How To Maintain A Mechanical Pencil
You might be surprised to learn that the mechanical pencil did, in fact, predate the wooden pencil! Before some clever person worked out how to create pencil that you could sharpen using lead encased with wood, someone had already invented a mechanical style pencil, and it was used for centuries in its then much cruder form before it became the functional and elegant drawing and writing tool that we know and recognize today.
The Sensation Of Using A Mechanical Pencil
Many people still love the superior sensation of using a mechanical pencil over a wood cased one. There’s something reassuringly traditional about it, and much like using a fountain pen rather than a biro, holding one in your hand brings out that inner creative streak. Well, at least we like to think so! Putting pen or pencil to paper, whether that’s documenting thoughts or just doodling, seems so much more refined and high-brow when it’s done with a proper tool!
An Investment That Should Last A Lifetime
If you look after your mechanical pencil correctly, it should last you for many years to come, indeed an entire lifetime which is why they make such popular gifts, especially for graduations and job promotions. Unlike a pencil that requires sharpening, which eventually (granted, you’d need to be jotting down a lot of long and frequent musings or sketches) will eventually wear down to nothing more than a barely manageable stump that requires replacing.
The Basics Of The Mechanical Pencil
We’re going to be taking a quick look at the basics of mechanical pencils, why we recommend you use them, how to get the best out of them and how to troubleshoot any problems you might have with our 5 steps to keeping your mechanical pencil maintained.
First up, let’s just quickly recap what a mechanical pencil is. You may also find them referred to as automatic or propelling pencils and commonly they’re designed with a reusable holder that’s fitted with a stick of graphite “lead” of varying sizes and includes a mechanism for extending the lead, normally employing a simple push button. When it comes to the lead thickness, the most popular sizes are 0.5 and 0.7 mm, but technical drafting pencils may be much thicker.
Advantages Of Mechanical Pencils
Mechanical pencils have many advantages over regular pencils which is why they continue to be such a popular choice. For a start, they are reusable and never need to be sharpened. They also tend to deliver a more consistent line width as opposed to something that you need to sharpen manually which may create more irregularities. They’re designed to be easier to hold and manage which is a real advantage if you are using a mechanical pencil for drafting or technical drawing purposes. Plus, with repeated and regular use over time, they won’t change shape or balance either. With a regular pencil it’s going to become shorter the more it’s used and sharpened which can affect the weight and balance distribution of the way you hold and manage it.
Using A Mechanical Pencil
Using a mechanical pencil is relatively easy, and while the mechanism which they’ve been fitted with might differ, they are all operated on the basis of having an extendable (and in most cases also retractable) piece of refillable lead. The most popular mechanisms for extending the lead are Push Button, Shaker or a Twist function. Let’s take a look now at 5 steps to keep your mechanical pencil maintained.
1. Extending Your Mechanical Pencil’s Lead
Depending upon which type of mechanism your particular brand of pencil is fitted with, the process of maintenance will be one of the following:
- Push Button – The button will be located at the top of the pencil, possible also alongside an eraser but it may additionally be found on the clip or side of the pencil. You merely need to push as many times as required to expose the desired amount of lead.
- Shaker – Some of today’s sophisticated pencils have a shaker function, usually also in addition to and not as a replacement to a push-button function, which enables you to shake them up and down to release the lead.
- Twist – This mechanism is one which is favored more in vintage or vintage-inspired pencils where the lead is extended by twisting the nose cone or the knob of your mechanical pencil.
2. Retracting Your Mechanical Pencil’s Lead
In some instances, you may need to actually retract some of the lead if you’ve inadvertently overextended. Having too much lead exposed can lead to it simply snapping off when you come to use your pencil. For push but and shaker style mechanical pens, you will just need to push down the button and put some pressure onto the lead to push it back into the tip. For a twist style pencil, you’ll most likely just need to twist the knob in the opposite direction and push the lead back into the tip.
3. Refilling Your Mechanical Pencil’s Lead
Eventually your lead will need to be replaced, and of course, the most important point to mention here is to ensure that you have the correct size and grade of lead for your particular pencil, otherwise, it’s going to boom jammed and end up being lodged inside your pencil. Too narrow and the lead will simply fall out; too wide and it will clog up your pencil. HB is the most common grade of lead, but if you do want something darker and smoother, then you could also go for a B or 2B lead instead.
To refill the lead, refer to your specific pencil instructions.
4. Using And Replacing Your Mechanical Pencil’s Eraser
Most mechanical pencils will come fitted with an eraser on the end which might be hidden under the top cap or the push button mechanism. If so, just pull off this section to expose and use your eraser. When it comes to replacing your eraser, again, refer to your manufacturer’s guide, but in reality, it should be no more difficult than simply replacing the old one and inserting a new one exactly in its place.
5. Troubleshooting Common Problems When Using A Mechanical Pencil
You may find that you encounter a couple of common problems when using your mechanical pencil which generally can be easily fixed.
- If the lead keeps pushing back inside the pencil whenever you try to use it, chances are the lead is too short and needs to be replaced.
- If you’re having trouble extending the lead, check first of all that you have the correct sized lead for your pencil and that it’s not jammed inside by giving it a gentle shake.
- If your lead continues to break whenever you extend it, it could be that your mechanical pencil has a partial jam so take a look and remove any lead that’s stuck.
- Finally, if the lead keeps on breaking every time you try to write, you could try using a harder grade of lead or consider specifically purchasing break-resistant brands of lead for your pencil.