The difference is clearly explained between a drafting & mechanical pencil with our top 5 recommendations for each pencil type.
Having been asked recently what the difference between Drafting & Mechanical Pencil is, I thought it would be an idea to explain what features that drafting pencil tends to have compared to mechanical pencils and list some of the more popular examples.
Drafting pencils are often used for technical drawing. They can be placed very close to templates giving a clear view of the page with less of the pencil getting in the way; they generally have a longer sleeve than mechanical pencils measuring between 3 & 5mm. These pencils were widely used by architects & draughtsmen until the late 19’70s, but use started to decline as CAD came into its own.
However, they still have a place as some artists & designers require varied lead sizes through the course of their work. It also considered that drafting pencils distribute less lead than a mechanical pencil when advanced giving the user more control.
Mechanical pencils are ideal for writing & drawing; check out this post comparing them against wooden pencils to see how they stack up. They usually have a shorter sleeve than a drafting pencil measuring around 2.0mm in length & generally come in 0.5 or 0.7mm lead sizes.
Table of Contents
- 1 Top 5 Drafting Pencils
- 2 Top 5 Mechanical Pencils
- 3 Replacement Pencil Lead
1. Top 5 Drafting Pencils
As we have already mentioned, a drafting pencil tends to have a longer lead sleeve than a mechanical pencil, which can be either fixed or retractable.
As architects and draftsmen can often have several pencils in different lead grades, there is usually a built-in adjustable lead grade indicator.
Drafting pencils are often more expensive than mechanical ones as they are manufactured from more costly materials and require more precision engineering during the manufacturing process.
Our Top 5 drafting pencils are among the most popular available and some of the most highly reviewed and rated pencils online.
1.1. Ohto Super Promecha Drafting Pencil 1500
The Ohto Super Promecha is one of the best drafting pencils available to buy. It may not be as well-known in the U.S and Europe as Pentel & Rotring, but they are a seriously good piece of kit and packed with features, making them super customizable.
The first thing you notice about this drafting pencil is the build quality of the all-metal design with its aluminum barrel and knurled grip area. But what makes it really stand out is that you can adjust almost everything on it to your own preferences.
Simply twist the grip to adjust the length of the lead sleeve from 0 – 5mm. Just above the grip is an inset rotary lead control. By turning this, you can adjust the lead length that comes out of the lead sleeve each time you click the push button. This can be set from 0.2 – 2.0mm.
Inset into the push button is a lead grade indicator from B – 4H, and underneath the push button is an eraser and clearing pin.
I have seen drafting pencils with a retractable lead sleeve but none where the sleeve can be adjusted, and as far as I know, this is unique to this pencil.
The Ohto Super Promecha Drafting Pencil 1500 is available in the following lead sizes:
1.2. Rotring 600 Drafting Pencil
The Rotring 600 is a fantastic piece of functional German engineering that is a joy to behold. It is an all-metal drafting pencil with a knurled grip that feels perfectly weighted & balanced in your hand. When you push the button to advance the lead, there is a reassuring click, and it just works time after time after time.
There is a lead grade indicator at the top of the pencil and underneath the push button is an eraser. The pocket clip can be removed, and it has a fixed 4mm lead sleeve. For many people, the precision of engineering makes this their number one choice.
The top of the range Rotring 800 has a retractable lead sleeve but no lead grade indicator, which is a deal-breaker for some. We don’t feel that for the extra cost, there is enough difference in features and its quality to make it worth choosing a Rotring 800 pencil over the Rotring 600 pencil. This is why the Rotring 600 makes the top 5, and in many ways, you could argue it is the best of the five drafting pencils featured here.
The pencil is available with 0.5mm, and 0.7mm lead.
1.3. Pentel Graph 1000 for Pro
The Pentel Graph 1000 for Pro is arguably their best drafting pencil and a firm favorite of professionals who require a drafting pencil for their work. It is made of a combination of metal and rubber in the grip area, and the upper body is a robust and lightweight plastic.
