I am a fan of mechanical pencils, sounds like a silly thing to say but it’s true. As a calligrapher, I spend most of my time creating art on paper. But that doesn’t mean I spend all my time writing with a dip pen. I admire the people who can create beautiful calligraphy straight out of the pen. But most of the projects I work on require a series of drafts before I begin the final artwork. I don’t do these drafts in ink because it would take far too long, and this is where the mechanical pencil comes in.
I’ve talked in the past that I’m not fussy when it comes to pencils. I’ve tried the Blackwings which I love (I’m still working my way through the same box!). But I prefer mechanical pencils, mostly because I don’t need to worry about sharpening them. I’ve been using a Muji mechanical pencil for several years now, but after starting my small business and getting some work I decided to treat myself to an upgrade. So I bought the Leuchtturm1917 Drehgriffel Nr. 2. Yes, I admit the marketing emails got me but turns out this little pencil has won several design awards so I want to share my thoughts.
About The Drehgriffel Nr. 2 Mechanical Pencil
The Drehgriffel Nr. 2 is an award-winning mechanical pencil, and sister to the Drehgriffel ballpoint pen, released as part of a collaboration between Leuchtturm and Paperlux Studio. The body is made from milled aluminium and brass, the design inspired by a pen dating to the 1920s, the decade in which Leuchtturm was founded.
Every aspect of this pen has been carefully designed. The name Drehgriffel comes from ‘dreh’, to twist and ‘griffel’, a German word for stylus. Even the lettering has been created to evoke the feel of another time, being based on a cursive script used in Germany before 1941. It is no wonder that the Drehgriffel ballpoint pen, and now the Drehgriffel Nr. 2 Mechanical Pencil have both won awards for their design.
The Drehgriffel mechanical pencil uses 0.7mm lead and comes with extra lead inside. I never thought to check how many leads it came with, but as of writing this, I have 2 left in the pencil. Possibly I’ve used more, though if I have there has not been any noticeable change between pencil leads. Leuchtturm sells lead refills for their mechanical pencil, however, these are currently not available for sale on their website.
You can tell they considered every aspect of this pencil. Even the packaging has been designed. Rather than your standard box, the pencil comes in a triagular-shaped box, with images of the pencil printed on the outside. As nice as this box is, mine did not arrive in particularly good condition. I’m going to blame this on Leuchtturm sending a small order in an overly large envelope, rather than some problem with the packaging.
The Drehgriffel pencil comes in a range of 8 colours. You have the standard, white, red and blue. But I also like how Leuchtturm has picked colours which will match their notebooks. Though I ended up not buying the yellow version of the pencil, I do appreciate the design. Something about it brings back memories of primary school and having to use those bright yellow pencils.
The Drehgriffel mechanical pencil retails for around £23. You can buy it directly through the Leuchtturm website, but it can also be found on Amazon, as well as a few art shops in the UK. I know Fred Aldous has it which is a particularly good art store. One of the benefits of buying directly through Leuchtturm1917 is that you can have your name engraved on the pencil. For a while they were offering this as a free addition, however, I believe you normally need to pay extra for this service.
My Thoughts on the Leuchtturm1917 Drehgriffel
I have to admit, I do really like my Drehgriffel mechanical pencil. But also I can’t lie, one of the big reasons I like it is because it looks nice. Leuchtturm has done a nice job designing this pen/ pencil and I understand how it managed to win so many design awards. I would have liked to use this pen a little longer before doing a review, so you’ll have to accept that my opinion is only based on a month of use.
Something I was not expecting to like as much as I did was the 0.7mm lead. I know this isn’t unique to this pencil but I usually buy 0.5mm lead. After using the pencil I found it helped with my calligraphy. Last year I learned a technique where you sharpen your pencil and then wear an angle into the lead. This makes it much easier to get thick and thin lines by varying the amount of pressure you put on the paper. This effect is not as noticeable on the 0.5mm lead as its slightly thinner. I know it’s a small detail, and you don’t need to buy a £23 pencil to get 0.7mm lead, but it was a nice surprise.
There’s something about the size of the pencil which threw me off. It’s maybe a tiny bit smaller than your standard ballpoint pen, but no more than 10mm. But somehow, it feels much smaller. It took me a while to get used to holding it. I think this could just be down to the materials in the pen. As I said, it’s made from brass and aluminium and is noticeably heavier than other pens, including my dip pen. I also think there’s possibly something to do with the balance which feels different compared to other pens. Despite saying all this, it is a nice pencil to write with and though I haven’t had it for long, I have used it quite a bit.
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The only real negative I have with this pencil is how it feels after long periods of use. Standard disclaimer: my hands are funky and tend to cramp up after a while (the perils of being a calligrapher!). But I think the Drehgriffel pencil suffers from the same problem as the Muji pen. The body of the pen is very smooth which can make it hard to hold, if you’re going to be doing long periods of writing, or you know you suffer from writer’s cramp, maybe look at getting a pencil with a grip instead.
I probably should also mention the price. £23 is a lot for a mechanical pencil. Even a really nice mechanical pencil which won lots of awards. It’s hard to say if the pen is worth it, especially when I’ve been using the same £3 Muji pencil for at least 5 years. But I tend to work on a philosophy of using cheap tools to death and then buy a nicer version which will last a long time.
I was surprised by this wee pencil. The Leuchtturm1917 Drehgriffel is the first “nice” piece of stationery that has really appealed to me. There’s something about the old-timey aesthetic which works. I hope other stationery companies see what Leuchtturm are doing and try to mimic it. I don’t mind spending a little more on stationery if I know it’s going to last years.