Carpenter Pencils

August 17, 2009

Carpenter pencils hold flat shaped graphite sticks and are the sort you can find at any well-stocked hardware store.  The lead is typically soft and 5 x 2 mm thick.


In this photo you can see two different types of these pencils. A standard carpenter’s pencil is at the top right. Below that are two different “sketching” pencils that have wider 8 x 2 mm leads, one made by General the other Derwent. At the bottom is a round woodless graphite pencil from Koh-i-noor. All these are regular pencil length (7 inches) but I’ve heard of some that are longer.

All of these fit inside the sharpener box you see here in the photo. It’s a cleverly designed device made by Keson which has two sets of blades on both sides and at either end. Insert the pencil in one end and move it side to side to sharpen it. At the other end vertical blades cut off the wood from the thin side of the pencil. I also use a fingernail emery board to shape the points.

Recently I ordered a special carpenter pencil that uses retractable woodless graphite, like these from Lee Valley. They’re the same 5x2mm size as normal carpenter’s pencils, but there’s no wood to shave.

On the paper in the photo you can see the sort of marks these make. They can resemble a wide-tip layout marker, but a soft touch is good for large area blending. A soft surface underneath like a stack of newspapers can help get an even mark when you press down hard.


This recent drawing was made with a mix of pencil types: mostly a mechanical lead pencil and a “sketching” pencil which was used for the middle grey tone in the background. The round woodless pencil, which is a dark 6B lead, was used for the darker areas. It’s about 8×10 inches.


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