barrel in one go, conveniently allowing you to continue writing with your pencil. This feature is supported by the Mars micro and graphite 779 models.
  2. In the case of the STAEDTLER Mars micro carbon 255 lead tube, individual leads are refilled one at a time by means of a push-button mechanism. Special feature: The refill process is designed for single-handed use.

Tip: Refill leads compatible with all mechanical pencils are also available in red, blue and green for use on paper, drafting film and tracing paper.

How do you refill leadholders? Refill leadholders easily with the right accessories

In contrast to mechanical pencils, leadholders are refilled by pressing the push-button to open the drop clutch mechanism and inserting the 2-mm lead (Mars carbon 200) into the leadholder via the tip.

Always have the appropriate writing instrument to hand with the triplus mobile office set

You need different writing instruments for drawing, sketching, writing and highlighting. With the STAEDTLER triplus mobile office 34, you will be optimally equipped for almost every situation. In addition to two fineliners and a ballpoint pen, the set also includes a mechanical pencil, rollerball and  highlighter. Get your ideas down on paper – by always having the appropriate writing instrument to hand.

Your Guide to Mechanical Pencils

Mechanical pencils are more popular now than ever before. There are an endless amount of options to pick from, so how do you decide which one to buy?  Whether you are a professional or a student, Zebra Pen offers a wide selection of pencils; each thoughtfully designed to meet your needs. We’ve developed this guide to help you choose the mechanical pencil that is just right for you.  First, we would like to introduce a variety of reason as to why using mechanical pencils will make your life that much easier.

Advantages of Using a Mechanical Pencil

  • No need to sharpen it. Unlike the standard wooden pencil, you will never have to sharpen a mechanical pencil. The lead is never going to get dull and more lead is just a few clicks away.
  • Consistency of lines. As you write with a regular pencil, the lead becomes duller and wider making the lines change. This change causes the writing to appear thicker.  With a mechanical pencil, the width of the lead never changes.  The lines remain consistent regardless of how often the pencil is used.
  • Balanced. The more a regular pencil is used, the more it loses its balance. The constant sharpening makes it shorter and shorter.  Mechanical pencils never lose their balance and stay the same size because they do not get sharpened.
  • Refillable.  Regarding both lead and erasers, mechanical pencils are refillable.  There is no need to dispose of a mechanical pencil when you finish up all its lead.  Simply just fill it back up with lead and continue on writing.

Now that you know several advantages of using a mechanical pencil, consider some of its most important features.

Key Features

  • Lead size. Mechanical pencils are available in different lead sizes. These sizes typically range anywhere from 0.5mm to 2.0mm depending on your needs.
  • Retractable tip. Like to carry a pencil on you at all times? Mechanical pencils are deemed safe for all types of pockets. They have a retractable tip that prevents damage to clothing and legs, depending on what pocket you stash your pencil in!
  • Comfortable grip. Gone are the days where you have to search for a grip that you end up struggling to attach to your wooden pencil. Many mechanical pencils come equipped with a grip made of rubber so you can write comfortably while holding your pencil.  Zebra Pen offers select styles of mechanical pencils with a steel grip to please any rugged or sleek aesthetic you want to achieve.
  • Clip.  Feel like you are constantly looking for a pencil that you swore you just had? Most mechanical pencils have a pocket clip so you can securely place your pencil in a shirt or pants pocket. These clips also prevent mechanical pencils from rolling around on a surface. 
  • Erasers.  The erasers on mechanical pencils are small and typical hidden underneath a cap. Some mechanical pencils can even go as far as having a retractable eraser.
  • Not bulky. Mechanical pencils are not bulky in size and are easily portable.

Mechanical pencils have numerous important features that all come into play depending on how you will use your pencil.

What Can You Use Your Mechanical Pencil For?

  • Writing.  A mechanical pencil is perfect for notetaking, journaling, or office work.  Since you won’t have to worry about sharpening it, you can keep on writing to your heart’s content.
  • Drafting/technical writing. Mechanical pencils are becoming the preferred writing utensil of many technical writers.  A good drafting mechanical pencil should have a comfortable, textured grip and long, narrow lead sleeve.  Most drafting pencils use a lead size of 0.5mm or 0.7mm.
  • Art and sketching. The balance of mechanical pencils and variety of different leads size make them very appealing to artists and avid sketchers.

With all of the knowledge you now have about mechanical pencils, you should be able to make a confident decision when it comes to selecting the right mechanical pencil.  Zebra Pen offers a wide array of mechanical pencils available in a range of styles, colors, and sizes for you to choose from based on your needs.

We should begin with one of our most popular lines, Steel.

M-301 Mechanical Pencil

The M-301 Steel Mechanical Pencil has many of the same amenities as the best-selling F-301 Retractable Ballpoint pen.  With its steel body, comfortable grip and a handy eraser, the M-301 is a great pencil for drafting as well as everyday use.  Sized perfectly for pockets and equipped with a metal clip, this pencil is perfectly portable. Refillable with standard lead.  Available in 0.5mm and 0.7mm lead sizes.

M-701 Mechanical Pencil

Featuring designer stainless steel barrel and a knurled metal grip for writing confidence, the M-701 is sleek, sophisticated and superior in functionality. It is a quality mechanical pencil that is top of the line in writing comfort and control.  The M-701 is ideal for drafting and for someone looking to convey style through their writing instrument. Available in 0.7mm lead size. Refillable with Standard Lead.