This combination gives the pencil an outstanding balance making it comfortable to use when writing and drawing. It has a fixed lead sleeve, a removable pocket clip, and a lead grade indicator inset into its push button.
There is also an eraser underneath the pushbutton. The pencil is available with 0.3mm, 0.4mm, 0.5mm. 0.7mm and 0.9mm lead diameters.
1.4. Pentel Graph Gear 1000 Drafting Pencil
Pentel makes great pencils, so there are two in our top 5, the pentel Graph Gear 1000. This is an all-metal pencil, and the knurled grip area has rubber inserts for added comfort and control. Above the grip is a lead grade indicator, and there is an eraser underneath the push button.
The wide pocket clip is great for attaching to slightly thicker objects, and the lead sleeve can be fully retracted by pressing down on this clip. The pencil is available with 0.3mm, 0.4mm, 0.5mm. 0.7mm and 0.9mm lead diameters.
There is much debate amongst users about which is the better pencil, the Graph Gear or the Graph 1000 Pro. The Graph 1000 Pro probably slightly edges it, but like all things in life, it is down to personal preference, and they are both great drafting pencils.
1.5. Staedtler 925 35 Drafting Pencil
The Staedtler 925 35 Drafting pencil was made initially for the Japanese market, but they are widely available in the U.S and Europe. It is beautifully made and has a nice weight, with its metal barrel giving it a premium feel.
The pencil is available with 0.3mm, 0.7mm, 0.9mm, or 2mm lead, and the size is marked on its push button. It has a fixed lead sleeve and underneath the push button is an eraser with a clearing pin (except for 2. mm). There is also a lead grade indicator to quickly identify which grade of lead is in pencil.
2. Top 5 Mechanical Pencils
Our top 5 Mechanical pencils have something to suit everyone’s needs. There is the practical Pentel Twist Erase with its large eraser. For those who require a more ergonomic grip, the Pilot DR Grip is one of the finest of this type.
If you love your pencils with a sharp lead, then the super clever Uni Kuru Toga self-sharpening pencil is just the thing. Or, if you need something more robust, then you will not go too far wrong with the Zebra Stainless Steel mechanical pencil.
For those looking for an elegant, sophisticated and refined mechanical pencil, then the Cross Century is a gorgeous pencil from a premier brand.
2.1. Cross Century Chrome Mechanical Pencil
The Cross Century is the most expensive mechanical pencil in the top 5 but has the build quality and craftsmanship you expect from a premium brand such as Cross and has a lifetime guarantee.
The slimline profile of this pencil may not suit everyone, but visually this is a joy to behold with its shiny chrome barrel subtly inset with horizontal lines along the length of the barrel.
Another unique feature is the lead is extended by twisting the top of the barrel, and underneath the cap is an eraser.
Quite simply, if you are looking for a premier mechanical pencil with a touch of class, The Cross Century Mechanical pencil is a superb choice.
2.2. Pentel Twist Erase Mechanical Pencil
Pentel is a Japanese manufacturer who is perhaps best known for its superb Energel range of pens also makes great mechanical pencils. The standout feature of the Twist Erase pencil is its oversized eraser.
A lot of built-in pencil erasers are pretty small and great for the odd error, but many people end up carrying a dedicated eraser. This is where this pencil excels; not only is the eraser a good size and very practical, but at 35mm in length, it is also very long-lasting. When it does need replacing, Pentel E10 eraser refills are widely available.
The other note with these pencils is that it has a wide barrel with a latex-free rubber grip. That is quite comfortable, making it easy to use for extended periods of writing. The build quality is also good; it is made of robust, lightweight plastic that doesn’t flex and feels like it will break on you anytime soon.
