I like mechanical pencils. There, I’ve said it. I know many readers may stop by here looking for reviews of fountain pens and other “fancy” writing implements but I’m finding myself coming back to mechanical pencils more and more. It may be some sort of midlife crisis. I took a lot of science and math classes back in the day and there was nothing I enjoyed more than going into an organic chemistry or calculus test armed with little more than my wits, a solid mechanical pencil and a stick eraser. In related news, I’m trying to streamline and simplify bits of my life. Among other things…
…I finally set up a password storing software for my online life (major headache reliever and time saver)
…I swapped out a bulky, leather briefcase for a much simpler and lighter Topo Designs Mountain Briefcase (Holy crap is this thing awesome!)
…I retired my desktop at school and now just rely on my MacBook Air and a docking station (Windows…you may be dead to me now).
…I ditched my subscription to SiriusXM and now rely on music and podcasts to keep my mind occupied while driving (SiriusXM – maybe if you worked with me more on the subscription fee things could have turned out differently)
Anyway, back to writing implements. All writing tools come with compromises. Fountain pens have wonderful historical appeal and deliver an effortless, expressive and personalizes writing experience when everything goes well. But, things don’t always go well and you need to be a bit fussy about the paper you use. Gel pens, with their great ink colors and variety of point sizes, may be the best thing to happen to pens in the last 20 years but ink quality varies and refill life is typically low. Among ink pens, ball points write on the widest array of paper types, have a 20th century history all their own and have undergone a recent revival thanks to advances in ink formulations. Then again, many folks find ball points utilitarian, soulless, unremarkable and indistinguishable.
Which brings me to mechanical pencils. Could it be that mechanical pencils offer a number of positives we seek in our writing toys and fewer of the drawbacks? By choosing your preferred graphite hardness (4B, 3B, 2B… 2H, etc.) in a particular diameter you get a pencil that is your own. While mechanical pencils have the occasional mechanical problem, most issued are easily solved without the services of a “meister” of any sort. Sure, graphite might break but it doesn’t leak or stain and I have yet to find a piece of paper that pencil won’t mark.
What about wood-case pencils you ask? They’re great. Is there anything more iconic than the yellow pencil? If you came to my house and stole my Tombo Mono (F) pencils, I would hunt you down like the dog you are. But, wood-cased pencils are not terribly portable and you always need something else in hand, namely a sharpener, to get them to work. I’m not here to bang on wood-case pencils, but think about it. Unlike a brand new pen, a brand new wood-case pencil is useless unless you have the other thing. Obviously it’s not a big deal but it’s still a thing.
So, as part of my simplified life I’m going back to mechanical pencils. (I also find myself gravitating towards simple and efficient pen designs like the Caran d’Ache 849. More on that later.) I hope, dear reader, that you will indulge me a bit in this effort. Although not exclusively, the next several reviews will likely focus heavily on mechanical pencils. If that’s not your bag, I hope you will stick around nonetheless. If it is your bag, I hope you will tell me what mechcils (see that – I’m inventing words now!) you enjoy and give me some ideas to explore.