DelGuard Mechanical Pencil

Here’s the latest in mechanical pencil innovation, our new Zebra DelGuard Mechanical Pencil.  This genius new pencil features a patented double spring mechanism absorbs pressure regardless of how you hold it or how hard you press down.  Standard mechanical pencils only have one spring guarding lead, but the DelGuard has two springs protecting the lead at all time.  This technology leaves the lead much less vulnerable to breakage—practically impossible!  The DelGuard Mechanical Pencil is the perfect pencil for notetaking and great for all writing styles.  Refillable with DelGuard lead refill and erasers.  Available in 0.5mm Lead Size.

Z-Grip Mechanical Pencil

The Z-Grip Mechanical Pencil is a top-selling, everyday tool that doesn’t look or perform like one. This mechanical pencil comes preloaded with 2 leads and is never in need of sharpening. A great pencil for writing or taking notes, this easy-grip mechanical pencil features a ridged grip making every writing experience a comfortable one.  The clear barrel allows you to monitor your lead supply.  Choose from Black, Red, or Blue matching grip and clip colors or Safari or Fashion prints.  Available in 0.5mm and 0.7mm Lead Sizes.

Z-Grip Mechanical Pencil—Animal Prints

If you feel like taking a little walk on the wild side then the Z-Grip Mechanical pencil in an animal print is the pencil you’ll need.  You can express yourself both on and off of the page using this pencil.  Delivering the same comfort and performance as the traditional Z-Grip Mechanical Pencil, the animal prints version just adds that always needed bit of flare.  Available in Cheetah, Tiger, and (of course!) Zebra print. Refillable.  Available in 0.7mm Lead Size.

Z-Grip Max Mechanical Pencil

If you’re looking to maximize your writing performance try the Z-Grip Max, a wide-grip mechanical pencil.  A user-friendly barrel and smooth grip ensure writing confidence and comfort.  The Z-Grip Max is designed with a translucent barrel and chic metal clip.  A top performing mechanical pencil is paired with effortless style in the Z-Grip Max.  Available in Black or Blue.  Refillable. Available in 0.7mm Lead Size.

Zebra #2 Mechanical Pencil

The Zebra #2 Mechanical Pencil is a modernized take on the classic wood case pencil.  Simple, but still highly functional, the #2 Mechanical Pencil features a large eraser that serves as an easy lead-advancing mechanism.  With a hexagonal barrel, it still has that classic pencil feel.  Ideal for note-taking, list-making, and test-taking, each pencil comes with 3 leads.  Refillable. Available in 0.7mm Lead Size.  The standard #2 Mechanical pencil is compact in size at 5.125” and available in Black or Yellow.

Style #2 Mechanical Pencil

A stylish step up from the Zebra #2 Mechanical Pencil, the Style #2 Mechanical Pencil offers the same amenities as its predecessor.  The hexagonal barrel still allows users to get that classic pencil feel while writing.  It has a large eraser that acts as an easy-to-use lead-advancing mechanism.  This mechanical pencil is ideal for note-taking, list-making, and test-taking.  It comes with 3 leads.  The Style #2 Mechanical Pencil comes in the standard 6” size and is available in 6 fun patterns! Refillable.  Available in 0.7mm Lead Size.

MLP2 Mechanical Pencil

The Zebra MLP2 Square Lead Mechanical Pencil will help you ace whatever you are embarking on.  This heavy-duty pencil is perfect for test-taking. Its unique elliptical barrel shape prevents rolling, while the sturdy, square lead promotes identifiable markings needed for exams. The MLP2 mechanical pencil is also ideal for carpentry work. Extra-wide, strong lead discourages breakage and allows for heavy marking and pressure.  Refillable.  Available only in 0.9mm Square Lead Size.

Cadoozles Mechanical Pencils

As functional as they are cute, the Cadoozles Mechanical Pencils are designed specifically for young writers.  These fun kids mechanical pencils have vibrant, playful barrel patterns that are great for collecting and trading!  Simply push the built-in eraser to advance lead and remove eraser to refill.  The perfect tool for every classroom, these mechanical pencils come in fun seasonal and reward patterns that make learning fun.  They are compact in size—great for small hands!  Available in 0.9mm Lead Size.

Cadoozles Starters Mechanical #2 Pencil

Start ‘em off right with Cadoozles Starters Mechanical #2 Pencil, a classic #2 mechanical lead pencil that is long-lasting and hard to break.  This awesome pencil is easy to hold and can withstand the pressures of beginning writers.

Cadoozles Starters Colored Pencils

Cadoozles Starters Colored Pencils are perfect for kids who love to live and learn in color.  Brand-new writers get a little bit of extra help with this well-designed beginner’s mechanical pencil that features a triangular barrel for easy gripping (and no rolling!). Thicker lead promotes a proper grip and means less lead breakage too! With 12 vibrant colors, your child’s imagination will run wild.  Available in 2.0mm Lead Size.


Product Name Style Barrel Colors Lead Advancement Lead Size (mm) Eraser Grip Features Advanced Features
M-301 Everyday Steel Push Button 0.5mm 0.7mm YES Black Plastic Durable steel barrel  
M-701 Executive Stainless Steel Push Button 0.7mm NO  knurled Stainless Steel Sleek look
DelGuard Professional Black Push Button 0.5mm YES Plastic groove Two spring technology Lead Cushioning, Extending Lead Sleeve
Z-Grip MP


Everyday Black



Tiger Zebra Cheetah

Push Button 0.5mm 0.7mm YES Rubber Great everyday mechanical pencil Multiple colors and wraps to choose from
Z-Grip Max MP Everyday Black


Push Button 0.7mm YES Rubber Ergonomic barrel  
Zebra #2 Student Black


Push Button 0.7mm YES Plastic classic-look  
Style #2    Student 6 patterns Push Button 0.7mm YES Classic Pencil Hexagonal Barrel


MLP2 Craftsman Blue, Black Push Button 0.9mm Square YES Rubber elliptical barrel with metal pocket clip  
Cadoozles Everyday Student Animal and various patterns Push Button 0.7mm 0.9mm YES Plastic Classic Pencil Hexagonal Barrel


Cadoozles Starters Mechanical #2


Everyday Student Classic yellow Push Button 2.0mm NO Plastic


Perfect for beginner writers  
Cadoozles Starters Colored Pencils Everyday Student 12 colors match lead Push Button 2.0mm NO Plastic


Perfect for beginner writers Great for coloring

 Zebra Pen offers an expansive line of mechanical pencils in a variety of styles to meet your every mechanical pencil need.  Find Zen in your pen.

