Why Are Woodworking Pencils Flat?

There is some sort of writing device for every project out there.

You have your fine-point pens, your thick permanent markers, your dry-erase markers, and of course those sparkly pens for your niece’s science project.

When it comes to woodworking though, why are the pencils flat?

Woodworking pencils are made to be flat due to the nature of the craft. Many woodworkers find themselves in angles that are far from level, in positions that require odd stances, and have workpieces that are not completely flat. The shape helps to keep the pencil stationery. 

If you are new to the woodworking game, you might look at this flat pencil and think “There is no way I can write with such a wonky device.”

However, these pencils are designed for the craft and are incredibly handy when the rest of your project is a bit unlevel.

Continue reading to find out the three biggest reasons why woodworking pencils are made into the shape they are. 

The 3 Main Reasons Why a Woodworking Pencil is Flat 

When looking at a woodworker’s pencil, you may initially think that there really is not much to be said about the misshapen invention.

It is flat, but the design can’t really have that deep of a meaning, can it? It can.

Surprisingly, this product was designed in a way that kept woodworkers at the forefront of their thoughts and there are a few reasons as to why this pencil is perfect for those who constantly find themselves in the woodshop. 

Specifically, the 3 main reasons why a woodworking pencil is flat is that it enhances the ability for the pencil to say put, carry its own weight, and write in a bold design. Woodworkers need a handy pencil that will not fall off of the surface they are working with, and a flat pencil prevents this.

Still, it can be a bit difficult for a new woodworker to become accustomed to using a flat pencil.

After all, it sits a little bit funny in your hand when you are used to working with round pens and pencils.

However, knowing the reasons why a woodworking pencil is flat can help you to see the value that this tool can bring into your workshop.

Let’s take a closer look at those 3 main reasons why a woodworking pencil is flat.

Flat Woodworking Pencils Stay Put 

Let’s talk about your average pencil here for a second.

Do you have the picture in your head?

The one that comes to mind for me is yellow with a shiny silver wrapping at the top that holds the pinkest eraser you have ever seen.

I am sitting at my middle school desk and the end-of-the-year testing exam has been placed right in front of me.

The room is silent with fear and you can break the tension in the air with a dull knife. 

I reach to grab that perfectly sharpened pencil, but my fingers fumble due to my nerves and I watch the pencil clatter down my desk in disbelief as the teacher turns my way, ready to scold me for disrupting the silence.

If only I had had a flat pencil, none of that would have ever happened.

I would have never been the center of attention (every middle schooler’s worst nightmare, right?) and my pencil would have stayed put no matter what. 

This is the purpose of a woodworker’s pencil – to stay put.

More often than not, woodworkers find themselves working on a project that includes strange angles, dizzying heights, and tiny spaces.

Because of this, woodworkers need a pencil that is not going to roll off into the black abyss.

This pencil is designed flat so that craftsmen can put it down, look away for a few moments, then pick it right back up where they left it.

No rolling will ever occur. 

This may not seem like a huge deal to some of you, but imagine you are in the middle of a huge project and you are trying to scramble to get all of the right cuts marked before you have to head out.

In the middle of things, you look around and find your pencil nowhere.

You then have to stop, hunt, and finally resume what you were doing.

Time is a precious thing and so is your sanity. This little device helps you save both. 

Flat Woodworking Pencils Carry Their Own Weight 

Have you ever felt a real pencil?

If you say no, then I either assume you are someone that only uses their hands to type or you are some type of royalty that has only ever had to write with the finest of quills.

Your standard pencil is actually quite light.

When you pick one up, you can barely feel it in your hand.

This makes complete sense when you think of it.

Who wants to write the rough draft of an essay with a weighted pencil? No one. 

You may think that any pencil will do when it comes to woodworking.

Pencils are pencils, right? Wrong.

Because writing pencils are so light, they make it hard for woodworkers to find when they are wrestling around with all different kinds of tiny nails and screws in their belts.

There was once a need for a pencil to be created that could outweigh the things that a woodworker holds within their toolbelt and thus, the woodworking pencil was born. 

A woodworking pencil is actually very dense and you can feel the heaviness in it when you pick it up.

This helps craftsmen to distinguish the pencil from the other screws and nails that are in their tool belts without having to sacrifice any time by looking down in their pockets and trying to survey the area in search of their writing stick.

Again, time is money and when it comes to being efficient, each second counts. 

Related to the density of the pencil, woodworking pencils are also made to be wider than other common pencils out there.

The thickness is also a feature that helps people find what they need using only their hands, rather than having to get the eyes in on the action as well. 

This is also a great feature for those of you that find yourselves in freezing shops in the dead of winter with numb fingers.

The shape is easily distinguished.

By incorporating a flat shape with a slightly weighted device, a woodworking pencil can stand out and make it much easier and more efficient for a woodworker to find a pencil without having to search too hard.

Flat Woodworking Pencils Write Boldly 

Before we get into pencils, let’s talk about crayons for a second.

Have you ever found yourself coloring a picture (I know we are all adults here, but someone is bound to have small kids running around begging them to color) and grab a crayon that is better off used as a candle rather than for coloring?

The colors are dull, they are difficult to make decent scribbles, and they leave your picture looking more like a pastel painting. They are the worst.

When it comes to marking wood, you need something that is going to be able to leave a thick and prominent tag.

This means no crayons. However, this also is why a regular pencil simply will not make the cut.

Your everyday pencil is designed to write on a surface that is typically very light (and most often white) and is also very smooth.

When it comes to wood, usually neither of these things exist alone, and even more rarely, together. 

Because of the design of these regular pencils and their lead, it makes it very difficult for them to mark on wood that varies in color as well as texture.

You need a pencil that can make a thick mark and also a pencil that can withstand any rough or uneven surfaces that your projects may present. 

This is why woodworking pencils are designed with a lead that is especially strong and especially dark.

This feature is to help make marks that are very apparent for instances when you are cutting and trimming and need to get the cut just right. If the mark is too dim, you may end up with a botched project. 

The lead in them is also very durable.

After you sharpen your pencil with any kind of utility knife, it will be quite sharp.

Although this normally means a break-off for normal pencils, this led is strong and will stay sharp for quite a while. 

The lead in these pencils will be able to withstand spur of the moment marks, pressured lines that are made in a rush, and will always show up when you need them.

If you are a serious woodworker, even if you are a newbie, you cannot forgo this tool.

There are many items that you need in your shop in order to make your craft a reality, but to start, a woodworking pencil should be one of your first purchases. 

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