What do you use for marking wood?

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Forum topic by Chelios posted 12-28-2010 03:51 AM 5046 views 0 times favorited 28 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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568 posts in 3095 days

12-28-2010 03:51 AM

Topic tags/keywords: question

My eyes are not that great and neither is my light, and that needs to be pretty intense for my eyes to see my marking gauge scribes. I switched to using a white lead pecil I bought at the hardware store. Unfortunately it keeps breaking so I tossed it.

Any suggestions?


28 replies so far

View Roper's profile


1389 posts in 3742 days

#1 posted 12-28-2010 04:11 AM

Thin tip black sharpe, works for me.

-- Roper - Master of sawdust-

View richgreer's profile


4541 posts in 3103 days

#2 posted 12-28-2010 04:52 AM

I don’t have the answer, but I have the same problem. Seeing the mark from a marking knife or scribe is very hard for me. And, dang it, I can’t find a pencil that does not have a lead that keeps breaking.

I may need to try a thin tip sharpe.

-- Rich, Cedar Rapids, IA - I'm a woodworker. I don't create beauty, I reveal it.

View jeepturner's profile


939 posts in 2821 days

#3 posted 12-28-2010 05:29 AM

When I am using a marking knife, I like to follow the line with a .5mm mechanical pencil. If you hold the pencil down at an angle the small size of lead will tend to follow the mark rather nicely.
The other thing, and I just found them because my wife put a set in my Christmas stocking, is a carpenters pencil. The it is one of those pencils with the segmented refills where you take the used lead out and push the new lead out with it. Maybe I could take a picture if I am not making myself clear. I really like it though. The new lead tips a flat and sharp, and the put down a nice dark thin line.

-- Mel,

View brianinpa's profile


1812 posts in 3752 days

#4 posted 12-28-2010 05:38 AM

I just picked up a 10 pack of Carpenter’s Pencil and a pencil sharpen for $1.29 from the BORG. The last pack of pencils were used up so I needed some new ones, and the price was right.

-- Brian, Lebanon PA, If you aren’t having fun doing it, find something else to do.

View SnowyRiver's profile


51457 posts in 3509 days

#5 posted 12-28-2010 06:17 AM

I usually use a regular #2 pencil with a sharp tip.

-- Wayne - Plymouth MN

View souichiro's profile


369 posts in 3375 days

#6 posted 12-28-2010 06:25 AM

I use a 0.9mm mechanical pencil personally (like this one on amazon). I like it because you can only put a bit out at a time, and it’s big enough to not break so often.

This and a good old Dixon Ticonderoga.

I often wonder about those prismacolor pencils is white though. Is this what you used from the store?

-- Dale, Oregon

View Steven H's profile

Steven H

1117 posts in 3089 days

#7 posted 12-28-2010 06:27 AM

My sharp pencil always break, pen is horrible to use. It will create pen powder when you sand. Mechanical pencil sucks when theirs no lead in it left. How about marker?

View DonH's profile


495 posts in 2846 days

#8 posted 12-28-2010 06:57 AM

You might try putting down blue masking tape prior to marking and the lines should be more visible whether you knife them or mark with a pen or pencil. I use a fine line pen and select the colour based on the wood being marked. Some woods dont accept the mark very well and the tape trick has worked for me.

Hope this helps

-- DonH Orleans Ontario

View JuniorJoiner's profile


487 posts in 3469 days

#9 posted 12-28-2010 07:38 AM

well , the tips I use is a 3mm thick drafting mechanical pencil from staedler. I also use a softer lead. it is a bit expensive to start using them, but they work great, and I now keep a few in my shop. Better than a sharpie because you can still erase it.

My other tip , works great when using dark woods, is white peel and stick labels from the office store. Just stick them on and mark the joint. they are thin enough, there’s no need to compensate for their thickness marking the joint.

good luck

-- Junior -Quality is never an accident-it is the reward for the effort involved.

View fussy's profile


980 posts in 3080 days

#10 posted 12-28-2010 08:14 AM

Make a “pounce bag” Simply get some chalk dust for a chalk line, put it in a scrap of t-shirt or cotton sheeting, tie it up and pat it on the piece. It will settle in the scribe line and make it stand out.


-- Steve in KY. 44 years so far with my lovely bride. Think I'll keep her.

View gko's profile


83 posts in 3273 days

#11 posted 12-28-2010 09:58 AM

I did a review of microscopes when Autumn sent me a site that sells craft type magnifying head worn magnifiers at very reasonable prices. Some even have lights attached to them. I am about to buy a set as my eyes are not what they used to be. Hope this helps. I like to use a knife for really accurate cuts but very difficult to see so I’m looking forward to trying them. Link is at

-- Wood Menehune, Honolulu

View TJ65's profile


1378 posts in 3079 days

#12 posted 12-28-2010 10:10 AM

you know you can use coloured pencils like yellow, red, orange etc on the wood. Depending on the colour of the wood use a different colour pencil that is easier to see.

-- Theresa,

View William's profile


9949 posts in 2871 days

#13 posted 12-28-2010 12:09 PM

I always use the standard old square looking carpenter’s pencils. I know this doesn’t help the original topic. The reason I’m commenting is that I noticed several complaints about lead breaking and at least one comment about buying a pack of these type pencils with a sharpener.
The sharpener sometimes is what causes the lead to break. I have seen too many times people whittling their carpenter’s pencils down to nothing trying to get a point with those danged sharpeners that everyone likes so much now a days. I tried the sharpener. I’ve tried about five different types as a matter of fact. Every one of them crumbles my lead over and over until I get frustrated and throw the pencil and the sharpener in the trash.
I don’t have problem with carpenters pencils anymore. I keep my trusty Oldtimer brand knife sharp and sharpen my carpenter pencils with that, the way these type pencils were meant to be sharpened when they were first invented.


View Knothead62's profile


2584 posts in 2990 days

#14 posted 12-28-2010 03:56 PM

I have found that lighting is a crucial point for seeing marks. Use a #2 pencil for most of my marking. I have an old pen knife that I use sometimes for close work.

View NBeener's profile


4816 posts in 3203 days

#15 posted 12-28-2010 04:25 PM

I deal with this pretty constantly, and in a pretty big way.

But I tend to agree with Deke: more light—however you can get it—right on the workpiece, and more magnification—in whatever way works best for you.

I have a pair of those “surgical loupes” (that I’m wearing in my little avatar), and a flip-down magnifying visor. I can’t say one’s “better” than the other. I just use whichever one is the most helpful, or is easiest to grab at the time ;-)

Because of accuracy/precision, I really tried getting away from #2 lead, switching to 0.5mm drafting pencils, utility knives, and/or a marking knife. I happen to think my joinery DID improve, when I made the switch.

But it DID make finding my lines that much harder, even when I run the 0.5mm pencil over the line cut with a utility knife or a marking knife.

Magnification and lighting really helped. For laying out mortises, for example, I don’t hesitate to use the 500 watt halogen shop light, shining right on the work piece:

Have to move it, occasionally, to avoid the dreaded shadows, but … it throws a LOT of light (and heat, incidentally !). For this use, I flip down, or remove, the “safety cage.” IT throws its own shadows, otherwise. Not helpful ;-)

Good luck !

-- -- Neil

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