Ballpoint Pen Refills Glossary – RefillFinder

The most common type of pen in the world today is a ballpoint pen. Easy-to-use with either a twist-action mechanism or click-top, the ballpoint ink is readily accessible with one hand operation and usually requires no cap to prevent the refill from drying out. The type of ballpoint ink that is usually found is a paste-like viscous ink that is sheared off by the rotating tungsten-carbide ball that is in the tip socket, laying down ink as the ball rolls across the paper.

Pros : Convenient, long lasting in the pen, longer shelf-life, less apt to dry-out, good for writing on carbon copy paper. Cons : Need to exert more hand pressure to get a dark ink mark on the paper, as ballpoint ink is not very fluid. However, most ballpoint pens can also accept a Gel Ink Ballpoint Refill, which allows more flow and less hand pressure required to write fluidly on paper.

Most mini (or pocket-sized) pens and multi-function ballpoint pens use a D-1 Ballpoint Refill, which has a more compact shape and is usually not compatible with larger ballpoint pens.

Parker-Style Ballpoint Pen Refill

Used in about 90% of all the world’s ballpoint pens, the “Parker-Style” ballpen refill is named after the Parker brand that made it so popular. Since it is so widely used, several manufacturers produce the same model refill which is compatible with most click-top and twist-action ballpoint pens. It is distinguishable by its slender tapering toward the tip and the plastic back-end piece that is uniquely shaped to fit most common ballpoint pen mechanisms.

Pen Brands that fit Parker-Style Ballpoint Refill : Aldo Domani, ACME, Aurora, Bexley, Brossert & Erhard, Colibri, Delta, Diplomat, Elysee, Faber Castell, Foray Focus, Hauser, Inoxcrom, Itoya, Jean Pierre Lepine, Krone, Marlen, Montegrappa, Monteverde, OMAS, Parker, Pelikan, Retro 51, Rotring, Schmidt, Schneider, Stipula, Visconti, Yafa.

Parker Style Ballpoint Refills: ACME, Fisher Space Pen, Parker, Monteverde, Pelikan, Schmidt, Visconti

Mini D-1 Size Ballpoint Refill

This toothpick sized refill is common to mini or pocket sized pens and multi-function pens. The D-1 sized refill is typically not as long-lasting as a larger ballpoint ink cartridge due to the volume of ink that it holds. They are most commonly found in multi-functional pens since the pen houses more than one color at a time. Some brands, like Cross and Parker, may differ ever-so-slightly in size, so please double-check the length of your D-1 refill to confirm which replacement would be the best fit.

Pen Brands that fit Mini D-1 Size Ballpoint Refill : Aldo Domani, ACME, Delta, Lamy, Monteverde, Pelikan, Retro 51, Rotring, Schmidt, Staedtler, Yafa.

Mini D-1 Size Ballpoint Refills: ACME, Aurora, Caran d’Ache, Retro 1951, Monteverde, Pelikan, Cross, Lamy

Parker Style Gel Ballpoint Refill

Sometimes referred to as a capless rollerball, superbowl or gel pen refill, the Parker Style Gel ink ballpoint refill uses the same shape and size as the standard Parker Style ballpoint cartridge, but carries a different type of ink technology that allows for smoother and wetter writing experience. Gel ink is specially formulated to give the writer a better flow without requiring a cap to prevent the tip from drying out. They do require more frequent replacements, but the writing quality and comfort is substantially better than the paste ballpoint ink.

Pen Brands that fit Parker-Style Gel Ballpoint Refill : Aldo Domani, ACME, Aurora, Bexley, Brossert & Erhard, Colibri, Delta, Diplomat, Elysee, Faber Castell, Foray Focus, Hauser, Inoxcrom, Itoya, Jean Pierre Lepine, Krone, Marlen, Montegrappa, Monteverde, OMAS, Parker, Pelikan, Retro 51, Rotring, Schmidt, Schneider, Stipula, Visconti, Yafa.

Parker Style Gel Ballpoint Refills: Monteverde, Parker, Visconti

Fisher Space Pen Pressurized (SPR) Ballpoint Refill

Fisher’s claim to fame is the patented pressurized Space Pen refill that can enable the writer to use their pen at any angle, in extreme temperatures, on a variety of surfaces and… in space! The pressurized cartridge forces the uniquely formulated ink through the tip only when it is being written with. Each of the Fisher refills is sold with a plastic adapter that allows compatibility with a Parker-Style Ballpoint Pen.

Pen Brands that fit Fisher Space Pen Refill : Aldo Domani, ACME, Aurora, Bexley, Brossert & Erhard, Colibri, Delta, Diplomat, Elysee, Faber Castell, Fisher, Foray Focus, Hauser, Inoxcrom, Itoya, Jean Pierre Lepine, Krone, Marlen, Montegrappa, Monteverde, OMAS, Parker, Pelikan, Retro 51, Rotring, Schmidt, Schneider, Sensa, Stipula, Visconti, Wagner Swiss, Yafa.

