If you search the blogs for pencils or mechanical pencils you get a lot of results for artists mentioning the pencil they use for their artwork. Now I have looked at a few of these sites and there are a lot of talented people out there. One thing that has really surprised me though is the number of people who seem to be drawing with thin lead mechanical pencils. I am not surprised at them using mechanicals, it’s the thin lead bit that I find surprising.
There are a number of mechanical pencils advertised as “sketch” pencils; usually they are clutch mechanism (or leadholder) types, with thick leads in the 1.5 to 3mm sort of range. Some are even thicker again. I have absolutely zero artistic ability, but have always imagined 0.5 / 0.7mm leads to be a bit thin for drawing, and that artists would be using something thicker. So I asked a couple of these artists what particular pencil they used, and there was a common thread amongst their replies, namely something cheap and disposable because they frequently lost their pencils. Some were almost apologetic or embarrassed about using a “cheap” pencil. So my surprise deepened. Not only were my lead thickness ideas wrong, but my idyllic image of them sketching away with a fine mechanical pencil from Lamy or Faber-Castell was also out of the window. Just how wrong could I be? I do have trouble getting my head around this. They invariably draw on good quality paper like Moleskine notebooks, but their drawing instrument is seemingly of little consequence.
One particular artist was OMWO from “The Way of the Indiscreet Mechanical Pencil” and he said that he currently used the Staedtler 777. I thought that if it’s good enough for him, I should give it a try, and went to the store and bought one. So, obviously a brief review of the Staedtler 777 is in order.
The Staedtler “graphite 777” is a basic lightweight all plastic economy model mechanical pencil available in 0.5 and 0.7mm lead. It has a push top ratchet mechanism with a fixed tip. The body comes in a variety of attractive, bright, almost semi-transparent colours, and is slightly flexible with an almost rubber feel to it. I quite like this flexy body concept, and there is no problem with where to grip this pencil (anywhere you like), but it does start to bring out my anti-rubber grip feelings. The uncovered eraser on top is a matching colour to the body. Bare erasers are a feature of many economy pencils – I guess manufacturers save a few cents by not putting a cap on the eraser. This means you can see a dirty smeared worn down eraser, but on the other hand you have quick and easy access to it. The eraser is a decent size and seems to erase fairly well.
You load more leads into the mechanism by pulling the entire pocket clip section off the body. I do wonder about the long-term viability of this arrangement, but it is Staedtler (serious German engineering), so I’m sure you would get your money’s worth from it. This arrangement does mean that you can use the eraser, insert a new eraser and refill the lead magazine all without activating the lead advance mechanism. That’s more than many a pencil can claim. So, overall this is a perfectly good economy grade pencil.
- Best Points – Interesting “flexy” body in a range of bright attractive colours.
- Not So Good Points – “Rubbery” feel to the body, uncovered eraser – but give them some points for the matching colour scheme.
- Price Range – Economy
Dimensions: 144mm long, 8mm diameter.
Now if any artist ever actually reads this blog, I would really like to know about the mechanical pencil you use, and your thoughts on it. Thin lead or thick? Why? Cheap disposable pencil or something more? Do you think your pencil is an important part of your art? If so, don’t you want a good quality mechanical pencil like a craftsman wants a good reliable tool? Or is it only the quality of the lead that counts – lead is a consumable and the holder is irrelevant beyond basic functionality? So take pity on an envious engineer, one who can’t draw without a T-square and template, and thinks that 0.7mm is a really fat line. Enlighten me!