Mechanical pencils (or propelling pencils, as they’re sometimes called) are very versatile writing instruments that can be used for writing, drawing or drafting. We stock a wide range of mechanical pencils to suit your needs, preferences and budget.
Mechanical pencils can be used for notetaking, drafting, fine art drawing, technical drawing or writing and we have models available that are perfect for all of those disciplines.
Features & Benefits of Mechanical Pencils
One of the key advantages of mechanical pencils is the multitude of features and benefits they offer. For example, unlike wooden pencils, mechanical pencils can be refilled and do not need to be sharpened.
Pencil Lead Sizes
Mechanical pencils come in a wide range of lead sizes, from 0.2mm to 5.6mm (for some lead-holders like the Lamy Scribble). The most popular lead sizes are 0.5mm and 0.7mm. Some of the old mechanical pencils are using 1.18mm lead, which is also the lead size for Yard-O-Led pencils.
Refills for mechanical pencils are available in a variety of hardness grades and go all the way from 4H to 4B. Not all grades however are available in all lead sizes. The most versatile size is 0.5mm which is usually available in all grades.
Mechanical Pencil Mechanism Types
Another interesting feature is the lead advance mechanism.
There are two basic types of lead advance mechanism used in mechanical pencils:
1. Mechanisms that both hold the lead in place and which can actively propel it forward.
2. Mechanisms that only hold the lead in position (also known as lead holders or clutch pencils).
History of Mechanical Pencils
The first mechanical pencil was discovered on the shipwreck of HMS Pandora (according to Wikipedia). The ship sank in 1791 so it’s fair to say that mechanical pencils have been around for quite some time!
In 1822, the first patent for a refillable pencil with a lead advance mechanism was issued to Sampson Mordan and John Isaac Hawkins in Britain.
In the early 1900s, Tokuji Hayakawa invented the "Ever Ready Sharp" mechanical pencil.
Since its early days, the mechanical pencil has continued to evolve and we’ve seen a lot of improvements and innovation thanks to manufacturers consistently launched lots of new, exciting features. The innovations continue to this day, and there are a number of fantastic companies still designing and manufacturing mechanical pencils.
Mechanical Pencils vs Propelling Pencils
‘Mechanical Pencil’ is the US English spelling, while ‘Propelling Pencil’ is the UK English spelling. However, over time, the former has more popular - even in England. Other names for mechanical pencils include: automatic pencils, drafting pencils, technical pencils and pacers (Australian English) and sharp pencil in Japan.
Where to buy mechanical pencils?
You can browse our selection of mechanical pencils on this very website. If you prefer a more traditional shopping experience, you can visit our shop on Shrewsbury’s High Street. We’re conveniently open 7 days a week and our team would love to help you find the perfect mechanical pencil for your needs.