The Pentel Graphgear 1000 Mechanical Pencil


I chew through a lot of mechanical pencils in a year. A workshop is a harsh environment for a tool that is supposed to be handled delicately at a drafting table – not treated like a crayon at a daycare for disturbed children (aka our machine room).

The reason most mechanical pencils don’t live long in a workshop is that the tip gets bent. Any movement of the tip, and the pencil lead won’t advance. Pencil game over. Second problem: The mechanism that advances the lead is easily gummed up by dust.

I’ve tried a half dozen brands on the spectrum from “disposable” to “intended for architects.” Only one has satisfied me. It’s the Pentel Graphgear 1000. They are a little expensive (less than $10), but are so durable that the higher price is irrelevant.


Why do they work so well? The tip retracts when not in use – protecting it from the abuses of the shop. The mechanism is quite clever. You press the button at the end of the pencil, and the tip extends and locks with a click. Further presses of that button advance the lead.

When you are done, you press the top of the pocket clip, and the tip retracts with a snap.

The .7mm pencil shown in this photo has lasted five years. That’s 956 years old in mechanical pencil years.

The Graphgear 1000 is available in a variety of lead widths – .3mm, .4mm, .7mm and .9mm. The .9mm is good for general layout. The .7mm is for fine layout lines. And the .4mm is useful (at times) for coloring in lines marked with knives that you need to fill in so you can see them.

I like them.

— Christopher Schwarz

FTC Part 255 Statement: This post has been sponsored in part by your mom.

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Publisher of woodworking books and videos specializing in hand tool techniques.
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32 Responses to The Pentel Graphgear 1000 Mechanical Pencil

  1. Mike Davis says:

    That’s the same pencil I’ve been using for the last ten years.

  2. Len says:

    You’ve done it again, I’ve just had to order a pencil. Your recommendations are proving expensive. Keep up the good work, there’s nothing like your posts here in the UK that I can find. Regards.

  3. ikustwood says:

    Damn! That was a useful post ! Yes , moms do miracles.

    Ok thank you !

  4. Eeyore says:

    I prefer drafter’s lead holders like the Mars Technico. There is no advance mechanism to gum up, you press the button, position the lead manually, and release. The 2mm leads are way more durable, and can be sharpened to a tiny point when a fine line is needed. They also mark well on rough lumber if used dull.
    I bought the Rockler version way back, but it broke really quickly, so I bought my first Mars to use up the leads and am still working my way through them.
    I have a similar holder from Clover that uses sticks of tailor’s chalk instead of graphite. I finally have a reliable fabric marker!

  5. Erich Rose says:

    Thanks for the recommendation. I get tired of sharpening my broken pencil tip so I just about it on Amazon for $8.60.

  6. Terry Hennessy says:

    Well don’t look for them at Office Depot, they have them for almost $20.

  7. James Watriss says:

    I took to grinding the tips down to keep em from getting bent, since I’m an airhead who’s just as likely to leave an unretracted pencil on the bench, and Knock it off when I’m not paying attention.

  8. Bill Beardsley says:

    Found these a few weeks ago. Love them! They stay firmly attached to your shirt when not in use, easy to use and retract, hard(er) to lose on the bench due to it’s color, and also all of what Chris said.

  9. Thank you. I’ve broken many Alvin mechanical pencils and have been looking for alternatives.

  10. Rachael Boyd says:

    I have tried to use mechanical pencils many times but the lead would snap every time I used it. So now I guess I will try this Pentel. Cause I hate when your pencil gets smaller and gets to a point were it slips away in pencil pocket of your apron. I love the last pencil you told us about (the large lead clutch pencil) for rough work. Thanks for sharing.

  11. Joe says:

    A while ago somebody pointed me to the Zebra Delguard mechanical pencils. They have a spring-loaded tip which enables small movements of the tip and the lead under pressure, in multiple directions. Not as many different widths, but they work very well on wood, even rough sawn.

  12. fatfrogdecoys says:

    For those of you using old fashioned wood pencils please buy America made. Try General Pencil Co. Though there are others.
    When I give demos and how to’s the first question I ask is for everyone to show me their pencils and if anyone can show me an American made I will give them a Starbucks gift card. It’s very rare that I give the SB card away.

