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Lead Holder vs Mechanical Pencil

lead holder vs mechanical pencil
Lead holders are like mechanical pencils but only because they write like a true pencil. The reason is that both use graphite. Note, though, that this is only where the similarities end.

Just by the way they write and the size of the graphite leads they can use, these writing implements are quite different from each other. So, between the lead holder vs mechanical pencil, which is better?

This article will discuss these writing tools in more depth, so you can make up your own decision.

What is a Lead Holder?

Simply put, a lead holder is like a refillable wooden pencil, which means it does not get shorter the more lead you use up. In this sense, lead holders are like mechanical pencils. However, their leads are much thicker with sizes 2mm and above.

In addition, lead holders usually have a different mechanism than that of a mechanical pencil. Lead holders use a clutch mechanism. With this mechanism, pressing the button will cause the entire length of the lead to slide out if you do not release your hold.


  • Graphite leads are thick, so they are less prone to breaking
  • Your drawing will not change due to the pencil not shortening over time.
  • Better for the environment because it does not use any wood
  • Allows writing using the side of the lead


  • You still have to sharpen the point
  • Not ideal for drawing fine details

What is a Mechanical Pencil?

Mechanical pencils can hold several lead tips. You have to click the button to push out the graphite leads gradually. The reason this writing tool is called mechanical is that it uses a mechanism that opens a small chuck and pushes out the lead graphite a little bit at a time. When you release the button, the chuck closes and holds the lead in place.

Unlike lead holders, mechanical pencils can only hold thin graphite leads, usually up to 0.7mm thick. This means that if you need to make broad and thicker strokes, you might not want a mechanical pencil.


  • No need to sharpen the leads
  • Can hold more than one pencil lead in the barrel
  • Ideal for drawing fine details or for writing small print
  • Always draw consistent line widths


  • Mechanical pencils can only use one size of lead per pencil.
  • More prone to get jammed compared to lead holders

Choosing the Right Mechanical Pencil or Lead Holder

choosing right mechanical pencil lead holder

Choosing between a mechanical pencil and a lead holder should not be an issue since you can always buy both kinds. However, the issue comes when choosing between the many brands and models available.

Here are some tips on how you can choose the right writing implement for you.


First, ask yourself what you will be using the lead holder or mechanical pencil for. If you will be using it mainly for architectural drafting, you will need a mechanical pencil as it provides a consistent line weight without the need to sharpen the tip.

On the other hand, if you will be using the tool mainly for drawing and illustrating, you would want to use a lead holder. Because of the thicker leads they use, lead holders feel more like you are using wooden pencils. It also gives you the option to change line weights on the fly just by tilting the way you hold it.

Barrel Size, Shape, and Texture

Most mechanical pencil barrels usually come in just one size, which is the same as a regular pencil. On the other hand, because you will need to manipulate it in different ways, lead holders come in different-sized barrels you can choose from.

There are lead holders that are the same size as a regular pencil. Some also come in different thicknesses and shapes. Others come in ergonomic designs that make using them for extended drawing sessions a lot easier.

Lead Thickness

This will depend on what application you will be using the pencil for. For drafting and architectural drawings, you will need the fine points and uniform lines for those applications.

For illustrating and sketching, the thicker leads of lead holders are better, mostly because it closely mimics the behavior of traditional wooden pencils.

Colored Leads

Both mechanical pencils and lead holders can use colored leads. However, lead holders have a wider selection of colors. Also, because of the thickness of the leads, colored leads work just like regular-colored pencils, so you can use them for coloring your drawings.


Here is the neat part. Both lead holders and mechanical pencils are quite affordable. Mechanical pencils, mainly because they have been around longer and there are more brands to choose from, are quite cheap. You will find it hard to look for a single mechanical pencil that is over $10.

You can also find a lot of lead holders that are under $10. However, if you want better quality, they are still under $20 each. This might seem steep, but keep in mind that they can last virtually forever.

When it comes to the leads, mechanical pencil leads are dirt-cheap. You can get a lot of leads for just a couple of bucks. On the other hand, the leads for lead holders are a bit more expensive, often at a dollar apiece. However, they do last quite a long time, so they are more than worth the extra price.

Helpful Tips

  • Sharpen the points of a lead holder graphite – You can do so with the help of a lead sharpener. Note, though, that it would be much easier to use a piece of medium-grit sandpaper.
  • Choose leads based on hardness – For beginners, when choosing graphite leads, note that they are categorized according to hardness. With B leads being the softer and darker leads, and the H leads having lighter shades and harder, the HB leads are the median between the two.


When it comes to which is better between a lead holder vs. mechanical pencil, the answer will depend on what you will be using them for. For instance, although you can use mechanical pencils for sketching, a lead holder is better. Also, in terms of architectural drafting and anything that needs precision, mechanical pencils are better

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