Pencil Case

Monday, 1 September, 2014

Illustration by Tegan Iversen

This month will be dedicated to addressing a dispute which has long divided stationery enthusiasts; the traditional pencil versus the mechanical pencil. It may not seem like a big deal, but the choice between a wooden lead pencil or a plastic contraption with lead refills is a polarising one. Stationery enthusiasts are forced to peruse different aisles and there is an ocean of difference in between. So what are the pros and cons of each?

The traditional wooden pencil is an old classic and the chosen tool of artists, mathematicians and various notable figures. For instance, Michelangelo, Karl Marx, Virginia Woolf, Beyoncé and Glyn Davis have (probably) all used a traditional pencil at some point in their life. The sharp, 2B, yellow writing implement with a pink eraser is an academic cultural icon.

There is nothing prestigious about a tube of plastic.


Putting a wooden pencil into any bag or pencil case inevitably leaves everything you own coated in greyish graphite. Plus, sharpening is messy. The retractable lead of the mechanical pencil is a clear winner here.


The wooden pencil starts off deliciously sharp but the precise point only lasts a few strokes before the downward spiral into a blunt nub begins. Contrastingly, the point and precision of the mechanical pencil is maintained with a single click. But the danger here is running out of lead. Forget backup and you’ll literally be unable to write. While a blunt pencil may leave you with the stubby handwriting of a five year old, at least you’ll be able to finish that question on your exam.


Mechanical pencils can be refilled and reused. However, they are typically made of plastic and will exist far longer than any academic career. The wooden pencil doesn’t last long but shavings can be used in compost to reduce waste.

Mechanical pencils are superior when it comes to variety of design. Ranging from the plain and conservative in primary colours to the ridiculously patterned and glittery with little charms dangling off the end, there is the perfect style for everyone. But the charm of a cup of yellow pencils, perfectly sharpened and at uniform height cannot be denied.