Review of Bic Matic.


This piece is by Matt Downey, a student of music and pencils.
I love pencils. All kinds of pencils. I have a weird love of graphite and gel ink. I carry untold numbers of implements with me at all times. I know that it is explained via OCD, but I feel I must have a source of graphite with me. I am a Music Composition major at a SUNY (State University of New York).  I just finished my freshman year. At the bookstore on campus there are few implement choices. Sharpwriters, Matics, and overpriced Pentels. The woodcased pencils are not worth mentioning except the overpriced art pencils such as Turquoise which are in another section of the store entirely. When comparing the Pentels to the Papermates and the Bics, $5 gets you one of the former and ten of the latter two. Among music students I have observed that the Matic is the choice most often made. Twenty years ago the allegiance would have been given without question to the Mongol. To Sanford a cry of “bring it back,” along with the Blackwing is futile but heartfelt.

Technical Data.
Material: Plastic.
Core: .07mm.
Point: Plastic fixed needle.
Eraser: White vinyl.
Markings: “BIC (w/mascot) Pencil .07mm #2” on clip.
Origins: Varies. I’ve seen China, USA and France.
Availability: Office supply stores, CVS and anywhere BIC writing products are sold.

All right, it’s confession time. I learned to write with a Mongol and a Matic back about 13 to 14 years ago. Matics are a sentimental favorite of mine for that reason. This has not prevented me from abandoning them in favor of Pentels (wish I still had that P205) but I have always come back to it because of its merits:

1.Solid tip: Although plastic, it is not flimsy as the Papermates. Also I fear every other mechanical pencil in this price range I have tried has felt like it was not worth buying. This feels solid.

2.Balance: It is similar to a woodcase without an eraser if you remove the clip as shown in the photo.

3.Eraser: White vinyl and soft. It erases better than a standard Dixon. From the point of view of people at my school that is the deciding factor. The Papermate has the same thing they put on the American, which is an abomination. Now the Pentels, which are ten times the price, have better erasers, but no one wants to spend $5 dollars on a pencil that Staples gives in three packs for the same price. So the eraser is great, and is the reason many people buy this cheap item.


Cosmetically, it looks like Bic’s Cristal pens, except it comes with a colored clip. It is inexpensive and writes well.

Now after the reviewing is done I will throw in my biases.

I like dark lines and smooth writing. My favorite woodcase pencils are: Palomino (check out Timberlines 6/20/06), Forest Choice, and I just got some Mongols with which I relive school days. On the Mechie trail, I favor various Pentels .05mm equipped with .05mm/2B lead.  The only things I do with Matic pencils is break off the clip (OCD) and switch to Pentel HB lead which I think is slightly smoother. This pencil is also available in .05mm but I haven’t seen any in the bookstore for some time and don’t have any to review.

Conclusion: A good buy for general purpose. A must have for pencil lovers as they are of a high quality and cheap. To me there is something important about having samples of both types of pencils, regardless of which one garners more use. In my case I sketch (music) with wood and score (make the sketches the piece envisioned) with mechanical. Why? My handwriting is horrible and scores need all the legibility I can muster. Uniformity in point helps with that. For a sketch, which is to say the creation of the piece, wood seems best. I am an equal opportunity pencil freak, and I recommend that you check out a Matic without delay.
[Images and text, M.D.  Used with very kind permission.]

37 Replies to “Review of Bic Matic.”

  1. Yes these Bics are great value for money in the economy price range.

    Care to expand on the clip breaking off bit? Reveal the true depths of OCD?

  2. It started way back in like 4th grade. Now when i get a package of pencils or pens with plastic clips i spend 5 minute removing the clips. I’m not sure, but i think it started because the clips were useless. now i just cant leave them that way or it starts eaing away at me. For some reason i like the way most metal clips look and i leave those on my Pentels. More OCD depth, the current count of implements in my pocket is 53.
    but i’m consciously cutting down to 10 next week. Problem is when i stop paying attention it will creep up to 20 and so on. How about yourself. what quirks does this remind you of

  3. I’m always looking for THE ONE. So I usually carry only one implement with me, hoping that it’s the one. But I usually get dissatisfied with it a couple times a day and swap it out for another in my computer bag. (I’m a consultant, and I live out of my computer bag.) I can’t see myself ever using a bic pencil, though. In this case, Retro 51’s motto applies: Life’s too short to carry an ugly pen[cil]. Especially if it’s got a broken clip or teeth marks. I’m blown away by the 53 in your pocket! How do you choose one to write a whole line with? I might be tempted to swap them out every letter (or note, if I wrote music.)

