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Call us old-fashioned, but there is a special place for wooden pencils in our pen cases. From the earthy smell of freshly sharpened wood to the smooth feel of its lacquered body, we love using them for drawing, sketching, and everyday writing. There are even times when we reach for them over our mechanical pencils and lead holders.
Artists, students, writers, and designers alike have long relied on the versatility of wooden pencils for their work. Varying lead grades, flexible graphite cores, and erasability are just some of the reasons why people go back to wooden pencils again and again. Follow along as we explore the world of wooden pencils and all that they offer for the discerning artist or writer.
Characteristics of a Wooden Pencil
The word "lead" is a bit of a misnomer, since the core of the pencil is actually made of a mixture of graphite and clay. There are different grades of lead depending its hardness. The harder the lead, the lighter the mark. Different regions use different grading systems, and for the purposes of this article, we'll be following the European system which uses "H" for hardness and "B" for blackness. The higher the H, the harder the lead. The higher the B, the blacker the lead. HB and F are in the middle of the spectrum, with HB being slightly darker. For more detailed information on lead grades, please see our article on lead grades.
Not all leads are created equal. Some leads "grip" the paper as you write, while others glide across like butter. The lead's smudge resistance is another point to consider, especially for left-handed people. Erasability is also important to keep in mind, as we all make mistakes from time to time. We tend to not like the erasers included with pencils, and if you want to see eraser recommendations, you can refer to this article. We used the Uni Boxy Eraser to test the pencils used in this article. For most of these factors, it comes down to personal preference and what you're using the pencil for.
Pencils come in several different sizes and shapes, including hexagonal, triangular, and round. Some people like triangular pencils because their shape is more intuitive and ergonomic in terms of where fingers are placed, while others are more used to the classic hexagonal shape. Again, it's a matter of personal preference.
Pencils for Art
Artists and designers need to have a wide range of lead grades at their disposal. Depending on the lead grade, they can go from light to dark with just a slight change in pressure. Sometimes, a harder grade is needed for more precise sketching. The softer the lead the better it can color and shade effectively.
Faber-Castell Grip 2001 Pencil
The Faber Castell Grip Pencils come in 3 different lead grades, 2B, B, and HB that run lighter than other pencils with the same grade. Its triangular shape and dotted grip make it easy to hold, and it grips the paper as you write. This would be a great pencil for left-handers since there is little smudging among the three grades. Use this pencil for fine, detailed work since it sharpens beautifully to a thin point and its hardness lends itself to better precision..
Koh-I-Noor Triograph Graphite Pencil
These delightfully chunky triangular pencils have a wide barrel, which makes them extremely comfortable to hold. Also available in three lead grades, 6B, 4B, and 2B, these pencils are great for shading and coloring due to its large core and darker lead. They write smoothly, with just a little bit of grip. It is a little difficult to find a sharpener to fit these pencils, not to mention getting them to a sharp point, so we wouldn't recommend using them for detailed work.
Staedtler Mars Lumograph Graphite Pencil
A staple in many an artist's pencil case, these standard hexagonal Staedtler Mars Lumograph Graphite Pencils provide a nice range of lead grades for you to choose from. The lead is smooth, but with enough of a grip that you have great control, smears only a little bit, and erases beautifully. The varying lead grades give you the flexibility to use them for sketching, drawing, shading, and even filling in details.
Tombow Mono 100 Pencil
We love the sophisticated black lacquer finish of the hexagonal Tombow Mono 100 pencils. Their lead grades come in an even bigger range than the previous Staedtler Mars pencils. Also well-loved by many, these pencils write smoothly with just a slight bite to them. They barely smear, but require a tad more force to erase completely. Like the Staedtler Mars pencils, they are a great choice for any kind of art or design work.
Uni Mitsubishi Hi-Uni Pencil
The beautiful Hi-Uni pencils are a dream to draw with. They're buttery smooth, almost waxy as they glide across the page. They don't smear and they erase cleanly. Available in an impressive 22 lead grades, from 10B to 10H, they're perfect for whatever your art need is, be it sketching, drawing, shading, coloring, or putting in those final touches.