Fisher Space Pen Pressurized Ballpoint Refills: Fisher

Other Manufacturer – Specific Ballpoint Pen Refills

Caran d’Ache Goliath Ballpoint Pen Refill

Caran d’Ache 828 Frosty Ballpoint Pen Refill

Cross Standard Ballpoint Pen Refill

Waterman Ballpoint Pen Refill

Sheaffer Ballpoint Pen Refill

Mont Blanc Ballpoint Pen Refill

Lamy M16 Ballpoint Pen Refill

Lamy M22 Mini Ballpoint Pen Refill

Propelling Pencils And Leads – Pencils4Artists

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  • Propelling or Automatic Pencils for all types of design and art work
  • Choose from lots of different lead grades
  • Refill leads and erasers to fit most standard propelling pencils
  • Great for detailed work and t0o maintain comfortable hold at all times

Aristo Mechancial Pencils

If you want to get technical then Aristo is the place to start. They have been manufacturing mathematical and drawing aids in Austria since 1862, and the brand is recognised around the world for its innovative designs. The precision and high quality of Aristo products means they arent lying in their stated attempt to provide the best tools for the journey from young student to top designer.

Faber Castell Mechanical Pencils & Leads

With a long pedigree in making precision technical drawing pencils, Faber Castell offer an impressive range of propelling pencils.  From the super stylish TK Fine Pencils range to the more everday Grip and Gripmatic ranges there is something for every budget.

We also stock the full range of refill leads from Faber Castell.

Faber Castell Clutch Pencils & Leads

2mm Clutch pencils have long been used for most kinds of drawing and sketching.  Faber’s classic TK ranges of Clutch pencils offer classic, sleek pencils with high quality leads in a wide range of grades.  We also have sharpeners especially for 2mm leads to keep your pencil ready for action at all times!

Staedtler Propelling Pencils & Refill Leads

Staedtler offer a superb range of mechanical pencils using advanced graphite technology for superb results.  With cushioned leads to prevent breakage Staedtler propelling pencils give an exceptionally smooth writing experience.

Staedtler 2mm Clutch Pencils & Refill Leads

Staedtler 2mm lead holders have taken the humble pencil to new levels of convenience and practicality!  The cushioned leads provide excellent break resistance and the nice, broad 2mm leads give an exceptionally smooth drawing experience.

Tombow Monograph 0.5mm Propelling Pencils

This excellent new propelling pencil from Tombow has the lead advanced in two different ways.  You can either use the press clip or you can simply shake the pencil!  Once at the required length simply slide the clip up to lock the lead in place.  

With a nice long twist eraser at the top and a really nice, chunky feel in the hand this is a new player in the mid range propelling pencil market.

Takes all standard 0.5mm leads

Pentel Automatic Pencils & Refill Leads

Pentel are well known for their high quality automatic pencils (otherwise called propelling pencils or mechanical pencils). From the utility Pentel A300 series to the lovely Graphgear 1000 pencil there is a pencil to suit every need and every budget.

Pilot ENO Pencil Leads

Pilot ENO Pencil Leads are extra strong and last longer than most other leads thanks to their clever polymer bonding technology.  Available in sizes 0.3mm, 0.5mm, 0.7mm and 0.9mm in grades from 4B – 4H.

Pilot ENO Leads will fit any brand of propelling pencil of the appropriate size.

Cretacolor 5.6mm Leads & Accessories

Cretacolor 5.6mm Leads are a range solid leads which used with a holder are ideal for sketching and drawing.  Cretacolor leads are available in oil based and non oil based and in various degress of traditional sketching colours such as sanguine and sepia as well as graphite.  We also have the popular lead holders and lead sharpening boards.


The best mechanical pencils for artists and designers

There are loads of reasons for needing one of the best mechanical pencils – maybe you’re a traditional artist looking for a different kind of pencil for your toolkit, a web designer searching for a super-precise pencil for sketching wireframes, or even any kind of creative looking for a neat way to take notes. Either way, a mechanical pencil could be the answer. 

Mechanical pencils have been around for years, and the best thing is – you never need to sharpen them because the graphite, or lead, is not attached to the outer casing like with a traditional wooden pencil. To use them, you simply insert your lead into the well, which is built into the pencil, then click to extend it as it wears down. 

In this guide you’ll find our picks for the best mechanical pencils. You can also find an explainer on the benefits of mechanical pencils, which you can skip to here, and what to look for when choosing one; find that guide here.

Haven’t decided if you’re after a mechanical pencil or not? Take a look at our more general list of the best pencils around right now. If you’d rather get your hands inky, see our essential pens for artists roundup. Oh, and we also have a list of the best watercolour pencils money can buy, if you’re curious about that medium.

Mechanical pencils for drawing

Whether you use them for quick sketches, technical draftsmanship or completed artworks, mechanical pencils have a lot to offer. Here we present our pick of the best mechanical pencils for drawing purposes. While you’re here, you might also want to check out our top pencil drawing techniques, to help you make the most of your purchase.

(Image credit: Amazon)

01. Uni Kurutoga Pipe Slide 0.5mm

The best mechanical pencil for drawing overall

Weight: 18.1g | Dimensions: 19.2 x 10 x 1.6cm | Lead diameter: 0.5mm | Mechanism: Pipe slide


Special versions for Ghibli fans

0.7mm pencil rare outside Japan

Protective cap can come loose

Our pick for the best mechanical pencil for drawing overall is the Uni Kurutoga Pipe Slide. There’s one big difference that sets this pencil apart from its rivals: when you use a regular mechanical pencil, the lead wears down on one side, forming a slanted, wedge-shaped tip. This can potentially cause variations in line thickness as you draw. The Kurutoga avoids this through a clever mechanism that continually rotates the pencil lead as you write. 

