Review – Paper:Mate Mates Mechanical Pencil

The Paper:Mate Mates is obviously designed to be child’s pencil, considering that they unusually come in various colors or with various princesses or comic book characters. But the reason I have one is because it was given to me. I’m a thin lead kinda guy (0.5 most of the time) and the Mates only come in one size: 1.3mm. So they’re a cheap way to get the feel of a larger lead for those of us not used to it. But how does the rest of it work?

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The most interesting thing about this pencil is the body, which is a rounded-off triangular shape. It seems built up from a more standard size. Most ballpoint pens or (non-mechanical) pencils could fit inside of the Mates with no problem. It’s also longer than most other pens and pencils I have lying around. The overall design is very simple; it’s made to resemble a regular pencil. There is a triangular eraser on the back that is plugged into the back of the lead tube. It then expands to fit with the edge of the plastic it is held in by and creates a more “seamless” look. This bit is also the click-advance mechanism. Following that, there is some styling in the plastic that is meant to resemble the metal bit holding the eraser in on wood pencils. And beyond that is a smooth triangular barrel (with enough information printed on it) followed by a taper that is a little roughed up and meant to look like a sharpened wood pencil. There is no pipe to hold the lead here; it simply comes out of the end.

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Writing is simple, and what one would expect from a #2 pencil: smooth and somewhat dark. Due to the size of the lead, though, a lot more expression can be obtained from this pencil, as the lead can be flattened on one side and then flipped to allow for swapping between a very thin and very broad line. The triangular shape both helps and hinders this, making it easier to precisely rotate the pencil, but hard to exactly flip it over. The shape and the length, though, help the pencil ergonomically quite a bit, making the user in general much less prone to hand fatigue and cramping when using it for long periods of time. The fact that it is quite light for its size also helps with this, but contributes to a float-y feeling that I’m not much a fan of.

This pencil was made for kids as a school pencil. The ergonomics, large lead size, and HB (#2) lead grade all stem from filling in large amounts of scantron bubbles. But it does have other, more artistic (or even some office) uses. The lead is replaceable so it can be swapped for one more suitable for you, but a better eraser is needed. It isn’t the sturdiest pencil in the world, but there isn’t much that could go wrong with it and it should hold up in most use cases. So if you want to try out larger lead sizes pretty inexpensively, or are looking for a more ergonomic pencil experience, here would be a place to start.

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