Do you need some pointers on picking out the perfect mechanical pencil? With so many to choose from, it can be hard to know where to start looking. In this guide, we’ll share our top mechanical pencil recommendations, along with some tips on how to choose the one that’s right for you.
- Mechanical Pencil Recommendations
- Mechanical Pencil Considerations
- How We Approach Research and Testing
- Other Resources
- Final Thoughts
The Kuru Toga is aptly named by taking two words from the Japanese language and merging them together. "Kuru" (クル) is an onomatopoeia for something turning or rotating, and "toga" (トガ) is taken from the verb "togaru" (とがる), meaning to taper to a point or become sharp. The name conjures up an image of something constantly spinning to a precise point, which is exactly what the Kuru Toga does.
The Kuru Toga Roulette takes this auto lead rotation mechanism and puts it into a luxuriously sleek, high-quality body. It features a metal grip section that’s comfortable to hold and gives the Roulette a low center of gravity—a characteristic that makes the pencil feel more nimble and easy to control in the hand. Three rows of gentle knurling on the grip provide extra purchase for your fingers as well as added visual appeal.
There are only two things that kept the Roulette from sharing the top spot with the Pentel Sharp Kerry. First, the fixed lead sleeve makes it less portable and pocket-friendly than it would be if it had a retractable lead sleeve. Second, the Kuru Toga mechanism can cause a slightly squishy feeling when you press the lead down on the paper and the tip retracts a fraction of a millimeter. It's a very minor sensation and we stopped noticing it almost immediately. But if you are especially sensitive to pencils with a little give in the tip, the Kuru Toga may not be the best choice for you.
To learn more about the Kuru Toga mechanism and all the different pencils it comes in, be sure to check out our comprehensive guide.
And, although this is not advertised anywhere on its packaging, we found that you can even customize the look of the pencil by unscrewing the clear plastic outer barrel and inserting a rolled piece of paper decorated however you want!
If you’re interested in lead guard mechanical pencils, be sure to check out our guide!
Color-coded pencil bodies make it effortless to pick the right Color Eno from your pencil case. Refill these pencils with colorful Pilot Color Eno Neox leads (or even put it in any 0.7 mm pencil you choose). One warning: the leads are not lightfast, so they're best for temporary applications like underdrawings or sketchbooks that you keep out of the sun.
The Special is available in two materials: sleek, lightweight aluminum and hefty, eye-catching brass.
Mechanical pencils can use a variety of different methods to advance the lead. This is something you’ll have to do a lot when using a mechanical pencil, so it’s worth considering which kind of mechanism you prefer.
|Lead Size||Recommended Uses|
|0.2 mm to 0.4 mm||Extra-fine writing, detailed drawings, compact math equations|
|0.5 mm||Everyday writing and drawing, math equations, applications that call for a variety of lead grades|
|0.7 mm||Everyday writing and drawing, heavy-handed writers, applications that call for a variety of lead grades.|
|0.9 mm and up||Bold writing and sketching, very heavy-handed writers|
A comfortable grip section is essential to a good writing experience. Mechanical pencil grips come in a range of diameters and materials, and your individual preferences will determine what kind of grip will work best for you.
Even after hundreds of years1, mechanical pencil designers continue to develop innovative new features to make them even better. Here are some useful ones to be aware of.
Retractable tips come in a variety of styles, but the most common type works by holding down the pencil’s top push button, pressing your finger against the end of the lead sleeve, then releasing the push button. The lead sleeve will slide back into the tip of the pencil until the next time you press the top button.
The most common form of lead protection is a sliding lead sleeve. Lead sleeves do a great job of bracing pencil leads against breaking, but they can only protect the lead they actually cover. With a sliding lead sleeve, the surface of the paper pushes the lead sleeve back into the tip of the pencil as the lead wears down, letting you keep on writing with all but the very tip of the lead always protected.
Some mechanical pencils offer more advanced lead protection:
- The Pilot Mogulair has a built-in spring that cushions the tip of the pencil to absorb excess writing pressure. If you prefer a more industrial look, the Rotring Rapid Pro drafting pencil also has this feature.
- The Zebra DelGuard has a similar spring cushion as well as a specially designed lead sleeve that dynamically extends to protect the lead when too much sideways pressure is put on it.
One potential downside to the Kuru Toga mechanism is that it creates a tiny feeling of squishiness at the moment when the lead first touches the paper. We found that we quickly adjusted to this effect and stopped noticing it before long, but if you need a mechanical pencil with a perfectly rigid tip, the Kuru Toga might not be for you.
For more information on Kuru Toga pencils and the auto lead rotation mechanism, check out our guide.
Our writers draw on their personal expertise, consult our in-house subject matter experts, and do extensive research to make our guides as accurate and comprehensive as possible. We then test every finding that makes it through the research stage. Only the techniques and tools whose performance we personally confirm make it into our guides as recommendations.
- The Beginner’s Guide to Mechanical Pencils
- The Best Metal Pencils
- The Best Ergonomic Pencils
- The Best Mechanical Pencil Leads
- The Best Colored Mechanical Pencil Leads
- DIY Multi Pencils
- Zebra DelGuard: The Unbreakable Mechanical Pencil
- Pentel Sharp Kerry: A Cool Mechanical Pencil
- Uni Kuru Toga: A Comprehensive Guide
With so many types and styles of mechanical pencils choose from, there's one to suit anyone's tastes. Do you have a favorite mechanical pencil? We’d love to hear about it in the comments below!
|Recommendation||Product||Lead Size (mm)||Features|
|Top Pick||Pentel Sharp Kerry||0.5, 0.7||Capped, Metal and Resin Construction|
|Runner-Up||Uni Kuru Toga Roulette||0.5||Auto Lead Rotation, Knurled Metal Grip|
|Best Ergonomic Mechanical Pencil||Uni Alpha Gel Kuru Toga||0.5||Auto Lead Rotation, Soft Ergonomic Grip|
|Best Fine Mechanical Pencil||Pentel Orenz||0.2, 0.3, 0.5||Ultra-Fine Lead, Sliding Lead Sleeve|
|Best Lead Guard Mechanical Pencil||Zebra DelGuard||0.3, 0.5, 0.7||Lead Cushioning, Dynamic Lead Guard Sleeve|
|Best Mini Mechanical Pencil||Zebra Techo TS-3||0.5||Mini-Sized, Low-Profile Clip|
|Best Mechanical Pencil for Artists||Pilot Color Eno||0.7||Colored Lead, Color-Coded Body|
|Best Mechanical Pencil for Students||Kokuyo FitCurve||0.5||Large Twist Eraser, Wide Grip Section, Sliding Lead Sleeve|
|Best Professional Mechanical Pencil||Kaweco Special||0.5, 0.7, 0.9, 2.0||Striking Design, All Metal Body|
|Best Shaker Mechanical Pencil||Tombow Mono Graph Shaker||0.3, 0.5||Shaker Mechanism, Lead-Extension Lock, Twist Eraser|
1 The first patent for a mechanical pencil was issued in 1822. ↩