A guide to mechanical pencils

architect using mechanical pencil

Propelling pencils, also known as mechanical pencils, are a popular product on our site, so it’s time to dedicate a blog article to them.

We sell a wide variety of pencils, including woodcase, clutch pencils, and mechanical pencils, but in this blog post we’ll focus exclusively on mechanical — or propelling — pencils.

So, what is a propelling pencil? Simply put, it is a pencil whose lead is pushed forward by a mechanical device.

So, while you would sharpen a woodcase pencil to expose more lead, you would trigger the mechanism on a propelling pencil instead.

This pencil type often comes with lead that is 0.5 mm or 0.7 mm in thickness.

Let’s take a closer look.

How does a mechanical pencil work?

The lead in a mechanical pencil is not connected to the outer casing, and so is able to move freely when you want it to.

When you click a button on your pencil (or something similar), a spring pushes the lead forwards a set amount; only a little at a time, so you can easily achieve the perfect lead length.

The benefits of the mechanical pencil

The benefits of choosing a propelling pencil over a woodcase pencil are plentiful.

For example, no sharpening is required; you don’t have to keep pausing your drawing or writing to sharpen, there’s no mess to worry about, and it is fuss-free.

Another benefit of a mechanical pencil is the consistent line width. While the line width of woodcase pencils varies depending on when it was last sharpened and how much it’s been used, a mechanical pencil is reliable and predictable.

In addition to line width, this type of pencil has an invariable balance, which can be particularly important for some artists. While a woodcase pencil gets shorter with use and therefore changes in weight and balance, a propelling pencil doesn’t, and the lead weighs very little.

Another aspect that you may feel is a pro of this pencil type is the fact that it is refillable and so you buy the pencil and can then reuse it for years.

Due to this, it could be suggested that propelling pencils are more eco-friendly than their wooden counterparts, but this would depend on the packaging of your leads.

Mechanical pencils are often more comfortable to hold for long periods of time, too.

So, in summary, choose a mechanical pencil if you place importance on precision and reliability.

We adore woodcase pencils too, but for different reasons, and we’ll look at those in more detail in a future article.

Uses for the mechanical pencil

Mechanical pencils are great for drawing and writing and so are a favourite tool amongst artists and writers, alongside those who journal, architects, builders, designers, and more.

Some of our favourite mechanical pencils

We stock a wide range of propelling pencils but here are a few of our and our customers’ favourites.

The Faber-Castell Ambition mechanical pencil is available in a selection of stunning finishes, including a variety of woods — all of which take 0.7mm leads.

The Faber-Castell Ambition mechanical pencil in Walnut

The Faber-Castell Ambition mechanical pencil in Walnut

The Caran d’Ache Leman mechanical pencil has a timeless appearance with beautifully subtle curves and an 18-carat gold rhodium-plated nib. This pencil is also available in a range of finishes.

The Caran d'Ache Leman mechanical pencil in Grand Bleu

The Caran d’Ache Leman mechanical pencil in Grand Bleu

If you’re new to propelling pencils, the Staedtler Mars Micro mechanical pencil set is ideal. With three different lead widths and an accessible price point, you can experiment and see which works best for you.

Staedtler mechanical pencil set

The Staedtler Mars Micro mechanical pencil set

As a long-term stationery lover, I adore working for The Pen Company. My childhood saw me carrying around a little red briefcase covered in stickers and full of pens, paper and other such goodies; my adulthood sees me doing pretty much exactly the same!