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The Best Wooden Pencils

The Best Wooden Pencils

March 29, 2022 - Posted by Miriam to Guides, Pencils, Wooden Pencils

The Best Wooden Pencils

Artists, students, writers, and designers alike rely on wooden pencils for their work. Varying lead grades, smooth graphite cores, and erasability are just some of the reasons why people go back to wooden pencils again and again. Plus, who can resist the earthy smell of freshly sharpened wood? Follow along as we explore the world of wooden pencils and all that they offer for the discerning artist or writer.

Staedtler Mars Lumograph Pencil Writing Sample
Writing sample with erase (top) and smudge test (bottom).

Whether you’re writing or drawing, you can’t go wrong with the Lumograph. The lead is smooth with just the slightest bit of tooth, which provides nice control. It has minimal smearing and erases cleanly. Artists will appreciate the large range of lead grades (12B to 10H), giving options for sketching, shading, and even filling in details. With its classic hexagonal shape and lovely blue-lacquered finish, it’s just as nice to look at as to use.

Wooden Pencil Characteristics
Lead Grade

Although the core of the pencil is known as "lead," it’s actually made of a mixture of graphite and clay. There are different grades of lead depending on the ratio between graphite and clay. The more graphite a lead has, the softer and darker it will be, while more clay means harder and lighter lead.

Different regions use different lead grading systems. For this article, we'll be following the European system, which uses "H" for hardness and "B" for blackness. Our chart below shows the range of lead grades from 10B to 10H. HB and F are in the middle of the spectrum, with F being slightly lighter. HB usually lines up with American #2. For more detailed information on lead grades, please see our article here.

10B 9B 8B 7B 6B 5B 4B 3B 2B B HB
10B 9B 8B 7B 6B 5B 4B 3B 2B B HB
10B 9B 8B 7B 6B 5B 4B 3B 2B B HB
F H 2H 3H 4H 5H 6H 7H 8H 9H 10H
F H 2H 3H 4H 5H 6H 7H 8H 9H 10H
F H 2H 3H 4H 5H 6H 7H 8H 9H 10H
“Feedback” is the resistance you feel as you write. If a pencil lead grips onto the paper or feels scratchy, it has high feedback. If a pencil glides smoothly over paper, it has low feedback. Generally, you want to find a happy medium—writing with a pencil should feel smooth but have enough grip for control. H grades tend to have higher feedback and may be unpleasant for some to use. B grades are often smoother, but they can make stray marks if they’re too slippery.
Pencil Erasability
Choose a pencil that erases well.
One of the advantages of using pencil over pen is its ability to be erased. Choose a pencil that erases cleanly with minimal effort.
Sharpening Experience
Pencil Sharpening Experience
It's frustrating to use a pencil that doesn't sharpen well.
It’s frustrating when lead breaks or wood splinters while you’re sharpening a pencil. All of the pencils we carry are made of high quality materials, so you shouldn’t run into this problem. However, there are some pencils that take more effort to sharpen than others, like the Staedtler Wopex Eco Pencil.
Smudge Resistance
Pencil Smudge Resistance
It's impossible to completely avoid smudging with pencils, but some are formulated to be smudge resistant.
Pencil marks can smudge depending on how much graphite is used in a lead formula. H grades are less prone to smearing due to higher clay content, while B grades tend to smudge more. Left-handers in particular should look for pencils that have high smudge resistance. On the other hand, artists might use the smearing to apply a certain effect or technique.
Pencil Shape
The most common shape for wooden pencil bodies is the hexagon.
The hexagon is the most common shape for pencil bodies, but you can find triangular, round, and even rectangular pencils! Beginner pencils and pencils that promote penmanship are usually triangular with a larger diameter to help guide finger placement. Round pencils look sleek, but be careful when placing them on your desk—they might just roll away!
Pencil Finish
Wooden pencils can come finished with lacquer or unfinished to show off the natural grain.
You might be used to seeing pencil bodies lacquered with a yellow orange paint, but pencils actually come in a variety of finishes! Some pencils even come unfinished to show off the natural wood grain, like the Caran d’Ache Swiss Wood Pencils or the Galison Andy Warhol Philosophy Pencils.
How We Tested

We ran tests using a 2B pencil from each pencil line (or the closest lead grade to 2B if it was not available) on Maruman Mnemosyne paper. Tests were based on the characteristics listed above.

  • Feedback: We wrote a sentence with each pencil and qualitatively compared their feedback levels.
  • Erasability: We wrote a line and filled in a square with each pencil. We then used the Sakura Sumo Grip (the top choice in our Best Eraser Guide) to see how cleanly each pencil erased.
  • Smudge Resistance: We wrote a line and filled in a square with each pencil. Then we ran a finger over each to see how much they smudged.

Wooden Pencil Recommendations
The Best Writing Pencil: Blackwing Pencil
Blackwing Pencils
Blackwing Pencils (Matte, Pearl, and 602 shown).
Blackwing Pencils Writing Sample
Writing sample with eraser (top) and smudge test (bottom).

