PaperMate Sharpwriter                                                          Back
The PaperMate Sharpwriter is a cheap, disposable mechanical pencil. It's a dull
orange plastic tube with a rotating tip. It's not designed to be refillable, because it
uses a special kind of feed system.

The barrel is of reasonable size, and the eraser works great. However, some
pencils seem to have "dud" erasers which feel hard and crusty. Luckily, most of
mine had good erasers. There is a clip which seems to be molded right into the
body, and most people like to bend it off. The tube itself is rather thin-walled, but
most people don't bend their pencils under normal use. However, this is not the
kind of pencil that can withstand being stepped on.

At first sight, the word "disposability" comes to mind. That is exactly what it is
intended for. It cannot be refilled, the tip is not removable, from the outside you
can only see three parts. The eraser, barrel, and tip. Inside, there are two more:
a spring-screw thingy that extends from the tip to the eraser, and the lead
assembly. I know people like to break these open to get at the spring. Schools
are littered with the carcasses of bent Sharpwriters.

The feeding system is cheap but unique. Twisting the tip turns the spring thingy
inside the barrel. The lead assembly is really just a long piece of lead stuck into a
special holder. This holder has two "wings" that stick out and rest on the spring.
The whole assembly is inside the spring. The wings also slide in two small
grooves in the barrel, so that the lead can slide up and down but not turn around.

Because the spring turns, it pushes the lead assembly up or down, and then you
can accurately adjust the feed. If you use it properly, the lead won't break, and it
should last about as long as a wood pencil. I found that it was a little harder to
break the lead on this pencil than on most pencils. I think this is because the
internal spring also acts like a shock absorber on the lead, and the slight cushion
it provides when writing is nice.

The main negativity is that it cannot be refilled. Because the lead is put into a
special holder, manufacturing replacement lead assemblies would simply not
make sense. Sort of like how printer cartridges cost more than the printers.

The pencil withstood school very well. I did not have a single hitch when copying
notes and writing paragraphs. For a disposable pencil, it is quite hardy. The only
thing I found myself worrying about was that I could not tell how much lead was
left. To check, you would have to twist the tip until it stopped turning, then see
how much lead had been ejected. It is very east to break the lead like this.
Running out of lead on an important test is not exactly ideal.

These are great pencils for regular use, but for tests and important stuff I would
use a good old wood pencil. On tests, mechanical pencils are not good because
the fine point takes longer to fill in the "bubbles."
Mechanical pencil
Sharpwriter (out of 5)

Feeding: 4
Simplicity: 5
Refilling: 0
Eraser: 3
Grip: 3
Breakage: 4
Overall: 3.5

Lead: 4