  4. How do i choose? reach in and if i get a pen throw it back in and grab a pencil. then when that runs out of lead grab another and so on. sometimes i switch often when i’m getting hand cramps or have writers block. Ever notice how doing something entirely unessesary seems to relieve the block a tiny bit?
    Today i cut down to 7 and i feel like i need more in my pocket but i’m going to try and stick to it. The 53 was a combination of Bic matics and cristal gels Pentels and a few G2 inks(anyone besaide me find the G2 pencil a disapointment?) As well as ten sharpie markers of different colors and sizes.
    How i managed to collect all these things is beyond me. I wasnt even aware they made a turquoize sharpie but i had one in my pocket…unfortunately it was dried out. Now my Mechanicals are in a jar and my woodcased in a coffee mug and my pocket feels empty. and i also found 3 Pentel .07mm HB lead containers. However if i stop paying attention the number will creep up again slowly.
    Yeah I know, I’m a freaking lunatic. On the otherhand i’m a composer, thus allowed to be somewhat ecentric as long as it doesnt harm others. And I admit this much, the pencil thing is awfully comical when you think about it. It makes me laugh when the count gets that high without my realization. Ah, the wonders of OCD.

  5. I’m still trying to imagine just how big your pockets are. Do you rattle when you walk? The pocket-clip snapping doesn’t really remind me of much. Apart from an overactive desire to collect pencils, I think I’m relatively OCD-free. But then that’s only my opinion :).

  6. Well, my keys jangle but the pencils are oddly silent.My pants are made by LL Bean and the pockets are about the same size as gap carpenter jeans from maybe 3 years ago. You can fit alot in them. I’d say your staging of a Lead Cup qualifies as OCD but thats good as it does serve a purpose for the rest of us mechi users.
    My money is still on Pentel.

  7. I thought “The Lead Cup” was just a bit of online frivolity, not a sign of psychosis. But then that would self-diagnosis, very dodgy thing :)

  8. It has to be both otherwise you wouldnt write it up so well…
    A little insanity never hurt anyone,look at Beethoven. And i think psychosis is much to strong a word. mild delirium? dont worry, thats just a sign of creativity and if it is ever lost then the ideas stop flowing until it returns.
    Or at least thats what the article in New Scientist said awhile ago. It could just be Divine Intervention.

  9. Right. It is apparently a way to deal with anxiety. Or caused by anxiety. In extreme cases and the stereotype people wash their hands repeatedly for no reason. or they flip the light switch exactly a certain number of times. Or they have to have everything very neat and organized(neat freak). I carry pencils and pens in large quantities. I reasoned that Kiwi d’s desire to find the ultimate lead is so nessesary to him that he created a highly amusing sporting event around the process. I had a professor who stated that Brahms’ use of a certain motif indicated OCD and then proceeded to show where it was to be found etc…

  10. BTW Pentel won the Lead Cup. Awsome!!!!!
    (as i mentioned in the review i use their lead instead of the BIC lead)

  11. I confess to also being a lover of the Bic-matic. I was intending to out myself right here in front of the revolution, but someone beat me to it. So, now I’m out. I admit it… I love cheap plastic clicky pencils!

    I tried to use the Papermate Sharpwriter for its classic pencil looks ,but being a lefty, the lead rotated into the pencil as I wrote instead of rotating out as it does for right-handers. Grrr.

  12. Sorry i beat you to it. (well not really) “Cheap clicky pencils” has a great ring to it. well now that i’ve rehabilitated i can use them in moderation. which means all the time when i’m not at home. tell me, are you ridiculed or praised by your friends for your use of this pencil?

  13. i am sorry to be offtopic but i wish to report that i have had a palomino HB pencil do the broken lead thing where you have to keep sharpening it and the lead keeps breaking off in pieces. why does this happen? i’m just very curious about it.

    thank you
    humdog

  14. My friends ridicule my obsessive love of all pencils but the cheap clicky pencils get additional scorn for (1) quick lead breakage, (2) not being artsy enough and (3) being cheap, plasticky and non-recyclable. At least the Bics are refillable.

  15. I get ridiculed for the obsession but not for the pencil. then again its hard to ridicule someone when they are leaning up on a brick wall writing out sheet music.
    It looks much more impressive then it is and so they just sort of say “oo nice pencil” and walk away. I’m sure they are thinking” what a nutty guy, the things you see on campus” God i wish i were joking now that I think about it

  16. Humdog, dont apologise, we had a lengthly explaination of my OCD and that is surely off topic.(or is it, i wonder…) The broken lead thing happens when the lead breaks within the wood. then you end up sharpening and the lead will fall out. it is much more prevalent in “cheap ass” pencils(sorry for the language those who are offended) but there are any number of causes. for me it is drumming. that is i tap hard and break it myself. the palomino seems to be a very well made pencil in general and i would have to assume that because they are mass produced that some flukes get through and you got one.

