Wooden Pencil, Mechanical Pencil or Marking knife?

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Forum topic by richgreer posted 01-01-2012 02:11 AM 5284 views 0 times favorited 35 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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4541 posts in 3280 days

01-01-2012 02:11 AM

For me, it is wooden pencil – but not just any wooden pencil. Lee Valley sells some special pencils designed for woodworking. The points hold up, even when being used on some moderately rough wood.,42936,43509&ap=1

I prefer the 2B pencil.

I keep an electric pencil sharpener in my shop and in just a couple of seconds I have a fresh sharp point. Does an electric pencil sharpener qualify as a power tool? I want to get my power tool count as high a possible.

Mechanical pencils and me do not get along. I think I want the real thin leads, but they keep breaking.

My eyesight is just not good enough to work with a marking knife. The marking knife gives you the most precise mark, but if you cannot see it, what good does that do?

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

35 replies so far

View Manitario's profile


2691 posts in 3089 days

#1 posted 01-01-2012 02:15 AM

I use a marking knife, but I find the line almost invisible on darker woods and end up going over them with a mechanical pencil.

-- Sometimes the creative process requires foul language. -- Charles Neil

View Grandpa's profile


3261 posts in 2881 days

#2 posted 01-01-2012 02:50 AM

If I use a mechanical pencil I use a Pentel that uses .9MM lead. It Doesn’t break. I generally use a regular wood pencil and a hand crank sharpener. That covers me because I don’t have many hand tools. LOL

View Jeff's profile


490 posts in 3400 days

#3 posted 01-01-2012 03:32 AM

Always use a 0.7 mm Pentel in the shop. I’m a science nerd so mechanical pencils are kind of part of the uniform. I use a 0.3 mm Pentel at work.

View PeteMoss's profile


207 posts in 3676 days

#4 posted 01-01-2012 03:32 AM

I prefer the same Lee Valley pencils in B.

-- "Never measure......cut as many times as necessary." - PeteMoss

View Woodwrecker's profile


4203 posts in 3781 days

#5 posted 01-01-2012 03:50 AM

A good old pencil for me!
I keep a sharpener and a mug of pencils on the bench and it works out just fine.

View David Grimes's profile

David Grimes

2078 posts in 2846 days

#6 posted 01-01-2012 03:54 AM

Conastoga Pencils and Marking knife for me. I use my thumbnail on soft wood trim at the miter saw, though.

-- If you're going to stir the pot, think BIG spoon or SMALL boat paddle. David Grimes, Georgia

View Dark_Lightning's profile


3347 posts in 3315 days

#7 posted 01-01-2012 04:12 AM

Depends on what I’m doing, and I need REALLY good light to use a marking knife. Usually a pencil. .7 MM mostly, but I have a 2 mm Staedtler (made in Chinee, go figure) and a pile of those regular marking pencils.

-- Random Orbital Nailer

View Loren's profile


10477 posts in 3854 days

#8 posted 01-01-2012 04:37 AM

Usually I have a .7mm mechanical pencil around and that is
what I use in woodworking for general marking. Precise marking
for hand tool cuts I use a knife for.

I despise regular pencils for marking because the line is not
consistent unless they are meticulously sharpened at all times.

View jusfine's profile


2422 posts in 3132 days

#9 posted 01-01-2012 05:04 AM

Loren, I don’t think you can despise something that can’t despise you back… :)

I use a couple of mechanical pencil brands, one is a blue german Staedtler with a 2 mm lead, the other one a pencil from Lee Valley that cost a fortune (Fixpencil) but works better on rough lumber, 3 mm thick lead.

-- Randy "You are judged as much by the questions you ask as the answers you give..."

View Dallas's profile


3599 posts in 2693 days

#10 posted 01-01-2012 05:15 AM

Like Loren and others I use a mechanical pencil but I use a .7mm, it doesn’t seem to be quite as fragile and I got 20 boxes of leads at the dollar store for how much? oh, yeah… a dollar.

My boss has a .9mm pencil made by Pentel, and I would like to find one, but then again, finding spare leads might be difficult other than at an office or engineering supply.

-- Improvise.... Adapt...... Overcome!

View gfadvm's profile


14940 posts in 2896 days

#11 posted 01-01-2012 06:08 AM

Littlecope had an excellent tip tonight which I can’t wait to try. He applies tape to the wood and then marks the tape. I have trouble following a pencil line on darker woods with my bandsaw and this should help. It should also help solve the pencil lead wanting to follow the grain rather than the straight edge. Tips like this make LJ a great resource for us learners.

-- " I'll try to be nicer, if you'll try to be smarter" gfadvm

View TCCcabinetmaker's profile


932 posts in 2561 days

#12 posted 01-01-2012 06:14 AM

Some old country boy trim carpenter once told me, in a voice that sounded like huckleberry hound….

The finer your mark, the more accurate your cut will be.

Thus I use .5 mechanical pencils

-- The mark of a good carpenter is not how few mistakes he makes, but rather how well he fixes them.

View Tootles's profile


808 posts in 2708 days

#13 posted 01-01-2012 06:25 AM

In the days when I did technical drawings using pencil and paper, I learned that you have to use wooden and mechanical pencils differently. You always push a mechanical pencil (otherwise the lead breaks) but always pull a wooden pencil. With wooden pencils you should also simutaneously rotate the pencil to prevent a flat spot from developing at the point which then results in a thicker line. I still use these techniques today even with wood.

When using a marking knife on light wood, take a pencil and draw in the line after cutting so that you can see it. You could probably do the same on darker wood if you used a white colouring pencil. Remember that cutting lines is often useful for locating either tools or an edge of the wood so the point of cutting lines is to be able to feel the lines rather than see them.

-- I may have lost my marbles, but I still have my love of woodworking

View derosa's profile


1580 posts in 3041 days

#14 posted 01-01-2012 10:00 AM

I alternate between mechanical and wooden pencils based on which one I find at the moment. I’m constantly misplacing them somehow. The wooden pencil I sharpen on the grinder which can be made to produce a really nice point.

-- A posse ad esse

View Jim Bertelson's profile

Jim Bertelson

4251 posts in 3370 days

#15 posted 01-01-2012 05:46 PM

OK, here is a challenge. We need a marking knife that simultaneously lays down a pencil mark….......don’t you think?

I use 5mm because it fits in my Incra rulers. The lead does break now and then, but it is easy to extend more lead and lead is cheap.

Thanks Toodles, I will try more pushing…......

-- Jim, Anchorage Alaska

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