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August 11, 2011 - Posted by Elizabeth to Pencils

Have you ever noticed that some pencils write with really light lines and some pencils come out smudgy and dark? This can be explained by what type of lead the pencil has. Leads range from hard, light-marking leads to soft, dark-marking leads in both wooden bodies and mechanical pencils.

Leads are usually classified by a 2 digit number + letter system. H stands for "Hardness" and B stands for "Blackness". The more H's you have, the harder the lead and the lighter the lines. The more B's you have, the softer the lead and the darker the lines. In the middle, you'll find the most common lead grade HB, which is equivalent to a #2 pencil and what is usually the included default lead in most mechanical pencils.

In order, the leads are (from hardest to softest):
9H | 8H | 7H | 6H | 5H | 4H | 3H | 2H | H | F | HB | B | 2B | 3B | 4B | 5B | 6B | 7B | 8B | 9B
Typically, leads ranging from 4H to 4B are easily available on the market.



JetPens carries a variety of lead grades in both mechanical pencil lead and wooden pencil format. Mechanical pencil leads, like the hugely-popular Pentel Stein Enhanced Silica lead line or the Uni-ball NanoDia leads , are generally available in grades ranging between 4H and 4B. Sturdier wooden pencils like the Uni-ball Hi-Uni line, have a significantly larger range of 10H-10B lead types available!

How do you pick which lead is right for you? If you want sharp, crisp lines and you write with a light hand, then a higher H value lead is good for you. If you write with a heavy hand, then you want a lead that won't break under pressure and so a higher B value is good for you. Higher H's can be brittle and are typically better for drafting purposes, and higher B's are good for shading. Keep in mind that softer or higher B leads leave more lead on the paper, and so are used up more quickly than higher H leads.

Do you have a favorite grade of lead to use?


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