Pencil Guide

For a tool as apparently simple as a pencil, there are a lot of options to choose from. Our pencil guide walks you through the basics, from pencil mechanisms to lead hardness to different eraser varieties.

Pencil types

All pencils have the same basic structure: a graphite core (confusingly known as “lead”) encased inside a holder. There are three different types of pencils:


Wooden (or woodcase) pencils hold the lead inside a wooden barrel. They must be sharpened to expose the lead as it wears down.

Mechanical pencils have a mechanism inside to advance the lead incrementally when you click, twist, or shake the pencil (and some even advance automatically).
Lead holders (or clutch pencils) have a clutch mechanism that grips the lead inside. When the clutch is open, the lead drops out using gravity. Lead holders use thicker leads than mechanical pencils typically do, and the lead tip can be sharpened like that of a wooden pencil.


Guide to Blackwing Pencils
Blackwing pencils have had something of a cult following ever since Eberhard Faber produced the original Blackwing 602 pencil in the 1930’s. Animators, cartoonists and writers swore by this pencil, said to write with “Half the Pressure, Twice the Speed.”...
Choosing an Eraser
When you write with a pencil, the quality of the lead is only half the calculation. A low-quality eraser can interrupt your smooth writing experience just as surely as snapping lead or a scratchy pencil tip. Luckily, these days there...
Out-of-the-Ordinary Pencils
A pencil is a fairly straightforward writing tool, a piece of graphite encased in a holder. But as with many apparently simple things, it’s the details that make the difference! Our out-of-the-ordinary pencil gallery showcases some of our favorite not-so-average...
Mechanical Pencil Gallery
Mechanical pencils are convenient, comfortable, and refillable, with plenty of features to choose from: a range of lead sizes, different lead advancement mechanisms, and various weights and colors, to name a few. But how do you choose from among so...
All About Pencil Lead
“Lead” is a bit of a misnomer for the material inside a pencil. The name comes from the lead stylus that the ancient Romans used to etch into tablets or papyrus, but pencil "lead" is really made of powdered graphite...