≡ Menu

Review – Pentel P205

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).

IMG 2021
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.

14 comments… add one
  • Sean December 14, 2011, 8:10 am

    Wow, the mention of the Koh-i-Noor Rapidomatic really is a blast from the past for me. I think my love affair with all things writing started when I was still a pre-teen, and while I almost never use pencils now (that is changing after finding your site and others like it) back then it was always a #2 for school.

    I recall my father being in some drafting classes at the community college and “finding” his stash of supplies, which included the Koh-i-Noor Rapidomatic. I thought those were teh coolest thing going and probably swiped one to use on my own. Neat stuff. Not a fan at *all* of mechanicals these days, and when I do switch to pencil it will be wood-case.

    Thanks for the great site!

    • Steve December 14, 2011, 9:43 am

      Hi Sean, thanks for the comment!

      Believe it or not art stores still carry the Rapidomatic, but I’m using the ones I still have from the early years.

  • Jimmy Simpson December 17, 2011, 4:06 pm

    Pentel Ain and Stein lines of pencil lead go from 4H to 4B.
    Not sure where you are located, but in the US you can get them from Jetpens.com and other websites.

    • Steve December 17, 2011, 4:48 pm

      Wow! So there are! Many thanks for the tip.

  • F. Duran December 17, 2011, 4:52 pm

    Hello! As someone who used and, I assume, carried around drafting pencils a lot, I figure you might be able to help me out. I love drafting pencils, I think their simplicity is really beautiful. What I don’t like is that I keep bending the lead sleeves. My fancy Rotring 600 is out of commission because of this, it got bent while bouncing around in my backpack (it was in a pencil pouch). Now, I wonder, do you know of a hard case of sorts I could put these sort of delicate pencils in? something that holds one or two pencils that I could then put in a my pen pouch, or a compact one that holds more than that?

    • Steve December 18, 2011, 9:49 am

      Hi F. Duran – thanks for the comment!

      I have seen some stiff plastic boxes in art stores, but mostly pencil cases seem to be soft. PencilThings.com has some caps for woodcase pencils that might work to help protect the tip of a mechanical.

      A short section of PVC pipe and a few end caps would do the trick, albeit in an ugly way.

      Also look at how you’re putting them in your backpack. Stuffed tightly in an outside pocket of an overstuffed bag is a dangerous place for anything.

      I’ve carried a lot of pencils over the years, but the only time I bent a point was when I dropped it on a wooden floor. I just bent it back.

      A Rotring 600 is a nice pencil, and I feel your pain!

  • Bob S. December 20, 2011, 3:35 pm

    Hi,

    General Pencils makes transparent plastic tip protectors for woodcase pencils. They fit over the tip of the P20x mechanical pencils and fit snugly. They can be placed on the clip when in use. You can also use the caps for various inexpensive ballpoints for the same purpose. The Bic Cystal pen caps and the Write Bros. pen caps work as well.

    • Steve December 20, 2011, 3:43 pm

      Hi Bob – thanks for an excellent suggestion! Do you know where one can buy the General’s caps retail? I think I’ve seen them on PencilThings.com.

  • John Laudun December 21, 2011, 4:53 am

    I noticed that the photograph that you have a .5 mm Pentel there. I have a few of those, but I finally realized that the .7mm pencil gives you a more robust thickness of lead, which is nice if you write more than sketch — that is, the .7mm lead is less likely to succumb to pressing down on the paper, especially when you are using softer leads, like a 2B, which I also prefer.

    I’m a field researcher, and so I tend to take the Bic Round Stic Grip Pencils into the field with me. I got them because I could afford to buy them by the box, but now I just prefer writing with them. They are supposed to be disposable, but you can refill both the lead and the eraser.

    • Steve December 21, 2011, 9:24 am

      Hi John, thanks for stopping by!

      I use both .5 and .7, and also .3 and .9 from time to time. It depends on the paper I’m using, but on smooth paper the .7 is nice.

      An advantage of those disposable pencils is that the eraser is full-size and actually usable. The 3mm jobbies on more expensive pencils doesn’t work very well for me.

      • John Laudun December 21, 2011, 10:03 pm

        Indeed. I sometimes wonder why they even bother to put erasers there.

  • Doug October 25, 2012, 11:24 am

    I started using the Pentel P205 when I was an officer in the Air Force on the flightline doing managing the maintenance of B-52 and KC-135 aircraft. I still have one of the original pencils I used as a Captain back in 1992. And I know it is the original because I found it in my uniform pocket one day while putting them away in storage. I’musing it right now at my desk because I like the extra fine lead, the ability os a pencil and the sturdiness of this product. I pity anyone who tries to take this away from me.

    • Steve October 29, 2012, 11:37 am

      Hi Doug,

      Thanks for serving!

      It’s a nice pencil, and I’m glad you found it. It’s always nice to find a useful memento of the past.

  • temporarydate5031.page.tl May 25, 2014, 4:04 pm

    Hi, this weekend is good in favor of me, for the
    reason that this time i am reading this enormous informative piece of writing here
    at my home.

Leave a Comment