Over the last several years, I've certainly tried a fair share of mechanical pencils. These range from really high end to super affordable and ubiquitous. One genre I was reluctant to try was the ultra compact mechanical pencil market. The allure of an incredibly small and portable writing instrument is adorable at first glance, but I always figured it would be too small to use properly. As I dip my toes into this pool for the first time, I've decided to try the diminutive Zebra Techo TS-3.
First things first: this pencil makes quite a strong first impression. The tiny size is unique and not something you see often. The initial surprise of "OMG, it's adorable" is (in my opinion) worth the $5.25 price tag alone.
Once you pick it up and start writing, you'll quickly notice how much additional effort it takes to draw your usual letters. Your handwriting doesn't quite look like your own. In my case, I resorted to writing in all-caps because it's the only way I could write legible letters with such a small tool. Still, it was fun! How could something so small still work?
After writing a few quick lines, my fingers and hand started to feel some fatigue, which quickly intensified as I continued writing. Phew, time for a break! Unfortunately, I could never write more than a few lines before needing to put it down and let my hand stretch out a bit. After the initial fad wore off, I quickly realized that there are major tradeoffs to such a small pencil. Sure, I knew this in my head before I even picked it up, but now I precisely understood the limitations of the design.
In my experience, a slim writing instrument is still usable as long as it's still a standard length. This gives enough balance and a good resting place for the body on the top part of your hand (you know, that place between your thumb and index finger). That little bit of stability goes a long way. Likewise, a really short pen is also easy to manage as long as it is thick enough. Think about using a Kaweco Liliput without the cap posted. It's not ideal, but you can still write in your usual style without too much discomfort.
As the Zebra Techo TS-3 demonstrates, a writing instrument that is both slim and short is incredibly difficult to manage -- at least for me and my standard three finger grip. There just isn't enough solid object to hold on to for my fingers to properly make the letters and lines they've been trained to create over my lifetime of using "standard" size tools. It's just a no-go for regular writing, and I can't recommend it all for that purpose.
However, it does have some major advantages. The main one being the man small spaces you can store this pencil. It can fit in most spiral bound notebooks perfectly. It can clip on to a cover of a notebook while still allowing it to close. In bags, purses, and some wallets, it can stow away into a seam without disrupting the functionality of the bag at all. You'll be surprised by all the little spaces this little guy can hide.
Unfortunately, it's not a good fit for slipping into your pants pockets since the lead pipe doesn't retract. You're liable to poke (or stab?) yourself frequently with this little guy in your pocket.
Ultimately, I still like the Zebra Techo TS-3 strictly as a backup utilitarian option. It's not the first thing you reach for, and possibly not the second. But when all other options have failed or aren't nearby, it gets the job done. You definitely don't want to write the next American novel with this, but it's great for doing some quick math, jotting down a quick note, or throwing in your bag as a "just in case" pencil.
(JetPens provided this product at no charge to The Pen Addict for review purposes.)
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