The ‘pen versus pencil’ debate does not garner nearly as much passion as the wooden pencil versus mechanical pencil discussion. Ask any pencil user and they will vehemently declare their devotion to their preferred pencil — and hiss at the other one!

We love a good pencil — wooden or mechanical. We have already written extensively about the humble wooden pencil and its history and reviewed the Blackwing Volume 530 Gold Rush edition; so it’s time to put a spotlight on the mechanical pencil.

Why you should use a mechanical pencil

  • Consistent lines: Mechanical pencils can achieve the type of precision and detail a regular wooden pencil cannot. With lead size ranging from as small as 0.3mm, you can draw very fine lines, perfect for adding detail to any creative project. This is a bonus if you like your handwriting to have the same line width all the way through, making it neater.
  • Ergonomic: Similar to a pen, the mechanisms inside the mechanical pencil give it more weight. This makes the pen more ergonomic for those who use pencils for long periods. Unlike the wooden pencil, the mechanical pencil always keeps its length so you never have to deal with a shrinking wooden pencil. Students often love it for this reason.
  • Different designs: From a shiny and cheerful LAMY safari to a chic black and brass ystudio mechanical sketching pencil, mechanical pencils come in a variety of styles to suit any personality or purpose.
  • Cost effective & convenient: Mechanical pencils use refillable lead. This means you don’t have to deal with sharpening a pencil or disposing of their shavings. Your pencil technically never runs out, so you don’t have to buy new wooden pencils ever again.

What’s the difference between a clutch pencil and a mechanical pencil?

A clutch pencil’s mechanism is different to the mechanical pencil. While the mechanical pencil pushes the lead forward with each click, the clutch pencil, also known as a leadholder, releases the clutch that holds the lead in place, letting you decide how much lead you want to work with.

Clutch pencils use a much thicker lead. If you prefer a sharper point on your pencil you’ll need to sharpen the lead with a sharpener. The thicker lead makes the clutch pencil excellent for sketching and shading as they work in a similar way to the wooden pencil, except the pencil body never shrinks.

It’s also a popular pen for builders and drafters who like to mark or draw with a thicker line without the fuss of sharpening a wooden pencil.

What lead should I use in my mechanical pencil?

Most mechanical pencils have a standard lead refill size that it uses, such as 0.5mm or 0.7mm. We recommend checking the body of the pencil as some pencils list their refill size on the body. If you’ve purchased the mechanical pencil from Milligram, the refill size is stated in the Specifications tab on all product descriptions.

How do I change the lead and eraser in my mechanical pencil?

All mechanical pencils will have an opening at the top end of the pencil for erasers and lead refills. Simply twist or pull the cap off and insert the lead refill.

If your mechanical pencil has an eraser, simply pull the eraser out in order to refill your pencil with lead.

If you need to replace the eraser on your mechanical pencil but it’s stuck, grab a pin or tack and push the needle end into the eraser, then slowly pull out the eraser the pin. The eraser should stick to the pin when you pull it out.

If you have a LAMY mechanical pencil, LAMY have made some help videos on how to change your lead refills.

I want a mechanical pencil but don’t know where to start. What do you recommend?

There are lots of great choices!

Great intro mechanical pencil: The LAMY safari mechanical pencils are comfortable, affordable and come in a range of colours to suit your mood.

Sleek mechanical pencil: The Kaweco Special is a sleek yet affordable mechanical pencil. It comes in both black and brass.

Need to impress someone? The LAMY 2000 mechanical pencil in stainless steel is the perfect gift.

On a budget? The Delfonics wooden mechanical pencil is affordable and looks like a wooden pencil.

Match your Moleskine: Moleskine’s minimalist mechanical pencil goes perfectly with their notebooks.

Shop mechanical pencils at Milligram.