|the Pentel PW45 Technic-X in 4 colors|
Possibly the best mechanical pencil ever (with some qualifications) : Pentel Technic-X (pw45)
The pencil is wider in diameter than your average mechanical pencil with a taper towards the center and it is quite comfortable. Near the metal tip is a rubbery grip.
The barrel is plastic and after years of use I have had a couple break in half.
The silver cap comes off the top to reveal a tiny, less than useful eraser in a metal sleeve. The eraser isn't fixed at the end of the pencil but rests in the lead reservoir inside the pencil barrel. This means it wobbles when you erase. Worse is that the eraser is just over 1/8" in diameter and 1/2" long while the metal sleeve to keep it from getting pushed into the barrel is 3/8" long. The eraser sits about 1/8" below the barrel so the practical usable part of the eraser is maybe 1/4".
The other criticism of the pencil is the barcode sticker on the barrel doesn't come off easily. It would look better without it. C'est la vie. They wear off eventually. In contrast, the metal pocket clip will come off and once off there is nothing to stop the pencil from rolling away.
I found this pencil by accident in, I think, around 2005. I was in a small local office supply store waiting to drop off a package and I happened to pick up one of these. Since I draw I often carry a pencil in my pocket and the retractable tip of the PW45 is great for not getting stabbed by a pencil nib. I bought one and I loved it. The more I used it the more I loved it. A few weeks later, I realized I needed a backup in case it became lost or broken. I searched the store but couldn't find any. I asked about them and they checked a catalog and they said they couldn't get anymore. I checked other office supply stores. I tried other pencils with retractable tips but they were teases. They didn't work like the pw45. I found one that had a retractable nib that extended with a push of the button but then I discovered that to retract it you had to push the button and push the tip in. The pw45 uses a full click of the button to extend/retract the nib and a soft click to advance the lead. Having to manually push the nib back in is barbaric. One required a twist of the barrel to extend/retract. Two handed operation is completely unacceptable. Others were flimsy or had a looseness of the nib. They were pale imitations. I looked online and at the Pentel website I discovered they were discontinued. Site after site were sold out. I felt a pit in my stomach like watching a woman you love walk away knowing you'll never see her again.
But I found a site that had some and I ordered a couple dozen. I've praised the pencil to dozens of people and I've even given a couple away. I've lost a few. I've broken a few and I've left one in a hot car where the rubber grip became permanently sticky leading me to cut it off. I've had people I've given one to ask me for another but now I worry that I don't have a lifetime supply so I demure. (I used to brag about my hoard of spares but I've learned that maybe I shouldn't)
Every so often I check the Pentel site to see if they've come to their senses and started making them again but no such luck. There is the GraphGear 1000 for $22.49. -choke- I've tried it and it isn't bad. The GraphGear has a metal body and the retraction mechanism is activated by the clip with a loud click.
The price of about $2.50 is one of the PW45's best features. I've seen some retractable pencils like the Rotring 800 or the TWSBI Precision but I'm not willing to spend $20-35 blindly on a pencil I've never used. Neither can I imagine losing a $35 pencil or accidentally putting a $35 pencil through the wash. The PW45 isn't perfect but at $2.50 it was losable and even abusable.