We like a smooth pencil for effortless drawing but it should have some grip for that much needed control. The choice of lead grade depends on your personal preference.
Product used: Tombow Mono 100 Pencil in 4B.
The wider and softer the core, the easier shading and coloring will be. You also want to consider having a variety of lead grades to choose from to create more dynamic artwork.
Product used: Uni Mitsubishi Hi-Uni Pencil in 9B.
A harder pencil that sharpens to a fine point is best for drawing in details. You want to be able to control where each line is placed and how dark it shows.
Product used: Staedtler Mars Lumograph Pencil in 2H.
Pencils for Writing
Students from grade school and onward have often relied on the No. 2 or HB pencil to do their math or other homework. Beyond school, many writers, engineers, and more have their favorite or lucky pencil that they never go without. For writing, a harder lead grade is ideal as it gives better control and erases better, but for those who like a darker lead for writing and calligraphy, we have picks for you too.
Palomino Blackwing Pencil
The Palomino Blackwing pencil is a revived version of the cult classic Blackwing pencil. This new pencil comes in three different lead grades, the Blackwing (4B), the Blackwing Pearl (3B), and the Blackwing 602 (2B). Like the original, it has the same distinctive hexagonal shape that flattens at the end to house a rectangular eraser. While we wouldn't use the eraser that's included, the lead erased cleanly using the Uni Boxy Eraser. This is one of the smoothest, most buttery pencil we tested, and for those who prefer a darker lead, this is a great choice.
Tombow 2558 Pencil
Available in B, HB and H, the Tombow 2558 is one of the grippiest pencils we've come across, making it great for control and precision. It has an extremely satisfying sound of scratching as you write. This pencil most closely resembles the yellow No. 2 pencils we used in elementary school but with an upgraded feel. The eraser is the familiar pink rubber eraser that does well in erasing the lightest lead offering, but not the other two darker leads.
Uni Mitsubishi 9850 Pencil
If the Palomino Blackwing was buttery smooth, and the Tombow 2558 was grippy, the Uni Mitsubishi 9850 is just right. It's only available in HB, but depending on how much pressure you put on the pencil, you can get light to dark effects as you please. It has one of the best mounted erasers that we've come across, and the pencil lead erases cleanly. We love the glossy burgundy color and the lovely light smell of wood.
Uni Penmanship Writing Pencil
These specialty penmanship pencils were made for people in Asia looking to practice their character strokes. With lead grades of 6B and 4B, the lead is soft and incredibly smooth to replicate the brush-like strokes needed in writing Chinese characters. The pencils also come in a triangular or hexagonal shape, for those who prefer one over the other. We recommend these pencils for people want to practice their handwriting, since this pencil is more forgiving and can do more effects than other pencils.
Uni Mitsubishi 9800 Pencil
These general writing pencils have a slightly greater lead grade range than the others: six from 2B to 2H. They're slightly grippy, but pleasant to write with. We like the luxurious touch of the dark forest green body with the shiny gold and white embossing and the faint wood smell from the pencils. These pencils don't come with an eraser, but they're relatively easy to erase using our trusty Uni Boxy Eraser.
A pencil is always handy to have during those pesky Scantron exams. Make sure you bring a couple of sharpened pencils that are dark enough for the machines to pick up.
Product used: Uni Mitsubishi 9800 Pencil in 2B.
Whether it's math, chemistry, or your engineering homework, a good pencil is a must. Make sure the one you choose erases cleanly, because you don't want to turn in a smudgy mess!
Product used: Uni Mitsubishi 9850 Pencil.
We like using the Uni Penmanship Pencils to practice our penmanship and kanji. Their soft lead is flexible enough to do thin to thick lines.
Product used: Uni Penmanship Writing Pencil - Triangular Body in 4B.
These charming writing instruments make us nostalgic for old world craftsmanship and days long past. Though there are those who swear by their mechanical pencils or lead holders, there's something warm and inviting about holding a wooden pencil in your hands. We hope you're inspired to revisit your trusty wooden pencil or even try a new one. Let us know what your favorite wooden pencil is in the comments below!
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