Is the TWSBI Jr. Pagoda mechanical pencil actually good?

TWSBI Jr. Pagoda mechanical pencil
TWSBI Jr. Pagoda: Nothing junior about it.

I’m fortunate to live in an area where there are a handful of dedicated local stationery and art supplies stores. However that’s not very helpful in these pandemic times, thus much of my browsing has been limited to the online world. This eliminates the magic of discovery afforded by visiting a brick and mortar shop. But sometimes a website’s algorithm spits out a “You May Like This!” that hits the mark. Such is the case with the TWSBI Jr. Pagoda Mechanical Pencil.

The Pagoda is available in a handful of colors in 0.7 and 0.5 grades. I recently purchased the baby blue color in the 0.5 from Penny Post.

It looks like your run-of-the-mill plastic pencil but it feels surprisingly substantial in the hand. The solid clip makes it nicely back-heavy. The hex barrel is nicely faceted down to the cylinder just below the grip, and is comfortable to hold. The section has grey grippy rubber strips that are the only thing I don’t really like about this pencil. The nock is solid, with a removable cover that reveals a small and thin white eraser which is nothing special. I usually do not use the erasers on mechanical pencils, anyway.

THE TWSBI PAGODA IS GOOD, BUT

When you compare it to other mechanical pencils along the same price range you can see some of the ways the Pagoda falls short. For a couple dollars more you can find the Tombow Mono Graph, the famous (or infamous for some) shaker pencil. It’s visually more interesting, has a nice thick eraser, and the wider barrel feels more comfortable to my hand The stock leads are also definitely of nicer quality.

The Tombow Mono Graph Shaker is fun to use–and fun to look at!

You also have the Uni Kuru Toga. The version I have feels more plasticky than the TWSBI. But it’s all about the auto-rotating lead mechanism, which can’t be beat.

You can find these pencils for between $5-$10 on Amazon, and there are slightly more expensive editions on JetPens and other specialty sites. I find the Kuru Toga great for extended writing thanks to the auto-rotating mechanism.

Uni Kuru Toga

And you can’t forget the Pentel P207, a classic when it comes to economical mechanical pencils. You can get these for five bucks at Target, Staples, and elsewhere.

It’s ultra-light, which is generally not my preference. But it’s so well-made and just cool to look at that it’s a joy to use. The 0.7 works better for my heavy writing hand than the P205.

But in terms of how I like to use my pencils, I would actually give a slight edge to the TWSBI Jr. Pagoda over this Pentel. I do not think the TWSBI is a better pencil—the Pentel beats it in overall quality. But the Pagoda just works better for me because of its thicker barrel.

The Pentel P207 might be the most iconic of the four, but it’s not my favorite to use.

So here’s my ranking of the four pencils mentioned here, in order of preference:

  1. Tombow MonoGraph
  2. Uni Kuru Toga
  3. TWSBI Jr. Pagoda
  4. Pentel P207

Which one do you prefer?

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