The beloved $10 Draft-Matic Mechanical Pencil

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I feel obliged to mention the truly excellent Kuru Toga again, available in a range of convenient styles. Quite possibly the greatest innovation in mechanical pencil technology, and still affordable.

…But then, I must confess I haven’t actually tried something billed as having “auto-feed” before. How exactly does that work?


A more modern version of that Draft-Matic I use is the Pentel GraphGear 1000. Its advantages are a retracting tip, knurls with tiny elastomer inserts, pocket clip that works on thick items or many pages, and a rotating lead-type indicator. I use one every day at work and it has stood up quite well over time. Amazon shows them at a little over $10, and worth it, but I have seen them on sale for less.

That looks like a nice one.

This is what I currently use – nice and compact and pocket-friendly.
AmazonSmile : Pentel Sharp Kerry Mechanical Pencil, 0.50 mm, Metallic Black Barrel, 1 Unit (P1035A) : Office Products

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Pentel Twist Erase 0.5 (model QE 515) FTW. Soft grip, easy to handle, comes in multiple colors. Has a guide ferrule on the barrel so it can be used for drafting or other drawing with a edge guide. And ten bucks gets you four of them and some spare erasers.

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It is a bit of a big lead 1.15mm but I love my Crossword Special Retro 51 Tornado pencil.

ETA: The lead size seems to have changed from when I got mine. Mine has a .9 lead which is quite nice for what I use it for.

I was expecting something more Steampunk that walked around on spider legs drawing things.


I have a Kerry as well and I like it except I wish the metal tip was chrome like the rest of the metal on the pen or that the chrome pieces had a brushed finish like the tip. Maybe it’s stupid, but the different metal finished bug me.

Plus on mine, the cap is a slightly different color than the rest of the pen.

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Hook, line and sinker, I’m such a sucker for a cool new writing implement!

I think I prefer the Draft-Matic over the GraphGear 1000 (the GraphGear 500 is pretty good though). Any pencil with a retractable tip is going to have a little bit of play in that tip.

I use a Uni Shift drafting pencil. I like it because you can retract the tip into the body of the pencil. I have ruined many pencils by bending or breaking the tip.

Uni Shift Locking Drafting Pencil 0.5 mm from JetPens

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Absolutely a solid pencil, mine has lasted for years with nearly daily use. I was pleasantly surprised to find they now make em a little prettier designed than the black-clad original model, so I bought a blue and red model and corresponding red and blue Mitsubishi diamond leads. They’re more fun than crayons!

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If you like the Draft-Matic may I recommend the Alvin Draft-Tec Retrac? It’s very similar to the Draft-Matic but has a rubber grip (MUCH nicer to hold) and a retractable tip.

I enthusiastically endorse the Alvin Draf/Tec Retrac pencil. I’ve carried this model (the 0.5mm DR05) in my shirt pocket every day for over 20 years. It’s why I have to buy shirts with a shirt pocket.

I had previously used the subject of this post, the non-retracting Draft/Matic. It has a nice heft while writing, but it’s heavier than I want in my pocket, plus it poked holes in my shirts and I repeatedly bent/broke tips when dropping them.

One other related mention: When I was bending & squashing pencil tips back in the day, I would use a welding tip reamer/cleaning tool to fix them. These tools are very stiff and you can start with the smallest one to open it back up, then move up the the larger ones while straightening. This is the sort of thing (link) I mean but I assume they sell similar things at auto supply stores and the like.


5mm is a bit big for pencil lead; the link should read 0.5mm


I’ve used three of the GraphGear 1000s, and I haven’t found any wiggle at all in the tip. Those things are solid, so far.

Agreed. Mine is also still rock-solid. The retracting portion includes a much larger diameter guide, not visible in most photos, that necks down into the tip length. That is what keeps the tip rigid. The 0.5 mm guide section does not slide by itself. Also showing no signs of wear despite a fairly hard life at work.

I may need to try that Uni Shift mentioned elsewhere in the comments. I like that idea too. But I think none of the alternates mentioned have the GraphGear’s wide-range clip. I tend to have my pencil clipped to something (papers, notebook, clipboard) rather than in my pocket and that expanding pocket clip is wonderful.

Oh, and I love the eraser section of the Pentel twist mentioned by someone else. Most of these have erasers that seem intended to make you carry a separate eraser.


Mechanical pencils have their place but in art school I switched to clutch pencils. Pencil lead thickness and width variation without the shaving. You did have to sharpen the tip from time to time if you wanted a fine point tho.

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The link to Amazon is for a pencil with a 5mm lead. That is a heck of a thick line for drafting.

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