This post was done in partnership with The Wirecutter, a list of the best technology to buy. Read the full article below at TheWirecutter.com .
After talking to a half-dozen experts, surveying more than a thousand readers, researching 127 different models, and going hands-on with seven of them, we’ve discovered that the best general-use mechanical pencil for most people is the $5 uni-ball Kuru Toga. Thanks to an innovative internal mechanism, it’ll never get blunt as you write, meaning your words and diagrams will always be at their sharpest and most defined.
But we know that there are various ways in which people use mechanical pencils. If you have other needs, we have a couple other picks below, and even more in our full guide at the Wirecutter.
How we decided
We consulted with aficionados from the thriving network of stationery bloggers, interviewing a half-dozen pencil experts who between them have 36 years of experience covering all manner of writing utensils. We combined this with a survey of more than 1,000 readers to get an idea of what really mattered to people, and between the two methods were able to narrow down from hundreds of pencils on the market to just a handful, each of which were useful for different situation.
For most people, the pencil you want is the $5 uni-ball Kuru Toga. Originally available only in Japan and through specialist importers, it’s been widely available in the US for a couple of years now at office supply stores, Walmart, Staples, and others. Among both experts and survey responders, it was the most popular mechanical pencil to be had. On top of that, nearly 100 Wirecutter readers wrote in to tell us that they like the Kuru Toga, and the reason was always the same: The rotating tip keeps the lead constantly and consistently sharp. Some also noted that it reduces lead breakage, thanks to more evenly spreading the force on the lead.
This is a killer feature that no other pencil can match. The ratcheting internal mechanism rotates the tip of the lead slightly each time your pencil leaves the page, so less time is spent adjusting your pencil and more time is spent just straight-up writing. More important, your lines are always even and at their sharpest—no more lines getting fatter and fatter as you work your way down the page.
If you want something that’s a bit more traditional than the Kuru Toga, there’s a simple, long-lasting mechanical pencil that’s affordable and has a classic design: the Pentel Sharp P200 Series. They range in size from the 0.3-mm-lead-using P203 all the way up to the 0.9-mm P209, though the black 0.5-mm P205 is the most common. It goes for around $8 for a two-pack. This pencil has remained essentially unchanged since its debut in the 1970s and is a cult favorite due to its hardiness, high-quality construction, and classic design.
The capped pen look (also good for lefties)
If you want a pencil that looks less like a pencil, the sister model to the Pentel Sharp P200s is the $12 Pentel Sharp Kerry, which, for lack of a better term, is a mechanical pencil camouflaged as a pen. It’s a totally different aesthetic from a standard mechanical pencil, and has been described by survey respondents as elegant, fancy, and classic. Its precise, firm tip should serve left-handed people well and be less likely to jam, and it has an innovative click-through cap that allows you to advance the lead regardless of whether the cap is on the back of the pencil or not.
A full-featured metal drafting pencil
The $13 Pentel Graph Gear 1000 brings features that you usually only see in substantially more expensive pencils, like $50 Rotring 800. It has a high-quality metal body, so it should last longer than a plastic-bodied pencil, as well as a retractable tip and a manually adjustable lead hardness indicator that lets you dial in what sort of lead you’re using. It also has one of the strongest clips that we found, keeping it securely in place when attached to a pocket, ream of papers, or clipboard, and its grip is a comfortable and hard-wearing combination of knurled metal and soft rubber.
The best mechanical pencil for most people is the $5 uni-ball Kuru Toga. Its unique rotating mechanism means that you’ll constantly be using the sharpest part of the lead, which means your writing will look neater, your lines will be even, your symbols will be more precise, and your lead won’t be as prone to breaking. It makes for a more even and precise writing experience—and that’s something no other widely available pencil can boast.
This guide may have been updated. To see the current recommendation please go to TheWirecutter.com.