2.3. Pilot Dr. Grip Mechanical Pencil
The Pilot Dr. Grip mechanical pencil is renowned for its wide barrel and super soft rubberized grip that is very comfortable to hold for long periods. This makes it a great pencil not just for people who write for prolonged periods but also for anyone who may have difficulty holding a slim barrelled pencil.
The pencil has a shaker mechanism which means that you can advance the lead traditionally with the push button. Or by shaking the pencil, which is way more fun than it should be, just to extend the length of the lead.
There is also a rubber underneath the push button cap, which quickly pulls off to reveal it. The pencil is available with 0.3mm, 0.5mm. 0.7mm and 0.9mm lead diameters.
2.4. Uni Kuru Toga Self Sharpening Mechanical Pencil
The Uni Kuru Toga is the world’s first self-sharpening pencil; some clever techies in Japan invented a revolutionary rotating clutch mechanism. Its brilliance is in its simplicity of operation; each time you press the pencil to the paper and lift it off, a spring-loaded clutch rotates the lead a little bit.
This means that the lead wears down evenly, retains its conical shape, and produces a consistent line width.
There are several versions of the Kuru Toga available, including the Standard Model, High Grade, Roulette, Pipe & Advance.
The Uni Kuru Toga Roulette is the one we are featuring in our top 5; I just love the knurled metal grip, which the others don’t have. The rest of the body is plastic, and there is an eraser under the cap. It is one of the best-selling Kuru Toga models on Amazon.com, although bizarrely, it is described as a Uni Core Keep Sharp Mechanical Pencil Gun Metallic.
2.5. Zebra M-701 Stainless Steel Mechanical Pencil
Those who don’t know Zebra are a Japanese manufacturer who makes excellent quality products at affordable prices. The M701 pencil is no exception; it is nearly bulletproof made from stainless steel with a knurled grip.
This is one pencil that can handle the everyday rigors of life, i.e., chucked into a drawer and bags, etc., or if it falls off your desk, in the worst case, you have broken the lead but won’t need to buy a replacement.
The weight of the all-metal construction gives it a solid feel. This will be appreciated by those who prefer something that feels heavier in their hand compared to the lightweight plastic that most other pencils are made from. It has a sprung metal pocket clip and underneath the push button is an eraser.
3. Replacement Pencil Lead
It does not matter if you are using a drafting or mechanical pencil; the lead diameter is the same for both. i.e., 0.5mm lead will fit any drafting or mechanical pencil listed as a 0.5mm pencil.
Check out our Ultimate Guide to Mechanical Pencil Lead Sizes for More Information.
The only thing that does change is the lead grade; here is a quick explanation of the different lead grades.
If you look at the image and take HB as the starting point, which is probably the most common grade of lead for writing.
Then everything to the left of HB is B, 2B, 3B, 4B, 5B, 6B, 7B & 8B; the lead is getting increasingly softer and blacker.
Conversely, Everything to the right of HB, F, H, 2H, 3H, 4H, 5H & 6H. The lead is getting increasingly harder and lighter grey in color.
A drafting pencil or mechanical pencil is only as good as the lead that you use with it. It goes without saying that cheaper lead breaks easily and does not give consistent lines.
Check out our Guide The Best Mechanical Lead to see our top 5 mechanical pencil lead refill recommendations.
3.1. Pentel Super High Polymer Lead
Pentel Super High Polymer lead is ideal and highly recommended for a general-purpose lead that is great for everyday use.
3.2. Pentel AIN Stein Lead
Pentel AIN Stein lead is widely regarded as the best lead available it is more expensive than Pentel Super High Polymer Lead. This is because it is smoother, darker, and more robust than nearly all other lead brands.
We have a more in-depth article that explains what makes a good children’s mechanical pencil and has our top recommendations for those of you with children.
You may also be interested in our guide, The Top 3 Mini Mechanical Pencils.
If you currently use any of these drafting pencils or mechanical pencils, or maybe you are using one that is not in our top ten, let us know your views in the comments.