If you’re looking for a buttery smooth writing experience, the Blackwing Pencils deliver. They write effortlessly, gliding across the page as quickly as your thoughts come. Four lead grades are available: the Blackwing Matte, which roughly corresponds to 3B; the Blackwing Pearl, roughly 2B; the Blackwing 602, roughly B; and the Blackwing Natural, roughly HB. The eraser will do in a pinch, but we recommend pairing the pencils with one of our eraser recommendations.

The Best Art Pencil: Uni Mitsubishi Hi-Uni Pencil
Uni Mitsubishi Hi-Uni Pencil Writing Sample
Writing sample with eraser (top) and smudge test (bottom).

The Hi-Uni Pencils come in an amazing 22 lead grades from 10B to 10H. Perfect for artists, these super smooth pencils glide across the page, whether you’re sketching, shading, or putting in final touches. They have minimal smearing and erase cleanly, even in the high B grades. You can even get the whole 22-grade set in a tin box—it makes a great present for yourself or your artist friend!

The Best Student Pencil: Uni Mitsubishi 9850 Pencil
Uni Mitsubishi 9850 Pencil
Uni Mitsubishi 9850 Pencil (eraser also shown).
Uni Mitsubishi 9850 Pencil Writing Sample
Writing sample with eraser (top) and smudge test (bottom).

Students need a pencil that is dark enough for Scantrons and erases easily to fix math mistakes. The Uni Mitsubishi 9850 Pencil hits all the marks. It only comes in one lead grade, HB, but it’s a good one. It is safe for Scantrons and erases without a trace. The balance of smoothness and feedback makes it a pleasure to write with. Plus, the eraser is one of the best mounted erasers we’ve come across, so students don’t have to worry if they forget their eraser.

The Best Professional Pencil: Tombow Mono 100 Pencil
Tombow Mono 100 Pencil Writing Sample
Writing sample with eraser (top) and smudge test (bottom).

The Tombow Mono 100 is a cult classic in Japan, and it’s not hard to see why. It’s a sophisticated looking pencil with a glossy black lacquer that won’t look out of place on an office desk. It writes smoothly with just the slightest bite and barely smears. There is a large range of lead grades to choose from—the H grades erase better than the B grades, so we recommend pairing this pencil with a good eraser.

The Best Design Pencil: Faber-Castell 9000 Pencil
Faber-Castell 9000 Pencil Writing Sample
Writing sample with eraser (top) and smudge test (bottom).

Engineers and designers often use pencils to sketch out their ideas and the Faber-Castell 9000 has just enough lead grades for them to choose from (8B to 6H). The pencil has some feedback, allowing it to be easily controlled. It also erases well, which is great for cleaning up stray marks. The dark green lacquer is stunning and will fit right in on any engineer or designer’s workspace.

The Best Pencil for Good Handwriting: Uni Penmanship Writing Pencil
Uni Penmanship Writing Pencil
Hexagonal and triangular Uni Penmanship Writing Pencils.
Uni Penmanship Writing Pencil
Writing sample with eraser (top) and smudge test (bottom).

True to its name, this unique pencil can help make your writing more beautiful. It’s available in a triangular or hexagonal body, so you can choose whichever is easier to hold. Because the lead is extremely soft (4B or 6B), it requires minimal pressure to write, which is easier on your fingers. Depending on the amount of pressure applied, you can even create brush-like strokes.

The Best Left-Handed Pencil: Uni Mitsubishi 9000 Pencil
Uni Mitsubishi 9000 Pencil Writing Sample
Writing sample with eraser (top) and smudge test (bottom).

As we mentioned earlier, left-handers should pick a pencil that has high smudge resistance. A pencil with low feedback is also important as left-handers have to push their writing instrument across the page. This handsome writing pencil barely smears and writes extremely smoothly. Both of these qualities will help left-handers have a pleasant writing experience.

The Best Ergonomic Pencil: Staedtler Triplus Jumbo Pencil
Staedtler Triplus Jumbo Pencil Writing Sample
Writing sample with eraser (top) and smudge test (bottom).

Most pencils are only 8 mm wide, making them difficult to use for a long time, especially if you have large hands. The Staedtler Triplus Jumbo Pencil has an oversized, triangular body that encourages a proper grip, so your hand will be less fatigued after long writing or drawing sessions. The soft 2B lead writes clearly with minimal pressure, allowing for a relaxed hold.

If you prefer regular-sized pencils, the Faber-Castell Grip 2001 is a good alternative. Its triangular body is lined with grippy dots to reduce slippage.

Final Thoughts

These charming writing instruments make us nostalgic for old world craftsmanship and days long past. Though some swear by mechanical pencils or lead holders, there's something warm and inviting about holding a wooden pencil in your hands. Let us know what your favorite wooden pencil is in the comments below!

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Still not sure what to try? Check out our Wooden Pencil Samplers for some of our favorite and most popular wooden pencils. From starter sets to sets based on lead grade, these kits will help you rediscover the joys of using a wooden pencil!

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