    • jonathan says:

      im a big fan of the good ol pencil. keep a med file on my bench and roll the tip it to get a needle point when ever I need accuracy, or to form a chisel point to fill a scribed line. extremely accurate. this from a guy who grew up using mechanical pencils.

  13. Mike Cashman says:

    Very timely post as today is Mechanical Pencil Day. Go buy yourself one in honor of the day.
    And if you want to go over the top about mechanical pencils check-out Dave at – he is to mechanical pencils as Chris Schwarz is to common sense woodworking.
    I really like the Pental Graphgear 1000, I lost mine – a 5mm – many years ago; today is a most appropriate day to order a replacement. And maybe one in each size – though can’t recall the last time I saw 4mm leads at one of the office supply box stores. And the Graphgear 1000s are color coded too.

  14. My mom says she wants her pencil back.

  15. William Duffield says:

    According to Amazon, the available lead diameters are 0.3, 0.5, 0.7 and 0.9mm, but not 0.4mm. That’s good, because I have lots of 0.5mm Pentel HiPolymer leads for my older technology Pentel pencils. Thanks to the Schwarz Effect, I’m going to have to upgrade.

  16. Andrew Davidson says:

    And thus, the great Graphgear 1000 Mechanical Pencil Shortage of 2019 began.

  17. toolnut says:

    Starting your gift guide easy this year? 😊

  18. Tony Z. says:

    It’s not the tip of mine that gets bent, it’s laying it down, forgetting where I left it and then ordering another. I have four or five of those because of that. Oh yeah, another problem, when ordering, forgetting the size of lead, so I have three different sizes, and then you run into the problem of finding the right pack of lead. Solved that problem a couple of months ago-I bought one of each colors and taped the three containers together.

    For more of my problems, SWMBO will be by shortly…

  19. Andrew Brant says:

    I just got a pack of these in every size as my going away present from Apple last week. Y’all must be trading notes. They’re excellent, and I love the retractable tips. They’re in more obscure sizes then normal too.

  20. Like many left-handers, I prefer mechanical pencils and have quite a collection. The Rotring 600 is of course the Cadillac of the lot – but at $32 and no retractable tip, it’s not very shop friendly. I’ve been using the Uni Core in the shop. It rotates the lead as you write so you always have a sharp point. Takes a little getting used to, but it makes very precise lines.

    • jai says:

      Interesting. I hadn’t heard of the Core, but it looks like a rebrand of the metal-body Kuru-Toga, which is one of my favourites. I tried the Rotring Rapid Pro for the retractable tip[, but although it (and the 600) are very nice pencils, they Graphgear and the Kuru-Toga seem to be just as good for a fraction of the price.

  21. Edward Bradshaw says:

    Well, crap, the secret is out. I’m glad I have a stockpile to get me through the “Schwarz Bump” 😉 These have been the only pencil for me for the last six years.

  22. ejcampbell says:

    My problem with mechanical pencils is that I press too hard and break the lead. I have a .7mm Rotring that I use for fine lines on drawings. My primary pencil is a 2 mm lead holder, all metal that requires a separate sharpener. This works great for me. That fat lead is unbreakable.
    I also use the .7 mm metal pencil for sudoku and am trying to train my hand to press lightly and not waste leads. Progress is noticeable, but slow.

  23. Joshua Bush says:

    Do you still have long term plans to make the UV fluorescent pencil lead?

  24. Your mom says:

    And .5

  25. Nicholas Carey says:

    You need to try the Caran d’Ache Fixpencil. Straight from 1929. 2mm clutch lead holder, machined out of a block of aluminum. You could drive a truck over it and not damage it. The cap is a lead pointer, and comes in multiple colors so you can track what lead hardness it contains. Street price is about $20 +/-.

    Put a 6H lead in it and you can scribe a slab of limestone with it. I like B hardness lead. Soft, nice, black, black.

    But I must check this one out. Thanks!

  26. Joe Babb says:

    I’ve liked and used Pentel pencils for years and really like the twist-erase version. They may not be as sturdy as the graphgear but I can get 2 for $8. I found the graphgear .9 at office depot was $20. Where did you find one for under $10??

  27. David McKane says:

    Where are they made?

  28. Jim Ashley says:

    I picked some of these up a year or so ago. 100% agree they’re great pencils in shop, the desk, or pocket

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