I bought something called a Fixpencil from Lee Valley Tools several
months ago, but have only recently been using it to any great extent.
Basically it is a very solid mechanical pencil that holds 3mm leads -
not 0.3mm - three whole ones. The typical mechanical pencil you see
around the office has a .3 to .7mm lead, and is made of plastic or
flimsy metal. The pencil shown here -
is made of solid aluminum and is basically indestructible. I've sat
on it, dropped it, you name it - it's fine.
While working in a cabinetmaking shop I rarely used it, simply because
there were numerous sharp regular pencils to be grabbed. The
be sharpened to a pretty fine point, but that's not
it's strength. It's strength lies in its ability to mark wood - rough
cut and otherwise - without breaking the lead. I use mine daily on
the construction site and I gotta tell you it's much easier, more
convenient and effective than a carpenter's pencil. Plus it's got a
built in lead sharpener for when you want a finer line - although I
rarely need it.
The cost of the pencil lead refills is a bit shocking, at a full two
bucks a pop, but each one lasts a looooong time. I'm still on the one
that came with the pencil.
The only negative comment I can make is that the advancement mechanism
for the lead isn't the type you can just "click" to advance. You have
to push the button on the end of the pencil in and then sort of tip it
so the lead slides out to the appropriate length. When I first got
the pencil, the lead wasn't exposed and when I pushed the button the
lead shot out and broke into pieces on the floor. (They still worked
when I shovedt them back in though.) Don't worry, it becomes second
nature to slide it out once you've used it. I keep mine in my
carpenters pouch so I leave it advanced, but you should push the lead
back in if you're going to stick it in a back pocket.
For the cabinetmakers, I'd say stick with your marking knives and
recently sharpened wooden pencils. For you framers and carpenters
though, I highly recommend it. It's easy to use, durable, provides an
accurate mark, and it's quick - no more whittling!
One step up and two steps back.