(Edit: Added additional information & pictures of the graphite leads used with my clutch pencils)
I have to confess. I did partake in one of the sales on Fountain Pen Day. It was not a fountain pen purchase, but a clutch pencil that I had my eye on. Who knew that one of my fave fountain pen shops carried clutch pencils. More on that in a few minutes.
To make sure I was keeping with the fountain pen theme on that day, I purchased a bottle of Van Dieman’s red ink that was on my wish list. It’s part of their Original Colors of Tasmania ink series. It’s a gorgeous reddish ink color and I paired it with one of my Leonardo MZ fountain pens. Ink swatches will be in my next ink review post.
Back to my non-fountain pen purchase. I have a thing for the Koh-i-Noor clutch pencils and I have managed to collect a few in different colors and styles. This new one is quite unique and it did not hurt that it came in a beautiful blue color with gold trim. It’s absolutely gorgeous!
Can you see why I was attracted to this pencil? This metal clutch pencil holder has some heft and weight. The weight reminds me of brass. It is chunky looking and easy to hold in my hand. I noticed I have a looser grip with this style of pencil. Here’s a picture of my new blue pencil sitting in between my two standard looking clutch lead holders.
My clutch pencil holder uses the 5.6mm graphite leads and they typically come in the softer lead offerings: HB, 2B, 4B, 6B, and 8B. I pulled out the included lead from my pencil and could not find any markings and I assumed it was an HB or 2B.
I used my new pencil to create this initial grape sketch. Yes, I’m still in the grape sketching phase.
This HB/2B lead produced some hard lines in my sketch. I used my two other clutch pencils with softer leads (e.g. 6B) and was able to blend the hard lines and soften the grapes. You can see a difference in the following picture.
I wanted to add that the Koh-i-Noor graphite leads come in two lengths: 80mm and 120mm. Each box contains six (6) leads and you’ll notice the longer leads need extra protection and come in a plastic box.
Here’s what the leads look like outside of their boxes.
Here are the leads next to my clutch pencils. My Koh-i-Noor Versatil 5340 Clutch Pencil (bottom) can take both lead sizes and retracts them fully into the clutch holder.
My new clutch holder can easily take the 80mm lead size and retracts fully in the clutch holder. The 120mm lead can also be used, but when fully retracted the lead will still show/protrude from the clutch. For me it’s not an issue as I store my pencils in a wrap case. It might an issue for those who carry their pencils in their pockets or in a purse/backpack.
I really enjoy using my clutch pencils as I can easily swap out different lead types. I can use sepia, charcoal, and chalk leads as well as metallic and “magic” leads for sketches that require color.
Clutch Pencil: Koh-i-Noor Mechanical Drop Clutch Lead Holder in Blue with 5.6mm x 80mm Lead (HB or 2B)
(Edit: I have updated this post to include additional pictures and a quick graphite sketch using my clutch pencils)
Happy National Pencil Day or NPD!
This National Pencil Day showed up in several social media outlets and I thought it would be appropriate to publish this post about my Clutch Pencils.
There is something enjoyable and rewarding about using graphite pencils for creating sketches and drawings. For me, it’s the most basic and much needed tool to create quick gestures or outlines for most of my artwork. For many years, I used mechanical pencils that came with leads in .5mm and .7mm sizes.
When I went through my Kaweco fountain pen phase, I noticed they carried something called a clutch pencil lead holders and they came in two different sizes: 3.2mm and 5.6mm. I decided to do some further research before jumping on Kaweco clutch pencil band wagon.
So what is a clutch pencil? It’s one of the oldest type of mechanical pencil. They are also referred to as lead holders. They differ from the modern mechanical pencils in that only one piece of lead is used in the body of the pencil and the lead is not advanced via a push-button mechanism through a sleeve. Instead, the lead is held in place by a spring-loaded clutch mechanism. When the push button is pressed, this operates the internal clutch by opening the jaws of the lead holder and allowing the lead to drop freely from the pencil until the button is released. As the push button is released, this closes the clutch mechanism and the jaws hold the lead firmly in place. This type of clutch pencil is known also as a drop clutch pencil.
There is also another type of clutch pencil called the incremental clutch pencil. It has the similar clutch mechanism and jaws like a regular clutch pencil, but by pressing and releasing the button, the lead advances incrementally and does not fall out.
There were several criterias I was looking for in a clutch pencil. The first was to find common lead sizes. In my research, I kept seeing several different size leads from 2.0mm to 5.6mm. I had to figure out which size would make sense to use in my artwork. The second criteria was how comfortable the lead holder would be in my hand. Based on my experiences with fountain and ballpoint pens, I knew I had to stay away from thin and narrow grips. The third and last criteria was quality/functionality of the holder as in how easy was it to install, advance, or remove the lead.
I held off getting the Kaweco brand and decided to go with a few well known graphite pencil brands. Additional research lead me to the KOH-I-NOOR brand. I knew I wanted to use the 5.6mm leads as I could get various line and shading coverage. I also knew I wanted the lead hardness to be in the “B” range or soft lead so I could get light and dark shading when applying various degrees of pressure to the lead on my paper.
