How to Look at a Mechanical Pencil

© Copyright 2021 Lavarnan Mehavarnan, Ryerson University

Despite what the name suggests, a mechanical pencil is not as cold to the touch as you might have otherwise thought.

An Observation

It consists of a smooth, plastic exterior, serving as the casing that holds together the mechanical components. In addition, this particular pencil was black in color, with subtle differences in shades to outline where its comfortable grip meets the plastic shell. This is coupled with a tinted glass surrounding its inner workings, showcasing the loaded spring as it pushes the stick of lead downwards with every click of the eraser. The biggest contrast in detail is the silver clip near the top of the pencil; cleverly drawing the consumer’s attention towards the visibly written company branding. It is as though this mechanical pencil represents its manufacturer, highlighting their sleek, independent, ergonomic presentation.

A Comparison

The mechanical pencil is an independent innovation that promotes convenience and comfort. Old-fashioned pencils required bulk purchases, as they had very short lifespans, especially for writers. Furthermore, pencil sharpeners were also a necessary tool, inconveniencing the time required for the writing process.

A pencil and its sharpener is like a conductor to an ensemble; one does not have purpose without the other.

However, pencil sharpeners were notoriously known for their waste, always needing a trash bin nearby for any shavings. The mechanical pencil was an innovative solution that significantly prolonged the lifespan of writing utensils.

The evolution of the pencil is slowly reaching its peak of extinction, as digital urbanization provides us with even greater convenience through word processing applications. Whether its Microsoft Word or Google Docs, the necessity to carry a pencil around decreases by the day. This is only pushed further forward at a faster rate as we become accustomed to our mobile devices, an even greater convenience with its own plethora of applications, including Notepad.

An old mechanical pencil, still used for academic & recreational writing.
Lavarnan Mehavarnan, Rewriting Perspectives Photograph. (c 2021) From the exhibit “How to Look at a Mechanical Pencil”
An Experience

As a frequent wanderer of thoughts, I personally have found my phone to be much easier to access when writing outside in comparison to any accessible pen and notepad. It is only a matter of time before we exchange the obsolete pencil for the modern phone as a sustainable solution.

This particular pencil has been in my possession for a number of years now. In a way it has become my literary companion, accompanying me at every turn of my academic journey. From study guides to pages of descriptive poetry, it bears my worst secrets while serving as a primary witness to my greatest feats. Even though pencils are not living entities of nature, they are also susceptible to deteriorating over time like any organism.

A Realization

The most notable observations to a mechanical pencil are coincidentally on its opposing ends, its faded eraser tip and slanted edge of lead. The former is tasked with removing any mistakes found in drafts, while the latter perfects its craft by reshaping the space left behind by these mistakes.

It benefits us to regard the mechanical pencil in this way as it displays digital urbanization into a realistic instance that often goes unnoticed. Moreover, the mechanical pencil is a tool without a strictly defined function, despite being overshadowed by digital application, it is still a popular recreational medium for contemporary artists. Transparency is one of the most uniquely notable features on this pencil, representing how a visible understanding of an inner function can provide valuable insight to an observer.


Works Cited

Elkins, James. How to Use Your Eyes. New York: Routledge, 2000.

Mehavarnan, Lavarnan. “Rewriting Perspectives.” Feb 2021, Photograph.

Images in this online exhibit are either in the public domain or being used under fair dealing for the purpose of research and are provided solely for the purposes of research, private study, or education.