Mechanical Pencils

I have a fantastic mechanical pencil that I got in Japan, which I guard carefully because I don’t know where and when I might be able to get more. Since the label had completely rubbed off I had no idea who the maker or what the model number is so I was just looking around on the web to find out. It turned out to be a discontinued Staedtler 925.
Steadtler 925
Although a German manufacturer, I haven’t been able to find a single English language store online that seems to sell this model. Although discontinued, it has been replaced by a slightly different model of the same number.
New Staedtler 925
Hopefully I can find an art/drafting specialty store that carries these, because I haven’t been able to find any other mechanical pencil with the same kind of comfortable, solid feel and reliable mechanical performance of this one. Most mechanical pencils, even those from a reputable manufacturer like Pentel, tend to be made of plastic, which wears down to slipperiness and lacks the proper heft to really write comfortable.

Now, pencils may seem like an awfully mundane topic in a world of wireless internet, robot dogs, and digital cameras, but it is also worth appreciating the hundreds of years of evolution it takes to perfect such a commonplace device. My borderline obsessive quest for a particular pencil illustrates well how important little variations of material or ergonomics can be in such a daily use device. Realizing how rare it is to find even a mechanical pencil that truly lives up to one’s expectations of quality makes even more remarkable the intricate high tech devices all around us.

Anyone with even the slightest interest in engineering, ergonomics or the history of technology is strongly encourage to read Henry Petroski’s book The Pencil: A History of Design and Circumstance, a book which is far more interesting than you would expect.

21 thoughts on “Mechanical Pencils”

  1. Personally, I’ve been Rotring writing instruments for drawings and at times, for writing. They handle well/comfortably and with precision. I have 3 Rotring 600, mechanical pencils (Silver, 0.5, 0.7), they have served me well, and I love them.

    I found the contact details of the Japanese distributor of Rotring writing instruments:


    Sanford Japan Ltd.
    Tokyo (110-0016)
    Daiichi-Kangin Shibusawa Bldg., 4-28-11, Taito Taito-ku

    Tel.: 0081-3-5818-1655
    Fax: 0081-3-5818-1661

    Hope this helps.

  2. You just reminded me how much I love all the great pencils and pens available in Japan. One of my host families owned a stationery store, and for those 3 months I was awash in the finest writing utensils known to man. They gave me a sweet Red/Blue/Mechanical Pencil 3-way pen as a parting gift, but over the years I have misplaced it (it was most likely stolen by some jealous pretender). I miss that pen almost as much as I miss my host family.

  3. I use the same model made-in-japan Staedtler 925 05 and the 925 07! I love these pencils – I do engineering work with plenty of hand drawing and marking up technical documentation.

    This model WAS available at the US chain store call OFFICEMAX. They probably have a web-page somewhere.

    Here’s the kicker – they are just now (26 May 2005) replacing their stock with the “new” style which has a crappy rubber grip!

    I just bought two combo packs (0.5 and 0.7) last night at a store that happened to have stock of the old (good) style left.

    Good luck.

  4. I had no idea that they were actually made in Japan! Since Staedtler is a German company I just assumed it was an import.

    I picked up a couple of the new design at a Pearl art supply store and I was sorely disappointed. Even worse than the rubber grip is that the body is made out of plastic! I was disgusted that they would replace such a solidly made product with a cheap replacement and still charge as much for it! If you can find a place that still has the old model in stock I’d love to buy some. In fact, I’d buy a whole bunch of them, since they’re not likely to ever be made again.

  5. What’s the difference between the old style and new? I picked one up today and it seems pretty nice. The body itself is plastic, but the end and all the mechanicals inside are metal…

  6. The new design isn’t awful, I am actually using it, but the old one with a full metal body just felt so much nicer in my hand. I liked that it weighed a little more, and the metal ridges made for a much better grip than rubber.

  7. I have the same obsession over my 925. I was able to find a couple sets at an indie art supply store in Houston a few years ago. I’m going through a similar freak-out now and need to get some more.

  8. I found my self in a lucky situation. Picked up a BRAND new old style model. Pure pure luck. I can’t belive they had some left. It was brand new, they said they were just about to take it off the stand and replace it with the new design.

    I find it a very comfortable and a proffesional instrument.

  9. I just got back from my local Office Depot after buying my brand new old 925 07. I love it so far and if I had known it was discontinued I would have cleaned the place out. I’m disapointed that staedtler is starting to replace the more durable metal components of their pencils with plastic. I think I’ll go back now and stock up before thier all gone!

  10. It’s nice to hear that some people manage to find old ones, but it just pisses me off that I’ve lost the two I had and have never found any more. Maybe I’ll get lucky when I go back to Japan…

  11. I managed to find one website the sold the line but I do not know if they have switched to the new style. The pic they have thier when I last checked was of the oll style but they might end up sending you the on you dont want buthere it if is if you want to have a look. link-

  12. I have been fighting with mechanical pencils for a long time now. What is it that I do not know?!? They work when I bring them home, and then after a while the lead is just plain slippery. I go to write and the lead slips back up in the pencil. I have no clue how to make it stop. I much prefer mechanical pencils, so I just keep buying them until they quit working. Any ideas?

  13. Yes, I have the same problem with the led slipping back into the pencil. The old pencils did not seem to develope this problem. The tip is made of metal, however it must have been cheapened when the companies switched to plastic.

  14. Our campus bookstore has tons of the 925 07 for sale at like 5.00 Canadian per pencil.
    Let me know if you want some….

  15. It never crossed my mind the first couple of times I read this, but Charles M. Schulz (the guy who drew Peanuts) had a similar dilemma. He drew the strip for decades using a certain model of ink pen, which the manufacturer one day decided to discontinue. So Schulz did what any sane billionaire cartoonist would do in such a situation: he bought himself a lifetime supply.

  16. If you stop by your local college bookstore (preferably a college with some sort of engineering program), you should be able to find some. However, as previously noted, most stores now carry the newer design, which has a rubber grip instead of the metal grip (In fact I have some on my table right now). You should also checkout other Staedtler Japan products. They make several different models of metal-body mech. pencils. There are a couple of ebay sellers and sites that carry such pencils.

  17. both types of the 925 are available on ebay. just look for them. plenty of other types/brands available as well. check out my blog or my google pages for my collection.

  18. I have seen Stadtler Mechanical Pencils at Office Max and Staples (USA) and after visiting a local store they can do a internal search for a specific item in their inventory. They also might be able to special order an item by contacting the vendor.
    Goodluck and never surrender in your quest!
    ~ Gary ~

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