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.