A spring-loaded clutch twists the lead a tiny degree every time you lift the pencil from the paper, and this allows for a uniform wearing of the lead, and cleaner and more consistent lines as a result.

(Image credit: Pentel)

02. Pentel 200

The best cheap mechanical pencil

Weight: 10g | Dimensions: 0.89 x 14 x 0.89cm | Lead diameter: 0.5mm | Mechanism: Push-top button


Good all-rounder

Nothing exciting about it

Included eraser doesn’t last long

You don’t have to spend a lot of money to get one of the best mechanical pencils. There are some excellent models out there that are surprisingly cheap, and our favourite budget-friendly model has to be the Pentel 200. It’s cheap enough that you don’t have to worry if you lose it (or someone walks off with it), and a great option as a backup mechanical pencil, but good enough to be your main option if you want.

(Image credit: Amazon)

03. Rotring 800

The best luxury mechanical pencil

Weight: 90.7g | Dimensions: 5.1 x 15.2 x 0.5cm | Lead diameter: 0.5mm | Mechanism: Twist and click

High-end engineering

Luxury feel


May be overkill for most purposes

We’ve established that you don’t need to spend a fortune to get one of the best mechanical pencils for drawing. But if you do want to splash out, and buy something really special, we’d highly recommend the Rotring 800. This top-of-the-range model is infused with high-quality engineering and aimed at serious artists or draughtsmen. 

With a good weight (almost 91g), the metal body feels solid in the hand. And the non-slip metal grip ‘twist and click’ retractable mechanism means it’s very easy and comfortable to use, even over lengthy sessions. Its hexagonal shape also makes it less likely to slide off your desk, or even a slanted surface. In short, if you’re working on something special, working for long periods, looking for a gift, or just want a pencil that’s super-nice to use, the Rotring 800 is a good bet.

04. Pentel Graphgear 500 Automatic Drafting Pencil

The best mechanical pencil for technical drawing

Weight: 22.7g | Dimensions: 0.9 x 14.7 x 0.9cm | Lead diameter: 0.3, 0.5, 0.7 or 0.9mm | Mechanism: Button

Lightweight but functional

Wide range of lead diameters

0.3mm lead can be tricky to source

Included eraser not the best

Featuring a 4mm fixed sleeve for template work and technical drawings, the Pentel Graphgear 500  is the perfect pencil for technical drawing. With its metallic-mesh grip and a barrel weighted at your fingertips, it’s designed to help you draw precisely and stay in full control of the line.

It works with a variety of lead thicknesses, and there’s also a built-in lead hardness indicator to help you identify your lead type quickly and easily. The weight feels good in the hand, and it’s light enough to make it comfortable to use over long sessions. In short, this is the best mechanical pencil for drafting and precision work, and it comes at a very affordable price.

Mechanical pencils for writing

The best mechanical pencils for writing

If you primarily want to use your mechanical pencil for writing, then among your main considerations will be comfort; no one wants an aching hand after a long stretch of writing. But as with drawing, you’ll also want your writing to look nice, and that demands a pencil that can produce clean, consistent lines. Here are the four best mechanical pencils for writing.

(Image credit: Amazon)

05. LAMY 2000

The best mechanical pencil for writing overall

Weight: 18.1g | Dimensions: 1.2 x 1.2 x 13.7cm | Lead diameter: 0.5 or 0.7mm | Mechanism: Button

Produces smooth, beautiful lines

Highly durable


May be overkill for some purposes

If you want one of the best mechanical pencils for writing, then we recommend the LAMY 2000. Based on the well-known fountain pen of the same name, designed by Gerd A. Müller in 1996, this is nothing less than a modern classic. It’s light enough to be flexible, but solid enough to feel dependable. It’s comfortable to hold and use, and produces smooth, consistent handwriting. And its build quality is also impressive; this is a pen that you can expect to last for years. 

Its makers focused on doing one thing, and doing it well. The LAMY 2000 is, in short, a delightful pen to use for writing, as well as being supremely reliable and durable. And while it might cost a bit more than rivals, it’s certainly a case of you get what you pay for. 

06. Uni Kurutoga Roulette

The best value mechanical pencil for writing

Weight: 13.6g | Dimensions: 0.99 x 14.62 x 1.29cm | Lead diameter: 0.7mm | Mechanism: Button


Low price

Included eraser is not great

Lighter weight than the LAMY 2000

The Uni Kurutoga Roulette comes in at a surprisingly low price given its high quality, making it the best value mechanical pencil we’ve found for writing. This pencil is comfortable to hold, with a nicely balanced weight and a knurled metal fingerplate for better grip. Its clever design, matching that of the Uni Kurutoga Pipe Slide (our number one mechanical pencil for drawing, above), means that it sharpens the lead as you write. As with its sibling, that means you get a super-even stroke width that helps make your handwriting neat, polished and attractive. 

07. American Classic Mechanical Pencil 0.9mm

The most durable mechanical pencil for writing

Weight: 7.8g | Dimensions: 15.24 x 5.84 x 1.78cm | Lead diameter: 0.9mm | Mechanism: Button

Trusted brand

Super-tough lead


Included eraser not great

This model from American Classic is a little pricey. But if you want a mechanical pencil for writing you can truly rely on, this has a lot to recommend it. Popular for decades amongst the armed forces and public institutions of the US, the American has a strong reputation for its reliability, durability and clean lines. The thick 0.9mm lead is also super-tough and rarely breaks. So long as you take proper care of it, this should last a lifetime, which puts the slightly higher cost into perspective.

