Pencils: The Ongoing Argument

Mankind has always been defined by polarizing struggles: Republican vs. Democrat, Coke vs. Pepsi, Mac vs. PC.  But objectively the most momentous debate of all time has been the age-old question: mechanical or wooden pencils?

This debate has been going strong ever since the dawn of the pencil.  Yes, this heated feud is intense enough to turn once-peaceful classrooms into barren, barbaric battlefields.

Part of what makes the pencil debate so dynamic is how many questions it raises. How many students use which kinds of pencils? Which is more affordable? Why would someone choose one over the other? Is there a better alternative to both, such as the archaic quill pen or stone tablet and stylus?

Right off the bat, it is obvious that both mechanical and analog pencils have their perks and faults.  But, as any writing utensil enthusiast knows, one must dig deep into the qualities of each pencil to really find out which is superior.

Wooden pencils are simple and natural, while mechanical pencils are high-tech writing machines.

Mechanical pencils are durable and never have to be sharpened, and a steady stream of lead is almost always available.

However, mechanical pencils are not without their flaws. They can run out of lead, or, worse yet, the lead can be lost, rendering all mechanical pencils useless.  I’m sure any mechanical pencil user can conjure up the clear-as-day image of pleading with his or her fellow classmates for a .7 lead, but to no avail.

Wooden pencils, on the other hand, represent a completely different tool all together.  Wooden pencils do not rely on lead, so what you see is what you get.  If you hold the pencil in your hand, you are only one pencil sharpener (located in every classroom) away from writing to your heart’s content.

However, though wooden pencils are not lead-reliant, this can also be seen as a negative aspect: they must be continually sharpened.  As a patron of wood-forged pencils knows, there is nothing worse than the living hell brought on by a stubborn pencil that absolutely refuses to sharpen.

Practicality is not the only aspect that must be considered; personality and charm are another pressing factor.  Both forms of the sword of the English language have their own flair: wooden pencils are easy to vary in color and design, while mechanical pencils easily vary in shape.

Wooden pencils can be emblazoned with infinite upon infinite sayings and pictures with ease.  However, it should be noted that these graphics will be continually gutted as the pencil is sharpened.

The mechanical versions of pencils can take many forms: some have gel grips, and others have twistable erasers.  It is safe to say that mechanical pencils are more customizable, but all these superfluous features may influence some fans to opt for the much simpler wooden alternative.

When dealing with a topic as important as this one, we must be careful to collect only the most accurate of data.

We asked ten classrooms which type of pencils they prefer, and the results were nothing short of astounding.  When it came to students, mechanical pencils blew wooden pencils out of the water: Only 43 students out of 320 surveyees said they preferred wooden pencils.  It should be noted, however, that more teachers preferred wooden pencils to mechanical ones.

This data exhibits the shifting generational trend: mechanical pencils are “newer” and “hipper,” so it’s no wonder the new generation prefers them, while the older generation would rather stay with what is familiar to them.

So, speaking from raw data alone, mechanical pencils seem to have wooden pencils beat, but wooden pencils still have a sizeable following in the underground pencil scene.

Remember, though pencils are clearly separated into two distinct categories, one can never make a generalization for all.  Each pencil is unique, like a child.

In the end, the pencil you use is up to you. Whichever pencil you use, just remember: the choice is in your hands.


Why Wood?

  • Solid in hand

  • “Natural”

  • Expendable

  • “softer” writing

  • Don’t use up/require lead

  • easier to manipulate line thickness


Maybe Mechanical?

  • Durable

  • Reusable

  • Don’t require sharpening

  • Comfort

  • Variety in pencil options

  • Less incentive to lose.  lighter

  • Constant thickness