  17. Bics are my starndard mechanical pencil. I’ve tried every pencil, every company and none can stand up to my bic. On the other end, I also have a ball point, and g2 gell, a pilot knight, a minrano b warrior and a tri write. I can never choose and switch every cupple of paragraphs.

  18. I love the Matics, too, but for a different reason…they are the cheapest and easiest to find implement that both writes and provides a plastic tip for use as a stylus replacement for my Palm. I’d prefer a pen to a pencil, but the Matics are more than acceptable. I have a nice Pentel around here somewhere, but with the metal sleeve I don’t let it anywhere near my Palm’s screen.

  19. I’ll probably blog about this eventually, but I wanted to comment on this thread, for now. The Bics are awesome, and I’ll tell you why: with a little bit of fiddling with a sharp knife or a pair of scissors, you can easily shorten one to pocket size. Just leave the inner grey sleeve longer than the outer clear sleeve, and cap the whole thing off with an outboard eraser.

    I’ve been looking for a decent pocket-size pencil forever, and am so happy that I finally have one. If you’ve got a box of these Bics, I highly recommend trying the mod.

  20. wow. what a thorough process you seem to have. i am an artist with equally high mechanical pencil standards, and i am impressed with your conclusions, as they match my own. more than anything, though, i am surprised to find (at complete random) someone out there as obsessed with the quality & feel of the pencil as i am. cool.

  21. I would like to add that in 1988 Bic announced that the Matic was the best selling mechanical pen in the US, the same year the french based Conte which was purchased by BIC in 1979 launched its “7 de conte” which is similar in design as the Matic.(i’ve been using those my whole youth) Who designed the model first? was it the french from Conte and then Bic adopted the model for retail or was it the other way round… the question is an obsession

  22. one frustrating thing about these pencils is that when you advance the lead, they pull out too much lead and cause lead breakage. ITS ANNOYING!!!

  23. I’m a fan of the Bic Matic, I’m studying Japanese and I’ve found it very useful for writing kana. It’s great for keeping the lines thin enough so that I can write small and make my kana legible and look nice. Wood pencils tend to dull or round too easily for me and I would find myslef having to keep sharpening the pencil all the time. Writing with a rounded tip tends to make the lines too fat. And sometimes when writing kana you have to trail off a stroke where it is thinner at one end than the other. I’ve found the Bic Matic perfect for this.
    The only problem is the eraser. It is a good eraser but it runs out too quickly and I don’t know where to get replacements. I don’t want to buy new pencils just for the erasers. I don’t think you mentioned this but the Bic is much more convenient than mechanical pencils where you twist instead of click in order to retract the lead. Just hold the pencil vertical, click down, and press the lead against a hard surface and it retracts back into the pencil, quick and easy. Great review!

  24. I find the love for the Bic Matic absolutely amazing, as negative experiences with these things helped turn me away from mechanical pencils entirely until recently. However, I tend to write forcefully, which is probably the cause of my problems.

    The above poster touches on one of my greatest problems with the pencil. It does advance too much lead at a time, resulting in a “write write *SNAP*” experience. This also causes the pencil to use up a lot more lead, which oddly only seems to run out just before or during a test.

    The main other part is that when the lead doesn’t snap, it often slides back up into the pencil. I wonder if this is more of a problem with a pencil that has seen some use as opposed to a fresh one.

  25. I confess to loving these cheap little pencils. For a cheap plastic pencil I can buy in bulk, they have a fairly classic look-and-feel. I can leave a jar on my desk and not be too bothered if someone walks off with one (I’d never do this with my Palominos!). I keep one in the car so I can write notes at red lights and not worry about needing to sharpen a pencil or worry about pen leakage. If you need a good stand-by pencil, you can’t go wrong with the Bic Matic.

  26. I’ve been using Bic matic for about 2 years and have always thrown them away when the lead wouldn’t come out anymore. Didn’t realise there was another two leads stored inside under the eraser Doh!
    Today I pulled the lead from a little used perfectly good one just to try replacing it and now the lead wont advance and pushes back up inside when you try and write. Looks like they could be single use disposable after all. Unless there is a trick to overcome this?

    1. I just worked out that I can pull the plastic tip off to reveal the feed mech which works like a split collet holding the lead tight. When you push to advance the lead the collet opens and allows the lead to travel forwards. Feeding leads in from the tip can easily break one side of the thin plastic collet and then its useless.

  27. I have a problem with breaking the clips off of pencils and it has gotten so that I now break not only my own but my friends’ as well. how can I stop? I don’t really care but its straining my personal relationships with friends..SERIOUSLY HELP ME

    1. In my experience, the only way to prevent breaking these clips is not to use them. Or you can carefully file/sand off what’s left, for a nice, smooth finish.

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