Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Mechanical Pencils for Learners

There is quite a range of writing instruments for learner writers. Many manufacturers have woodcase pencils, mechanical pencils and ballpoint pens that they market for children who are starting to learn to write. For the slightly older learner there are also fountain pens.

There are some common design features shared by most of these writing instruments such as oversize or wide grips and heavy duty construction. I want to restrict this post to mechanical pencils, talk a little about a few learner MPs, and ask you readers a few questions.

Here are the learner mechanical pencils that I am aware of. Large ergonomic rubber grips, short bodies and thick leads are the order of the day!

  • BIC Kids, with 1.3mm HB lead.
  • Faber-Castell Scribolino, with 1.4mm B lead. This is my personal favourite from an aesthetic standpoint, and as a mechanical pencil also usable by adults.
  • Lamy abc, with 1.4mm HB lead.
  • Pelikan Griffix, with 2.0mm lead, unknown grade.
  • Stabilo EASYergo in two lead options – 3.15mm HB and 1.4mm HB. The 1.4mm is marketed as suitable for 8+ year olds. EASYergo has left and right hand versions. Stabilo’s design criteria aimed for a minimum of parts to discourage disassembly by inquisitive children and the subsequent loss of parts or creation of choking hazards. I have come to appreciate this pencil and Stabilo’s concept more than when I first reviewed it. Also they got rid of that atrocious ‘s move bit 
  • There is also the Staedtler graphite 771 with 1.3mm HB lead, but this seems to be discontinued in much of the world, although for example is still on the Staedtler Australia website. I don’t think Staedtler really marketed the 771 as a learner pencil, but it has some of the attributes, hence my mentioning it here.
My Learners - Stabilo EASYergo, Faber-Castell Scribolino, plus Staedtler 771

Question – What other learner mechanical pencils are there?

Now, another feature of these learner pencils is where they are sold. Rightly or wrongly I am under the impression that learner pencils are very much a ‘Germany and nearby’ product. That is their stronghold. For example, the Lamy website states this about the abc, “This model is available in: Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Luxemburg, the Netherlands, Switzerland and United Kingdom”. The BIC Kids website states “Recommended by Teachers (89% out of french (sic) teachers interviewed by Eurosyn recommended BIC Kids for learning (July 2013))”. The English speaker in me can’t miss the opportunity to wonder about “french teachers”. Is that teachers in France, or teachers that teach French somewhere? Now, I know that learner mechanical pencils are available outside of Lamy’s list of countries, for example the BIC Kids is on the BIC Australia website, and I have seen Stabilo EASYergo in my part of the world, but I definitely wouldn’t say it was commonly available.

Question – In your part of the world are learner pencils commonly available, and are the commonly used?

I would appreciate your comments. Even a “Hey, I live in XYZ-Land and have never seen a learner pencil in any stores or heard of any local children using them” would be of interest.


Blackbeard said...

I don't think I've ever seen a learner mechanical pencil here in my corner of South America (Brazil). Even the jumbo wood pencils are somewhat of a rare sight - and only appearing in stores in recent years.

Most kids here learn with wood pencils and then move to mechanical pencils later (with a 2.0 mm lead holder sometimes serving as a bridge between them - in fact, now that I thought about it, I don't think I've ever seen an adult or even a teenager using a 2.0 mm here if they were not artists).

Anonymous said...

Here in Guatemala is rare for kids to even use mechanical pencils, most simply use normal pencils. So I don't remember ever seen a starter mechanical pencils as those.

By the way, I've been looking to ask this question to a lead guru like you: which is the darkest and less reflective 2b lead? Of course I'm asking for 2b because this is often the softest lead found in not specialized retailers. I've personally found Pentel Ain Stein 2b too have much of a "metallic shimering" for my tastes, Faber Castell and Staedtler look darker and less reflective in my eyes but there are so many brands I haven't tried yet.

Matthias said...

I wonder whether some of these learner pencils are counterproductive. The shaped grip section means that the learners get trained to write without rotating ..and chiselling away the lead, making it wider and wider.

Dish said...

I live in Italy. The easiest to find are probably the Stabilo EASYergo models (at least I saw them at some stores).
Anyway I'm pretty sure that learner pencils are not commonly used or recommended by teachers, here.

OldSkoolWrench said...

Here in the USA, one tends to see either "standard" woodcase Pencils like the Ticonderoga, or else the BIC basic Mechanical Pencils with a .07 diameter Lead, sold in Multi-packs of 6. Usually found @ office supply stores (OfficeMax, OfficeDepot, Staples) or @ the Supermarket & Walmart.

WriteHere said...

Great post Dave. Here in UK kids use wooden pencils when they start to learn writing.

George Clements said...

Anonymous in Guatemala
I have a similar problem with the reflectiveness of modern leads: perhaps it is something to do with the change from china clay to synthetic material in the compounds. I was fortunate enough to be able to buy a supply of very old Conway Stewart 2B leads some time ago, and they are beautiful to write with, especially as I use them on newsprint, which is very soft. I have also recently bought some soft leads from Legendary Leads in the USA - a supplier that our blog host notified me about. I have yet to try them out, but I'm hopeful as they are new/old stock china clay types. Postage and import taxes are a bind, but the leads themselves are very reasonably priced.
One further comment. Rather than writing on the newsprint, Imsometimes photocopy onto a decent buff tinted paper. This seems to minimise the reflectiveness issue, and also provides a much better, harder, writing surface.