(Image credit: Amazon)

08. Pentel Sharp Kerry Mechanical Pencil 0.5mm

The best mechanical pencil for professional writing

Weight: 9.07g | Dimensions: 1.9 x 3.2 x 15.2cm | Lead diameter: 0.5mm | Mechanism: Button

Precision engineering

Lead rarely breaks


Pencil cap doesn’t fit perfectly

Handcrafted using watchmakers’ tools for precision, beauty and accuracy, the Pentel Sharp Kerry Mechanical Pencil 0.5mm is another quite pricey, but very high-end mechanical pencil. The tip of the pencil is solid and well-made, which means that breakage of the lead is a rare occurrence. The removable cap makes it super-portable. This mechanical pencil has been in production for many years now, for one good reason: its impressive consistency and quality. That makes it an excellent choice for anyone wishing to produce professional looking writing.

Benefits of mechanical pencils

When the lead runs out on a mechanical pencil, you just insert a new one. This not only saves you a lot of hassle and mess, it also means mechanical pencils can provide more consistent lines, enabling you to create more precise drawings and neater handwritten notes. That makes them the obvious choice for technical draftsmanship, of course, but that’s not all they’re good for.

Many artists prefer using a mechanical pencil even for more expressive and imaginative work, because a mechanical pencil’s size and weight remains consistent, whereas a wood pencil gets finer the more you sharpen it. The finer lines produced are usually easier to erase. 

Finally, whether you’re using a pencil for writing or drawing (see our how to draw tutorials for some tips), mechanical pencils are typically more cost-effective in the long run, because you only need to replace the lead once it has run out, not the whole pencil. And it’s also convenient not to have to tout around a sharpener with you at all times.

How to choose the best mechanical pencil

There is a wide range of options on the market, and so there are certain things to consider when choosing the best mechanical pencil for you.

The first is the diameter of the lead you wish to use. If you wish to draw very fine lines, you’ll want to go for a 0.3mm lead. For writing and most drawing, you’ll probably prefer a 0.5mm lead. A thicker, 0.7mm lead, meanwhile, may be better for sketching and non-detailed drawing. Other sizes are also available for specialist uses.

Another consideration is the hardness of the lead. A soft lead will be darker and more prone to smudging, while a hard lead is better for leaving light, fine lines. Softness is represented by a number followed by ‘B’; the higher the number, the softer the lead. Hardness is represented by a number followed by ‘H’; the higher the number, the harder the lead. Finally, ‘F’ and ‘HB’ leads lie in the middle.

Also think about the mechanism used to extend the lead. The three most common mechanisms are a push-button, which may be on the side or the top of the pencil; a twist operation, which is more often seen in older models; and a ‘shake’ advance. 

Weight is also important, as is grip: some pencils have special features, such as a bumpy texture, to improve this and make your mechanical pencil more ergonomic.

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Round up of today’s best deals

Pens, Pencils and Refills



They say the pen is mightier than the sword; and with such a vast range of pens available today, choosing the right one can be a difficult task. Whatever your reason for needing a new pen, be it to write a best-selling novel or jot down notes in a university lecture, it is important to choose the right one in terms of the quality of writing it can produce, and for your own comfort and enjoyment.

This guide is to help you decide which type of pen is best suited to your needs. We’ve laid out the pens available, along with their strengths and weaknesses so that you’re able to make an informed choice about your purchase.

Once you have settled on the right type of pen, your only problem will be choosing from the fantastic range available at Euroffice.


Ballpoint Pens

The pen we all know and love. Ballpoint pens are probably the most widely used type of pen and are known for their reliability, availability, durability and reasonable prices. The pen functions with a small rotating ball – usually made from brass, steel or tungsten carbide, which ink clings to. The ball rotates as you write, leaving the ink on the paper while at the same time cleverly preventing the ink inside the reservoir from drying out.

The ink used in a ballpoint is generally oil-based viscous ink which is quick drying, will write on most surfaces and comes in a wide range of colours. The thicker ink in these pens can sometimes dry out on the ball when not in use but a quick scribble will usually get the ink flowing again.

Ballpoints come in a range of tip sizes – fine, medium and bold to suit your needs and satisfy your personal preference whether in the office, at school or for personal use at home.

Both disposable and refillable ballpoints are available.


Rollerball Pens

Rollerballs work in the same way a ballpoint does, but using thinner water-based ink so that the effect on paper is similar to that of a fountain pen. The low viscosity ink in a rollerball flows freely with little pressure required whilst writing. This helps reduce the risk of tired or aching hands after a lengthy writing session.

Ink from a rollerball tends take a little longer to dry and may bleed through some of the more absorbent types of paper so a little extra care may be needed, although that’s a small price to pay for the superb, professional looking lines that can be created with these pens. As the ink in a rollerball flows more freely than the ink in a ballpoint, the lifespan of the refill may be shorter.

Rollerballs will either be retractable or they will come with a lid. Ensure the lid is placed on the pen when not in use, to prevent the pen from drying out. Rollerballs start off at a reasonable price and many are refillable so you never need to be parted from your favourite pen. Tip sizes vary from super fine to bold. Which size you choose simply comes down to personal preference and depends on the type of work you will use your pen for.


Fine liners

Fineliners have a fine tip which is ideal for creating those slightly more delicate lines. Whether it’s sketching, illustrating or writing that you’re into – or anything else which requires attention to detail, for that matter. A fineliner gives handwriting a crisper, clearer look, especially small handwriting. Fineliners come in a range of different colours and the line widths tend to be under 0.7mm, with the finest being 0.3mm.


Technical Pens

If you’re looking for that perfect finish, technical pens are available to do just that. These pens are favoured by architects, draughtsmen and engineers. They give a precise line and are ideal for use on a range of surfaces, including tracing paper, vellum drawing paper and line board. Most technical pens are refillable with replacement nibs often available. They come in a variety of line widths ranging from the superfine 0.1 mm to a much thicker 1.0mm. You could opt for one of our Rotring sets which contain the basics to get you started.