I started with the KOH-I-NOOR Versatil 5340 model with a matte blue finish. It’s an aluminum shell over a brass octagon shaped body and with a weight around 46grams. This classic style holder is well balanced and most importantly fits well in my hand. This is a drop clutch design with a sharpener in the cap.
When I was doing my initial research, a multicolored Versatil 5340 version kept showing up on my radar. It’s called “Magic” because the single piece of lead contains a variety of colors that run the length of the 5.6mm lead. This is the same model as my matte blue, but with swirls of green, orange, and yellow colors on the body. Oh my! I’ve used this colorful pencil lead to create greeting cards and write colorful notes. What a fun pencil to use!
I came across a much smaller pencil with a metal clip (rare design) at a fantastic price and added the 5311 model to my collection. This is the shortest clutch holder I have and it appears to be a mix of a modern and retro design. It’s a nice black matte metal triangular shape barrel with indents running most of the length of the holder. This allows my fingers to rest in the indents while holding the pencil. There’s a lead sharpener in the cap.
Another pencil caught my eye. This interesting clutch pencil had an unusual body design with an ergonomic looking grip.
I can say this Cretacolor looks a bit weird, but it is one comfy writing/sketching tool. The holder is made of light resin or plastic and feels great in my hand. In my picture you can see how the grip has unusual curves. It is molded to fit the contours of my hand and wonderful to use even with my finger joint issues. A sharpener is built into the cap.
Here’s a slideshow of pictures to show how the clutch pencil advances the lead:
Eventually, I picked up a Staedtler 780 clutch pencil that uses 2.0mm lead. I was curious to see how well the 2.0mm lead would fit in with my sketching tools. Now I know I said I dislike thin and narrow writing tools, but this special holder has a lovely textured grip and I hardly notice how narrow it is. This 2.0mm style clutch pencil is great for sketching in finer details. This is a drop clutch with a built-in sharpener located in the removable push cap.
Why do I like using clutch pencils?
With regular wood pencils, they are sharpened over time and get smaller in size. While using the clutch pencil, the body/barrel remains the same size.
Ability to advance the lead length to use more lead for sketching broader strokes and shading larger areas
Thicker or wider clutch pencil body is easier to hold
Create consistent line widths
Can swap out the leads to change the graphite hardness or even use colored leads
When not in use or storing, can open the clutch and let the lead slide back into the barrel. No need to worry about protruding lead messing up my pencil pouch or interior pockets.
What do my clutch pencils have in common?
Drop clutch: Push the cap to open the clutch of the holder. Slide in the new lead into the holder and release the cap. To advance the lead, hold the clutch pencil at an angle and carefully click or push the cap to let the lead drop down and adjust to preferred length. If you hold the clutch pencil vertical with the clutch facing down and click on the cap, the lead will drop out.
Sharpener: Unscrew the cap. A lead sharpener is built into the base of the cap. The Staedtler is the only one that has a hole at the top of the cap (remove the cap to sharpen the lead.
Common lead sizes with a variety of lead hardness available
After sharpening the lead into the cap, dump the lead dust into a small container. Can reuse the lead dust/shavings to create some interest artwork using your finger.
It takes some practice to work the cap and clutch to advance the lead. If I push down on the cap all the way, the clutch opens to it’s maximum position and the lead will drop out. If I gently push or click the cap, the clutch opens part of the way and the lead will slowly release incrementally.
I am up early as usual. Before the crack of dawn. It’s a lovely 26 degrees outside. I have coffee in hand and I’m ready to start off our day with some artwork.
I have to caution you, my reader. I am all over the place with my hobbies. Everyday, I get to play with my fountains pens and inks. I am always writing about something. Writing out tasks in my daily journal. Writing about my fountain pen/ink experiences in another journal. Creating writing samples to share on social media. There is something wonderful about putting a beautiful nib with beautiful flowing ink onto a blank page or sheet of paper. Sigh!
I have days when I want to play with my watercolors. Or I have a need to sew a few masks. I have my tools within an arms reach and when the mood hits me I’m ready to go.
One day. Over the summer. I picked up my graphite pencils and drew this shell:
It only took a few years to get enough nerve and several attempts to draw a shell. From a picture. From memory, as well. The ridges. The shiny and smooth edges. The shadows. All those curves.
I squinted a lot when I created this sketch. My mind likes to play games. When I see something I immediately see all the beautiful colors and then scratch my head to figure out how put this on paper. Using a pencil.
I started with a quick gesture sketch to get the outline of the shape and placement using an HB pencil. I like using my Pentel Energize retractable pencil with a .7 lead. I have several of these scattered around my house. It feels good in my hand.
You can see from my sketch there appears to be some light washes over the shell. I used my Faber-Castell Graphite Aquarelle pencils to create the various shadings and lines. I took my damp watercolor brush and applied a bit of water to soften the lines and also to create the pools of dark color for the shading. While squinting all the way.
A few years ago, I had an art friend look at my sketches. He mentioned that I needed to be bold and go darker with my pencils. Make the artwork…pop! Hahaha! I’m still working on it.
