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  I first bought the Pentel..., March 10, 2012
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, short-lived standard.

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.
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