Fountain Pens

Fountain pens are viewed by many as being one of the most luxurious ways to put pen to paper. They work using gravity and capillary action to get the ink through the feed and onto the paper via the nib. Fountain pens offer a smooth continuous ink flow and very little pressure is needed when writing.

The nibs are usually made from stainless steel or gold and are available in a range of sizes: fine, medium and bold. The more expensive fountain pens come in beautiful designs which are often considered treasured items by their owners.

The methods of getting ink into a fountain pen vary, although the easiest and most convenient way is via a replaceable cartridge. Other refill methods use bottled ink which, although they offer a wider range of inks and colours, are less convenient for using on the go. When you’ve found the fountain pen you wish to purchase, it’s always a good idea to research which method it uses to ensure it is compatible with your lifestyle and requirements.

Disposable fountain pens are also available and are suitable for everyday use. These pens are not refillable but still provide you with a smooth, enjoyable writing experience. They come with an iridium ball nib and sizes range from 0.7mm to 0.3mm. The Pentel JM20 has a duel sided nib in sizes from 0.3mm to 0.4mm, allowing you to adjust it to suit your own personal preference and style.


Gel pens & Erasable Gel Pens

Gel pens are perfect if you want a quick drying ink similar to that found in a ballpoint, but want a pen that feels as smooth on paper as a rollerball. Quick drying times mean less smudging. The high viscosity ink is contained in a water-based gel and will show clearly on dark, and even glossy, surfaces. These factors make this style of pen not only great to write with but an excellent choice for art and craft projects where a range of materials are used to write or draw on. A selection of different tip sizes and colours are available.

The erasable gel pen, such as the Pilot Frixion, is perfect for those who like to hide their mistakes. When you rub the ink with the special tip, friction generated heat causes the ink to disappear right before your eyes – without damaging the paper. Should you accidentally erase something, simply pop the paper in the freezer for a few minutes and the ink will reappear like magic!


Fine Writing

If you’re looking for something extra special you could opt for one of our Executive pens. The Parker and Waterman pens from our Fine Writing range offer a pen that not only writes well but is likely to create a little pen envy in the workplace (and on that note – keep it well hidden from the office pen thief!). These pens come in various stylish designs and are made from stainless steel with chrome or gold trims. They are available as a ballpoint, rollerball or a fountain pen so there is no need for compromise.



These pens are used for highlighting text and come in bright fluorescent colours, bringing text to the attention of the reader with ease. Most highlighters have a chiselled tip which produces a broad line through the text but can be used to achieve a finer line when underlining. Line widths range from 1mm to 5mm, making highlighting text of any size an easy task.

Red, Blue, Pink, Yellow, Orange and Green are the typical colours found in the highlighter range. Yellow tends to be a popular choice in the office, as it doesn’t show up on photocopies.


OHP Pens

Over-head projector (OHP) pens are designed to write on OHP film but are also suitable to use on most other glossy surfaces.

OHP pens offer both a permanent and non-permanent option. If you’re looking to make your presentation colourful and eye-catching you could opt for one of our assorted colour packs which include some, or all, of the following colours: black, blue, red, orange, green, brown, purple and yellow. You can choose from a wide range of line widths, including: 0.4mm, 0.6mm, 0.8mm, 1mm and 3mm.


Marker Pens

Marker pens are available in a variety of colours including black, blue, red and green. The tip of a marker pen will either be a bullet tip or a chisel tip. A bullet tip helps give you a more consistent line width which is great for labelling or writing on flip charts, CDs and more. A chisel tip conveniently gives you the option to produce both thick and thin lines. Tip sizes range from 0.4mm right up to 14.8mm, to ensure your every need is catered for.

Permanent markers will write on almost any surface including wood, plastic, metal, glass and paper. They are waterproof and cannot be removed once applied.

Non-permanent markers are excellent for use on whiteboards, OHP film and similar non-porous surfaces as well as being suitable for use on paper. A damp cloth can be used to remove the marker ink.

NB:This buyer guide was written by one of our guest Euroffice Experts – Janine Atkin


90,000 Article: Get it in pencil!

Black lead pencils

Ordinary pencils, familiar to us from childhood (simple), are called graphite or black lead pencils. Graphite belongs to products of natural origin and is one of the forms of crystalline carbon mixed with additional substances. Simple pencils are hard, soft, and hard-soft. All soft pencils are designated by the letter “B” (from the English Blac), hard pencils – by the letter “H” (from the English Hard), and hard-soft, respectively, HB.Pencils made in Russia have different designations. Hard ones are designated by the letter “T”, soft by the letter “M”, and hard-soft, as you might guess – “TM”. The numbers in front of the letters indicate the degree of softness or hardness. For example, a 4B pencil is 2 times softer than a 2B pencil, and a 10H pencil is 5 times harder than a 2H pencil. Hard pencils leave light, silvery shades. They are ideal for clean lines and sketching. Soft pencils, on the other hand, allow you to achieve rich, deep painterly lines.

Artists, draftsmen and other specialists clearly know how hard or soft a pencil they need to work. If you are not going to work professionally with a pencil, it makes sense to purchase a universal type of pencils – hard-soft. Their line is not as “loose” and bold as in soft pencils, and not as thin and “prickly” as in hard pencils.

On sale you can find ready-made sets of graphite pencils, in which pencils with varying degrees of softness are collected.Among them, a selection of soft or, conversely, hard pencils may stand out.

