Buying Guide: Mechanical Pencil Leads

Can you believe we're halfway through the year? It's just flying by for me. It may be inventory time for your company now and if you have a supply stock room, you may be evaluating needs for that and stocking up on some of the essentials.  One such essential may be refill lead for mechanical pencils.

Really, an article about pencil lead? (How lame!)  Well, you might be surprised how many people have a difficult time choosing the right type of lead.  This won't be a novel by any means, but rather a quick "how to" guide to make your life easier.

There are only two choices you need to make about your lead:  diameter and hardness.



The most common diameters are: 0.3mm, 0.5mm, .07mm and 0.9mm.

  • 0.3mm makes extra-fine lines for small details
  • 0.5mm makes a fine line and is commonly used in accounting and general writing
  • 0.7mm is a medium line and is generally used by students and heavy-handed writers
  • 0.9mm gives you a thick line and is commonly used by first-time mechanical pencil users.

There are other sizes out there, but they're more of a specialty item and not carried by office supply stores, so I'm going to skip them.


The five most common grades of hardness in pencil lead: 2B, B, HB, H and 2H and they run in that order, with 2B being the darkest imprint, HB being the middle of the road (used in just about every school in the world) and 2H giving you the lightest imprint of the five grades.

That's all there is to it.  Simply choose the thickness of line and the hardness/darkness you want and you're all set.  Most office products dealers will have the full gamut of hardnesses available in the 0.5mm and 0.7mm, but only HB in the 0.3mm and 0.9mm.  It's just a matter of demand - not many people ask for those sizes.