Getting the most out of mechanical pencilsFebruary 15th, 2011 |
UPDATE 13 October 2015: As many people have let me know, the Uni-ball Millino is no longer carried by Jetpens. In fact, my Millino stopped working after about a year, which was rather disappointing. I have yet to find another mechanical pencil that holds onto lead the way the Millino did– the only other one that made a similar claim that I bought (and I forgot to make a note of what it was) didn’t do it nearly as well. Meanwhile, my Uni-ball Kuru Toga (with Alpha Gel) is still going strong after all these years, so I consider it a good purchase!
I’ve had a long-standing gripe about mechanical pencils.
Now, I stopped using wooden pencils a long time ago, mostly for the convenience of not having to worry about sharpening the darn thing all the time. A classic artist will probably tell me that the difference between a mechanical pencil and a wooden pencil is as night and day as the difference between a brush pen and a real brush (I am firmly in the Real Brush camp, BTW), but I’ve become quite comfortable with the things and I use them nearly exclusively for drawing.
Every single mechanical pencil I’ve owned has always had the same problem– the mechanism loses its grip on the lead when there’s still a good 5 mm left, as shown in the photo above. For reference I’ve included an unused lead, and a Canadian dime. The shorter black piece is what was left when the pictured pencil (a comfy Uni-ball Kuru Toga with Alpha Gel from Jetpens.com, which I first got about five months ago) spit it out. That’s nearly a fifth of the original lead going to waste! For years this drove me nuts. I’d do what I could to squeeze as much out of that lead remnant, but every time it seemed like I was throwing a disappointing percentage of my money into the garbage.
Behold the Uni-ball Millino, also from Jetpens. The grip isn’t as comfy as the Kuru Toga’s Alpha Gel, but it will hold on tight to that lead until the last millimeter (and for a reasonable price, too). See how little of the lead is left when the Millino is done with it! In fact, what I did was to take that enormous piece which the Kuru Toga dropped and stuck it in the Millino to polish it off. That way I get the comfort and rotating power (did I mention that pencil turns the lead automatically so you can keep a sharper point on your lead? Brilliant.) of the Kuru Toga, and still be economical for the last bit.
You might wonder if it wouldn’t just be more convenient to use the Millino all the time and not be bothered with having to move the final piece of lead from one mechanical pencil to the other. I did, in fact, consider that when I first got the Millino. But there is an important thing to know about it: due to its nature, it doesn’t play well with certain drafting tools.
If you examine the clutch mechanism of both pencils closely, you’ll see that the Millino (on the right) has a much shorter tip. That may not at first seem like a big deal, but if you want to use a ruler or french curve or Ames lettering guide, that tip is necessary. The long tip allows for a smooth gliding surface against the edge of a ruler (and gives you a better view of your lead against the paper). The Millino won’t even fit into my lettering guide.
So there you have it! The one-two punch of the Kuru Toga plus the Millino means I get the best of both worlds.
(Hope you enjoyed the glimpses of upcoming Galaxion pages!)