(Susan M. Pigott is a fountain pen collector, pen and paperholic, photographer, and professor. You can find more from Susan on her blog Scribalishess.)
Out of the wilderness between the mechanical pencil and the lead holder, comes the Kokuyo Enpitsu 1.3 mm mechanical pencil. It was designed to mimic the simplicity of a wooden pencil, but with the convenience of a mechanical. It does achieve this goal, though obviously not without sacrificing some features of both.
The body is fully coated in a soft rubber, which makes it very comfortable to hold, even for long periods of time. It has a very slight triangular shape--just enough to keep it from rolling on a flat surface, but isn't in any way intrusive to how you'd hold the pencil. The lead and metal nose retract completely, so there's no risk of lead marks or breakage in a bag or pocket. The lead feeds in through a hole in the top of the click button. It has the potential to fall back out this way, but it doesn't happen easily. Since I didn't have refills handy, I'm not sure how many pieces of lead it can hold at once, but it doesn't look like there's room for a lot of backup--just the one in use and a spare. And that's really it--there are no removable parts, no eraser, no clip--it really is a cross between a wood pencil and a lead holder.
The 2B lead that comes with it writes like a graphite marker. It's incredibly soft and dark and lays down a thick layer that fully covers the paper beneath. I can see it being very useful for sketching or shading, especially on a larger scale. The thick lead isn't well-suited to fine detail work. It also wears down very quickly, due to its softness. I didn't find it ideal for writing, for that reason. I was having to click new lead every paragraph. The lead is also available in other hardnesses that may be better suited to writing, though the selection is limited due to this unusual diameter.
If you're a sketcher, you probably already have strong feelings about erasers and keep your favorite handy. So not having a redundant eraser on this pencil could very well be a plus. I kind of missed one, though--and even forgot a few times that there wasn't one and kept flipping the pencil around to be disappointed. Admittedly, it would have to be a pretty robust eraser to contend with the thick lines of dark lead put down by this thing. Not one of those tiny cylinders one could mistake for a Tylenol. It could also serve the purpose of sealing off the lead chamber--but then we risk losing Kokuyo's vision of simplicity for this pencil. And I do like its simplicity.
So I keep coming back around to admitting that all the features I'd want to add to this (an eraser, a clip, etc) would just get in the way of its design. It really wants to float in that space between pencil and lead holder, both in form and function--and I don't know of much else that's available to fill that gap in the market. And for under three bucks, you can keep all different lead widths and hardnesses handy with a set of these. They come in a bunch of fun colors, with either .7, .9, or this 1.3 mm lead. Sketchers and drafters will, I think, love this thing.
(JetPens provided this product at no charge to The Pen Addict for review purposes.)
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