It’s been a bit over a month since I started using pencil almost exclusively, and I supposed it was a matter of time before I added mechanical pencils to the mix. One day at lunch I decided to go get one, and ended up buying a two-pack of the venerable Pentel P205 (affiliate link).
Way back when I was a mechanical engineer, and when I first started out I was drafting on an actual drafting board with a pencil. I accumulated a fair number of Koh-i-Noor Rapidomatic pencils, but most of my coworkers used Pentels. Since I already have several Koh-i-Noors stashed away somewhere, I decided to try the P205.
It’s amazing to me that a device this complex and well executed can be sold for less than $5. I don’t remember what I paid for these pencils back when I used them for a living, but I think it was a good deal more than that. They came with HB lead, which I swapped out for Foray brand 2B in an attempt to get close to the writability of the Palomino Blackwing. Didn’t quite make it. For some paper the 2B is not bad, but for my journal and most smooth papers I prefer the Palomino.
The pencil is lightweight (8g, vs 14g for the Rapidomatic), and reasonably comfortable. However the grip is fairly high on the barrel, 20mm from the point. On the Koh-i-Noor it’s 13mm. Grip height is a matter of preference, but on the P205 holding the pencil lower down means grabbing the tapered and slick chromed end piece. The grip is multi-faceted, with ribs. I was worried at first that the plastic would be too slick, but that wasn’t the case, and there is a ridge at the bottom which was actually what I hung onto.
The P205 has good reveal of 20mm, but the eraser cap comes off when trying to pull it out of a sleeve – common with mechanical pencils – so really the reveal is about 10mm. The clip is sturdy and designed to accommodate grabbing a thick pocket. It has more clearance than the Koh-i-Noor.
Notably missing from the eraser is the clearing needle that can be used to clear the point in case of a jam, which is included on both the Ko-i-Noors and the Rotring 600 I have. The eraser itself is as uniformly useless as most of the erasers on mechanical pencils, so I carry a Pentel Clic Eraser.
Overall it’s a fine instrument to write with, and it seems well made. I prefer the Rapidomatic, mainly because of the grip, but I like writing with the Blackwing better than both. The softest lead available for mechanical pencils is 2B, and that is still too hard for me. But for traveling, and in places where sharpening will be difficult a mechanical pencil is handy.