I first bought the Pentel...
I first bought the Pentel P205 from my university bookstore around 1983, for
classes in Engineering, Science, and Math. I also bought the P203 (brown,
0.3mm), for open-notes exams.
The P205 is available in metallic red, metallic violet (purple), metallic green,
metallic blue, metallic pink, black, green, red, marble blue, marble red, marble
green, and marble bronze (brown). JetPens should carry the Pentel P205 Pencil
Metallic Special Edition and the marble colors. This is an advantage of the
simple, clean barrel type of this pencil: it's a large, uniform surface that can
vary in color. You can get them imprinted by Pentel. Wooden barrels are also
available, from craftsmen.
I have the basic collection of the 4 P20x sizes: P203 (0.3 mm, brown barrel),
P205 (0.5 mm, black barrel), P207 (0.7 mm, blue barrel), P209 (0.9 mm, yellow
barrel). The P209 is like holding a hunk of lead; it lacks a "cut" into the
paper; it just rolls over the paper. It is good for shop-work.
Pentel should make the P203 in more barrel colors and distribute it again in the
U.S. It is ironic that the 0.3 mm P203 has restricted distribution, when the
trend in pens is toward thin lines.
Pentel should make a P204; 0.4 mm would be the perfect balance of thinness and
lead strength. I will probably get the Pentel Graph 1000 0.4 mm pencil, which
is almost as light as the P205; it's the closest thing to the P204, which would
be colored green like the 0.4 mm Graph 1000: it would have a green barrel (in
the standard model), paired with a green-capped case of 0.4 mm leads.
The line thickness depends on turning the pencil to chase the sharp spot, and
depends on the paper. A very thin line results from writing smooth or slick
waxy textbook paper, tiny text, light pressure, turning the pencil to pursue the
sharp spot. A thick line results from subtly rough, generic printer paper.
Therefore, one might prefer a P203 for slightly rougher paper -- rough printer
paper causes the thin P203 to be surprisingly thick. Smooth textbook paper
causes the relatively thick P205 to come out surprisingly fine. I wish there
were a P204. On good (smooth) paper, the P203 lacks some character ("character"
= varying thickness in each stroke).
Even as popular as this pencil is, it is still underappreciated, largely because
it is so perfectly understated, efficiently low-key, and streamlined -- a
faithful, unassuming workhorse, universally flexible ranging from everyday heavy
writing, to fully technical work. I've used the P205 for all kinds of work,
including Philosophy, Cognitive Science, Engineering, and design of electric
guitar equipment. P205 is the official pencil of the Egodeath theory, a major
breakthrough theory of religion which I developed especially in 1986-1988; I
have hundreds of pages developing this Theory, using the P205. The P205 is an
intimate part of my life and identity.
Why is this pen so popular? It is very lightweight, so it disappears; it stays
out of the way. It's solid, sturdy, streamlined, doesn't tire the hand when
taking notes all day. The sturdy rigidity of this light-weight pencil gives
full control and feedback, and the tip is thin, making it fast to turn it to
pursue the sharp spot. It is highly respected and familiar in the technical
world. It's got metal where needed, but light-weight plastic on the body. The
eraser-cleanness protector is easy to take off and put on. It advances in small
increments of 0.5 mm, not 1/8" like cheap pencils, to produce the ideal
protrusion. It has a distinctive elegance. This elegant black-and-chrome
design is immune to trendiness. It stylistically ages gracefully, timelessly:
no one would ever design a pencil to look like this today, but it is inarguably
a great, effective design: streamlined, organically curved; almost as if the
situation designed it optimally, rather than mere human designers trying to
calculate what would sell based on merely what looks cool by some superficial,
Another of the many unconscious and underappreciated reasons this pencil is
popular could be the utility of its 4 mm tip as a small thin tool: the thin tip
of the P205 has come in handy countless times when I need a small, thin rigid
poker shape to tweak something. I'm always reaching for this pencil, even for
non-writing related tasks.
My P203 (brown) is vintage: it has a green eraser, with clean-out pin. My
vintage tube of green erasers doesn't work, however; they dried up/broke down.
I understand and support Pentel's decision to switch to the white eraser and
omit the clean-out pin, since a workaround to fix the rare jamming is to use a
piece of lead. The price of entry for this workhorse pencil is a bit of can-do
ability to take it apart and clean out a jam. A part of the whole P205
experience is pulling and tossing the last half-inch of lead and clicking to
advance the next.
The barrel holds many leads, but if you cram too many in, it is more likely to
jam, and probably is not using the pencil as-designed. I think some of the few
experiences I had with this rare jamming are due to storing too many leads.
The Pilot eraser-pin hack, I discovered: Use the two cleanout pins from the
Pilot green box of 5 erasers, "Pilot MS-10 Mechanical Pencil Eraser Refill".
Buy several of the "Pilot MS-10 Mechanical Pencil Eraser Refill" sets, one for
every two P20x's you have. 1 pin is 0.3 mm, 1 pin is 0.5 mm. They can be cut
and inserted into the eraser for a vintage cleaning pin. I remember over the
years occasionally needing to clean out a stuck lead fragment: it rarely happens
but you have to resolve the problem when it does. For 0.5mm, I've done fine
using a piece of lead as a clean-out tool.
You have to be ready to take apart the pencil to some extent, which did present
a problem once when trying to take notes in a meeting when my P205 jammed - I
wanted to spend a few minutes repairing it (don't know if I had a clean-out pin
in that case). It might be a good insurance idea to put a cut clean-out pin in
all your P203 and P205 erasers. Hold the straight part of the pin and let the
loop-handle go flying away when you cut it; don't hold the loop-handle and let
the straight pin go flying away. The P203 (and mythical P204) must use the thin
clean-out pin. The P205 can use the thicker clean-out pin. The P203 especially
benefits from adding a clean-out pin: it's easier for the lead to break, and
harder to use a piece of lead to clean out.
I've had a Pentel P205 mechanical pencil with me almost every day. I've briefly
tried out alternatives, but they only increase my appreciation for this revered
classic, which always has a reserved parking spot in my backpack and desk.