Have you ever wondered why carpenter pencils are shaped the way they are?

It wasn’t a design error or some environment-conscious carpenter trying to reuse rejected pencils from the production line. There really are a number of things a good, old construction pencil can do which a #1, #2, or even the fabled #3 pencils cannot – most of which involve, you guessed it, construction and designing tasks.

YouTube video

Leah Bolden is a journeyman and a building trades instructor whose YouTube channel is aimed at helping experts and DIY enthusiasts by giving them helpful hints and tips on home improvement. In one of her older videos, she gives a breakdown as to why block-shaped carpenter’s pencils are preferred by a lot of creators and designers, even though you can’t just jam them into any old pencil sharpener.

You can probably tell just by its appearance that the block design of the carpenter’s pencil is to prevent it from rolling down inclines. Well, there’s more to it than that!

carpenter pencil design

For instance, did you know that a carpenter’s pencil measures a half-inch across and a quarter of an inch thick? Leah sure did! This uniform measurement allows carpenters and other designers to use the pencil as a measuring tool or spacer on the fly.

Say, for instance, you’re in the middle of placing some planks to make a wooden table. By slotting the pencil in between the planks, you can evenly space out the wood without having to pick up a ruler or measuring tape. All you have to do is reach for your trusty carpenter’s pencil from behind your ear and – BAM! You got yourself instant inch increments.

carpenter pencil design

Another nifty design choice of the carpenter’s pencil is its ability to be cut and be shaped into a wide array of marking tools. As I mentioned earlier, you can’t just take a block-shaped pencil to a round pencil sharpener. You have to manually cut the wood with a knife in order to get to the marking lead at the pencil’s center.

Now while this may seem like a chore to many, cutting the wood yourself lets you shape the carpenter’s pencil just the way you want it. While round pencils can only be sharpened towards a center, carpenter’s pencil can be sharpened at a number of angles. You can cut them to form a point like with a #2 pencil, or you can angle it to expose more lead and make a great marker.

carpenter pencil design

The cool thing about carving your carpenter’s pencil is you can sharpen both ends differently. You can customize one end specifically for fine lines and the other for thick lines. Of course, there are tons of ways you can sharpen your carpenter’s pencils, but it all depends on what you plan on using them for.

The whole video is definitely worth watching, as Leah delves deep into the many features of this seemingly simple, but very useful writing material. Leah Bolden has a ton of other helpful DIY videos and hacks on her channel, seejanedrill.


Carlos wrestles gators, and by gators, we mean words. He also loves good design, good books, and good coffee.