I want to introduce to you my favorite writing instrument: the PaperMate ClearPoint Elite. The quest for a great mechanical pencil started a number of years back. I had a hard time finding a mechanical pencil with the following characteristics:
1. A retractable tip. This is about more than just having a retractable lead. Without a retractable tip, the tip tends to snag if it’s tossed into a soft container like your pocket or backpack. Pockets are a special problem, as it means you could get poked in the leg as well. This problem could also be ameliorated by the use of a removable cap, but this tends to get in the way of requirement #2.
2. A big eraser. I make big mistakes and frequently need to remove them. Many mechanical pencils are apparently made for people who don’t need to erase, and have erasers like a grain of rice. These people should be using pens.
3. A mechanism for extending the lead that doesn’t rely on pressing down on the eraser. Again, if you don’t really need to use the eraser, this isn’t a problem. For those of us who need to erase, a button on the side to extend the lead is much more practical.
4. Replaceable leads so you can keep using it after the factory load is gone.
There was really only one solid choice I found on the market: the original PaperMate ClearPoint. I owned several of these and was quite happy with them, but they tended to have a couple problems:
1. The clip, made of brittle plastic, would break off.
2. The piece at the bottom of the barrel around the lead holder was also brittle plastic and would break.
Eventually PaperMate introduced an upgraded version, the ClearPoint Elite which eliminated these problems while adding a couple other nice features:
1. The clip was now metal.
2. The other piece which broke (I’m sure there’s a technical name for it) was also now metal.
3. The mold was much smoother and more refined in the hard plastic parts and on the rubbery parts, making it nicer to hold.
Let’s take a look at this pencil top to bottom.
The eraser is the diameter of a wooden pencil eraser and can be extended from the barrel by means of a rotating ring. So you’ve got plenty of extra eraser in reserve once you’ve worn out what’s already there. I have read some complaints about the mechanism not holding the eraser firmly in place, but this hasn’t been a problem for me.
The surface of the ring is smoother on the ClearPoint Elite than on the original ClearPoint, which had sharper features.
The eraser itself seems to do a good job at erasing, not falling apart or smearing the written lead.
Not much to say here, other than I haven’t had one break yet, unlike the clips on the original ClearPoint. It holds the pencil in place effectively on thin cardstock or inside a spiral bound notebook.
The Retracting Mechanism
This button is located on the side of the barrel. You don’t have to change your grip very much to hit the button to give yourself a little more lead. When you press the button, it advances the lead a little bit, or if you hold it down and push the tip against the paper, the lead holder retracts.
Most mechanical pencils extend their leads by pressing down on the eraser. In my experience, this makes erasing more difficult, so the side button makes this pencil far more useful.
Again the button mold was changed from the original ClearPoint to smooth out some of the corners.
This is made from some sort of rubbery substance and is molded into the barrel, which tapers slightly inward. Again, PaperMate improved the feel here on the Elite vs the original ClearPoint. It tapers inward and is comfortable enough for me.
The thing around the lead holder is metal, no doubt because the plastic version on the original ClearPoint tended to break. The ClearPoint Elite comes in 0.7 mm and 0.5 mm varieties. I don’t have any particular preference for either thickness. The leads seem to write just fine.
The lead holder is retractable, as mentioned above.
I have now written nearly 700 words on my favorite pencil. I really do love these things, but it’s not an unconditional love. Perhaps some day the Steve Wozniak of pencil engineering will design a superior pencil. I would drop them in a heartbeat for a writing utensil I found was better. Though for the life of me, I can’t think of how a mechanical pencil could be better.