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
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