I haven’t ever successfully used a mechanical pencil. I always press too hard. Always, always, always. When I put one to paper, within seconds … crack goes the graphite. Never fails.

I loathe mechanical pencils.


Macro photography of a thin graphite lead through the tip of a (ratchet-based) mechanical pencil. Image: Bob Ionescu

Furthermore, my mechanical aptitude is, um, rather lacking, as friends and family would attest. Somewhere down around the zero-th percentile.

Mrs. QC recently suggested a correlation exists between mechanical pencil proficiency and mechanical aptitude. I offer some anecdotal evidence to support this theory: The mechanical pencil user I recall most vividly from my childhood is a principal of an engineering software company (where I work). Boy, this guy was adept with mechanical pencils. He loved ’em (like Dave here). Probably still does.

His four brothers are also principals of the company, and I’ll bet at least two of those four, the programmers, were mechanical pencil users as school students. Heck, all five probably were. It’s that engineering gene. Their dad was an engineer.

Organizations needing to test for mechanical aptitude can dispense with expensive aptitude tests. They should just give out a mechanical pencil and a piece of a paper to each person they’re testing and tell them to write. They may not be able to determine who has the engineering gene, but they will surely find out who — crack — does not.

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5 comments so far

  1. Renee on

    Same problem here. Probably in the genes,and I think your theory is correct.

    • QC on

      I’m in good company then. 🙂 Hope I never see one again. Mrs. QC gets the credit for the theory.

  2. Kiwi-d on

    I’ve edited this comment because it contained a long URL that was affecting the page layout. — QC

    Do not worry my friends. Many Japanese have taken your genetic issues into account and produced mechanical pencils for the “crack” prone (addicts?), such as Pentel with their 1.3mm lead Fiesta model.
    Best regards,

    Pentel online store product page for Fiesta mechanical pencil

    • QC on

      @Kiwi-d (Dave from Dave’s Mechanical Pencils blog):
      1.3mm? Wow! That is quite a bit thicker than most isn’t it? Somehow I don’t think I’ll rush to order one, but thanks for the info. I am impressed with how the Fiesta’s “vivid barrel colors add a festive touch” — evidently the Fiesta is aptly named.

      Dave’s review of the Pentel Fiesta

  3. Kiwi-d on

    Yep 1.3mm is a lot thicker than most. More like a wooden pencil than “normal” mechanical pencil. Still, if 1.3mm is a little over the top there are quite a few 0.9mm pencils which are reasonably sharp and very hard to crack.

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