A wooden pencil is about as simple as it gets: a stick of wood with a graphite core and an eraser on the bottom. Simple, right? Not so fast: even this humble tool is worthy of closer inspection! Every aspect of the wooden pencil has been perfected by devoted pencil companies over the years, from the quality of the lead to the way the wood sharpens to the way the eraser erases. Pencil aficionados have their favorites, and any writer on paper will know the satisfaction of a freshly sharpened pencil point and the scent of new wood shavings.
Check out some of the variety in our collection to learn about the finer points (see what we did there?) of wooden pencils.
Classic Writing Pencils
We’ve already written a whole Guide to Blackwing Pencils delving into their details, but they deserve another mention here. These popular pencils come in four different hardnesses, and they’re known for their exceptionally smooth and dark line. They have replaceable square erasers, and they come in fun limited edition designs, too.
The Mitsubishi Pencil Co. has been around for over a hundred years, so they know a thing or two about making pencils. Their 9800 pencil is a Japanese classic. Billed as their “general writing” pencil, it has smooth, dark lead (darker than a typical HB pencil) that retains its point well—great for long writing sessions and perfect for school or work. This no-frills pencil has a glossy dark green casing with gold foil-stamped lettering, and it has no eraser.
The 9800EW has the same great core as the 9800, but the casing is made from recycled wood, showing off the natural beauty of the wood color with a very light coating to protect it. The wood is stamped with dark green lettering. Like the 9800, this pencil has no eraser—just pure graphite goodness.
The Mitsubishi 9850 is considered by some pencil fans to be a step above the already great 9800. Marked “For office use,” it has an exceptionally smooth and dark HB lead that’s a little softer than that of the 9800, but still retains a point very well. The casing has a glossy burgundy lacquer and silver foil-stamped lettering. This pencil also has a lovely white eraser that works well and doesn’t dry out. It’s a fantastic everyday writer.
Another long-standing Japanese pencil company, Kitaboshi is right up there with Mitsubishi in terms of quality. Their 9606 HB Hex pencil is quite similar in look to the Mitsubishi 9850, and it’s comparably high in quality as well. Made from cedar wood, the 9606 gives off a pleasant scent when sharpened. It has glossy maroon lacquer, with gold foil-stamped lettering on one side and silver lettering on the other. Meant for general writing use, it’s got smooth, dark lead and a great white eraser.
Another great Kitaboshi pencil, this one has a slightly larger-than-usual triangular body that’s great for kids learning to write and for writers who prefer a wider body or a triangular grip. It’s got a soft, dark B lead that’s sturdy enough for great writing and also perfect for drawing.
If you like a minimal look, Midori’s MD pencils fit the bill, with a clean, simple appearance that matches the simplicity of MD notebooks. The casing has a soft cream-colored finish that feels great in your hand. These pencils have a dark, smooth B lead that’s great for both writing and sketching. This pencil has no eraser.
This gorgeous dark pencil is made of beech wood from the mountains of Switzerland in the Jura region. The pencil’s natural finish shows off the wood’s beautiful color and rich earthy scent, which has been compared by pencil fans to molasses, burnt caramel, chocolate, nutmeg, and soy sauce, among other descriptors. A bright red end cap painted with the white Swiss cross tops off the gorgeous design. The hardwood casing, combined with a slightly wider-than-usual diameter, gives this pencil a solid feel in your hand. It has HB lead that retains its point extremely well, with a slightly lighter line than most HB pencils. This pencil has no eraser.
Field Notes pencils are made from deliciously fragrant incense cedar that has a strong cedar scent. The cedar casing is unfinished, so it develops a pleasant patina over time as you write with it. The wood sharpens nicely and the green eraser does its job well too, in addition to adding a fun pop of color. The core is a smooth HB lead that writes on the darker side. These pencils are made from non-toxic materials, and the eraser is biodegradable.
Blackwings are popular for drawing as well as writing because of their four different lead hardnesses, ranging from the hard Blackwing Natural—good for sketching light outlines and adding fine details—to the soft Blackwing Matte, ideal for dark shading and quick studies.
The 10B lead on this Kitaboshi pencil is amazingly dark and soft, almost like the tip of a brush pen. It allows you to sketch and draw expressively in a way that harder pencils don’t.
MD’s set of drawing pencils has the same simple, elegant design as their writing pencil, above, but it includes a range of lead hardnesses for drawing, from HB up to 6B, so you can create light lines and fine details as well as dark shading and expressive strokes.
Like the MD set, Tombow’s drawing pencils come in a range of hardnesses, but theirs range from the lighter 2H up to a 4B. Their pencils are high quality, easy to sharpen, and hold a point well.
These brightly colored highlighter pencils may seem like a novelty item, but in fact they’re quite useful! The fluorescent lead is smooth, soft, and bright, great for highlighting on thin paper where a marker would bleed through.
In addition to their writing and drawing pencils, above, MD makes this set of colored pencils in a limited palette of soft colors that’s great for annotating, highlighting, or sketching.
Technically these aren’t wooden pencils, but they’re worth a mention because they’re so cool! Perpetua Lumina pencils are made of pure graphite, engineered so they won’t smudge on your hands, with a glow-in-the-dark eraser to cap them off.