I learned a valuable tip in my charcoal class I took two years ago. Do not erase my initial lines until I’m happy with placement, shape, and composition. I could not figure out when I tried to draw two same size ovals, one would be wonky. I would erase the bad oval and try again. Same wonky oval would appear. Erase. Draw. Another wonky oval. My teacher said to leave the wonky oval and sketch over it. Now, erase the bad lines. A second oval appeared. My light bulb moment.
I have taken a break from pastel painting. Now that we have transitioned from summer and working our way towards the fall season, I have noticed I have shorter blocks of free time on my hands. For now, I don’t want to deal with the setup and clean up while working with pastels.
I am back to working with pencils. As in colored pencils. I know I posted somewhere my treasured Prismacolor Colored Pencil set. If not, here it is again:
When I received this set a few months ago, it came in a long box and the set was quite heavy. I was surprised to see two trays side by side and then three layers deep. I guess that it the only way to package 150 colored pencils…safely. It’s a gorgeous set of colors! Don’t you agree?
From this set of 150 colors, I’ve managed to pull out several colors I thought I would frequently use. Do you know how hard that is? Over a few weeks of use, I have added more colors to my collection. There are a few that I have removed.
My colored pencil collection is kept in my Color It zip around case that I found on the Internet:
My case holds 72 pencils in their designated elastic slots. It can hold more…about a dozen more. I’ve placed them loosely in the backside of the case.
As I have been drawing and experimenting with different types of papers, I’ve noticed the different results I’m getting with my artwork. My favorite brand of paper to use is Canson. If you look at my paper/pad stash, you will find 60% is made up of Canson, 20% is Strathmore, and 20% is other (experimenting with other brands). My favorite paper weight is 90+ lb. The heavier paper withstands lots of erasing (which I seldom have to do), but holds up to the many layers of color or graphite I apply.
Here’s an apple trio I drew in my small Canson Mix Media (5.5″x8.5″) sketchbook:
You can see a bit of the details from the paper showing through. In this artwork, I’ve added several layers of colored pencils. Some areas with a heavy hand. This “mix media” paper has a bit of texture or tooth to it.
I decided to do another drawing, but using a different type of paper. Here’s my drawing using Canson Bristol (9″x12″/smooth side) paper:
You can clearly see a difference in the outcome of my artwork. My lines appear smoother. Again, I have worked in layers of colors mostly with a light hand. This is still a work in progress as I’m experimenting with coloring in shadows correctly. Which I still have to do.
Here’s my portable sketch book that I mentioned I used for quick sketches or experiments:
For my final drawings, I use my Bristol paper. This is an old pad I’m trying to use up:
This Bristol paper is my favorite to draw on. It has two sides, one is smooth and the other has texture or tooth. I call it my all purpose paper. If I don’t like my initial drawing I can turn it over and start again or reuse it for another drawing. Cool, huh?
I’m in a lull where I’m not taking any art classes for a few weeks. I am making a point to practice during the evenings and on weekends. Time permitting. I have a lot of photos that I have taken and I have spent some time going through them. The ones I have selected to draw, I have them printed on my Epson printer on 5″x7″ photo paper. This size paper is big enough to see the details and still small enough that I can stick it on the corner of my drawing board while I sketch/draw. The 4″x6″ photo paper is too small to see any details, but I will print a few of this size for quick references and they are small enough to carry in my purse for when I want to draw-on-the-go.
I have a lot of tropical fish pictures I have taken from my snorkeling adventures in the Caribbean. I thought today would be a good time to get out my graphite pencils and do a drawing of a Blue Tang:
Drawing with graphite pencils is my first choice and favorite art medium to use. I do like to experiment with color and I am still learning to use my color pencils. I am also glad to have had the opportunity to experiment with color pencils in my Drawing Explorations class back in May. I thought it would be a great idea to redraw my Blue Tang drawing in color:
Of all the drawing mediums I have used, colored pencils is a hard one for me to use. I have no idea why. I love working with colors when I’m mixing paint (watercolor, oils, and acrylics). Colored pencils have me stumped.
Before class started, Emily told me to pick an object. Since I love the Caribbean and all things beach-related, I chose a shell. It looked like an easy object to draw. I struggled for the first 30 minutes. I could see the shape in front of me and I drew it. It turned out wonky. Colored pencils are hard to erase, so I reworked some of the lines and then reshaped the shell. Good thing I selected a light colored pencil to do the initial sketch.
Emily told me to squint a few times and I should see some colors pop out (other than the basic off white/light beige color I could clearly see). So I squinted and produced this drawing:
I then added the blue shading/shadows under the shell and all of a sudden my shell was no longer floating on my paper. It had a home.
This was the last evening for my Drawing Explorations class. I have signed up for another class which involves using charcoal. In the meantime, I will be posting pictures of my personal homework assignments. Stay tuned!
Paper used: Canson sketch paper (18″ x 24″)
My take away from class: need to stop over analyzing what I see. I can tell the longer I stare at my blank paper the longer it takes to get started.