Mechanical (automatic) pencils

The main feature of automatic pencils is the lead feed. If in simple wooden pencils, the lead can only be obtained by hand turning the pencil (with a sharpener or a special knife). Automatic pencils have different lead feeding mechanisms: screw – the lead is fed by rotating one of the body parts, or pencils with a side button, which are also called “pencils for the lazy.”The button in these pencils is located close to the girth area, so the lead can be fed almost without leaving the writing. Often these pencils have an enlarged eraser instead of a traditional button. There are automatic pencils with a combined “shake or press” mechanism, which means “shake or press”. Their peculiarity lies in the fact that the lead can be fed both in the traditional way and by shaking the pencil. The most popular of the variety of pencils in the corporate sector are the traditional top-feed mechanical pencils.

Collet pencils

A type of automatic pencils, the main feature of which is the presence of the so-called collet – a device in the form of a spring-loaded split sleeve for clamping graphite rods, which are tucked into special metal tubes-holders. Collet pencils do not need sharpening and allow you to draw lines with a width of 0.2 to 1 mm.

Collet pencils are multipurpose. They are used by everyone – from a first-grader to a bearded engineer.And therefore, the choice of such pencils is very diverse. The main quality criterion is the number of petals in the lead clamping mechanism. In collet pencils, for example, Koh-i-Noor, there are five such petals, which is the maximum.

Segment pencils

This is a cross between simple and mechanical pencils. We can say, pencils with a hand drive. In the plastic case of such writing instruments, there is a certain number (usually 11) of plastic holders with a sharpened lead.The special form of sharpening the lead of such a pencil allows you to use it for a long time. Inserted one into the other, these segments represent the inner “bar” that holds the segment currently in use. As soon as the lead is used up, it is enough to pull it out and move it to the bottom of the pencil. Everything is quite simple and convenient.

Explanations to TN VED 9608109100

9608 – Ball pens; felt-tipped and other porous-tipped pens and markers; fountain pens, stylographs and other pens; copy pens; Pencils with a push or slide shaft; pen holders, pencil holders and similar holders; parts (including caps and clips) of the articles listed above, other than those of heading 9609:

900 38 – – other:

9003 8 9608 99 200 0
9608 Ballpoint pens; felt-tipped and other porous-tipped pens and markers; fountain pens, stylographs and other pens; copy pens; Pencils with a push or slide shaft; pen holders, pencil holders and similar holders; parts (including caps and clips) of the articles listed above, other than those of heading 9609:
9608 10 – ballpoint pens:
9608 10 100 0 – – liquid ink (ballpoint)
– – Other:
9608 10 300 0 – – – with body or cap made of precious metal or rolled precious metal
– – – Other:
9608 10 910 0 – – – – with disposable refills
9608 10 990 0 – – – – other
9608 20 000 0 – pens and markers with felt and other porous materials nibs
– ink pens, stylographs and other pens:
9608 31 000 0 – – drawing pens for ink
9608 39
9608 39 100 0 – – – with body or cap made of precious metal or rolled precious metal
9608 39 900 0 – – – other
9608 40 000 0 – ejector or slide pencils
9608 50 000 0 – sets of two or more items specified in the above subheadings
9608 60 – ballpoint refills consisting of ballpoint nib and ink cartridge:
9608 60 100 0 – – with liquid ink (for ballpoint pens)
9608 60 900 0 – – other
– other:
9608 91 000 0 – – Pen nibs and nibs
9608 99 – – Other:
– – – metal
9608 99 800 0 – – – other

This heading includes:

1) Ballpoint pens.They usually consist of a body in which a tube of ink paste is inserted, ending in a ball-point.

2) Pens and markers with felt tips and other porous materials, including those of the fountain pen type.

3) Ink pens, stylographs and other pens (pumping, with an insert cartridge, plunger, vacuum, etc.), including those with nibs and nozzles.

4) Copy stylographs.

5) Screw and automatic pencils with one or more leads; Including spare leads usually found inside pencils.

6) Nib pens, consisting of one or more parts, including caps and nibs.

7) Holders for pencils and similar holders (eg holders for pencils, drawing crayons).


This heading also includes identifiable parts not specified anywhere else in the nomenclature. For example:

Feathers of any design, including unfinished and roughly shaped feathers; clamps; ballpoint pen refills, consisting of a ballpoint nib and an ink reservoir; holders for ball tips and felt heads for marking stylographs; ink flow regulators; cylinders for pens and pencils of this heading; filling and screw mechanisms; ink tanks made of rubber and other materials; protective caps for tips; spare detachable pen sets as part of a set of feather, feeder and collar; nib tips (or pen tips), which are small balls made from platinum or some tungsten alloys and fitted over the end of the nib to prevent premature wear.

The heading does not include:

a) Cartridges with ink for fountain pens (heading 3215).

b) Steel balls for ballpoint pens and pencils (heading 7326 or 8482).

c) Reyfeders (heading 9017).

g) Pencil leads (heading 9609).

Explanatory notes to subheadings

9608 10 100 0 – 9608 10 990 0

See HS Explanatory Note to this heading, point 1.

Articles of these subheadings are equipped with electronic clocks (usually with digital display).

9608 31 000 0 – 9608 39 900 0

See HS Explanatory Notes to this heading, paragraph 3.

9608 40,000 0

See HS Explanatory Notes to this heading, paragraph 5.

9608 91,000 0

This subheading also applies to stencil pens.

9608 99 920 0 and 9608 99 980 0

This subheading applies to balls for ballpoint pens; they are made from tungsten carbide and also from other metals (excluding steel of heading 7326 or 8482) in the range from 0.6 to 1.25 mm in diameter.

However, tungsten carbide nib balls and tungsten carbide nib tips are classified in subheading 9608 91 000 0, regardless of the material from which they are made (See the HS Explanatory Note to heading 9608 parts).

Writing instruments |

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Taking into account your choice, we will first of all show you the most suitable pick-up points and delivery times.

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