A Mechanical Alternative To The Carpenter's Pencil
“Carpenter's Pencil” is a horrible name for those rectangular pencils commonly used on jobsites. Sure they have the advantage of being easier to hold, their shape prevents them from rolling, and the lead is strong, but as a finish carpenter they are absolutely useless to me. There is no way I can make an accurate line with lead so thick. Yes it can be sharpened to a point, but that doesn't last long. Carpenter's pencil? No, more like a framers pencil.
The obvious next choice is to use just a regular #2 pencil. These use a smaller lead, but again they have to be sharpened constantly. The only way to get around the sharpening issue is to go mechanical. Problem solved? No. With mechanical pencils there is no need for sharpening, and the lead makes sharp accurate lines, but the .5mm or .7mm lead brakes to easily on non-smooth surfaces such as plywood. I need thicker lead.
Through my years of searching I finally found what I was looking for in a mechanical pencil with 1.3mm lead by Pentel called Fiesta. The larger 1.3mm lead is both strong and accurate enough for my needs. Too bad the pencils were hard to find, and replacement lead was even harder to find. Back to years of using .7mm pencils again.
This does have a happy ending. A couple weeks ago while looking for the Fiesta pencils online, I came across a new pencil that uses 1.3mm lead, and by pure coincidence looks like it was designed specifically for carpenters. What I found was the Staedtler graphite 771. It has the features that make mechanical pencils great, plus the features that make carpenter's pencils great. It has a triangular shape that prevents the pencil from rolling, it uses a 1.3mm break-resistant lead, it has an eraser that grows when you twist it, and it is even painted construction yellow. The best part of all, since Staedtler introduced the pencil, 1.3mm lead can now be easily found online.
The Staedtler graphite 771 will cost you around $8 plus shipping, but it includes the pencil, three erasers, and 6 extra 1.3mm leads. I have been using this pencil for a few days now and absolutely love it. Well worth the price... as long as I don't lose it.