If you’ve been around a jobsite long enough, you’ve likely come to appreciate the finer things in jobsite life like pencil lead that doesn’t snap every time you take a knife to it, and that stays sharp for more than three clicks on a board. Here’s a quick survey of some worth checking out, for framers and finish carpenters alike:
Fat Lead For Framers
The FatBoy pencil is a fatter, more robust version of a mechanical pencil. It’s equipped with a rubberized grip and fits in a shirt pocket or a tool belt’s pencil slot. It looks fancier and keeps a point longer than the ones you get for free from the lumber yard, but it sharpens the same way: with a utlity knife or pencil sharpener. FastCap FatBoy Pencil Cost: < $15 on Amazon
The SuperPencil looks a lot like a typical carpenter’s pencil except it’s made completely out of graphite. The cool thing about this pencil is that it flexes so it won't likely snap when you snag it on something. CH Hanson SuperPencil Cost: < $6 on Amazon
For insights from a framer, see Tim Uhler’s write-up here.
Fine lines for Finish Work
The ever-inventive Bob Cummins, maker of the Prazi beam cutter designed a pencil that might be a must-have in every carpenter’s nail bags: the SharpDraw carpenter’s pencil. It has the same sort of click mechanism used to advance snap-off blades on some box cutters. Instead of a blade, though, it has a flat #2 HB carbon-fiber “lead” that is sharpened each time the tip gets drawn along a straightedge. Prazi USA can private-label the wood grip with any name or logo. Cost: $5.95 each
Another one of Cummins’ inventions, the Accutrax (formerly called the Accumark) Carpenter’s pencil, is actually just the lead, but it’s shaped like a razor blade and can be inserted into any standard utility knife. No matter how worn down it is, it consistently makes the same thin line (.025 inch). And — same as with a knife — when one side gets used up, you can just flip it and use the other side. Cost: Three "blades" for $5