Have you ever wondered what wood are pencils made of? Is there a specific reason why pencil manufacturers use a certain kind of wood? This might seem to be a trivial thing but then again, anything that triggers your curiosity is always valid.
Typically, pencils are made from a type of softwood. Usually, pencil makers use cedarwood mostly because it has just the right firmness. In addition, cedar is still soft enough that you can sharpen it easily. There are many other types of wood used for making pencils and they have their own benefits.
What Wooden Materials are Pencils Made Of?
Traditional pencils have always been made from wood. Pencil manufacturers have followed roughly the same formula for making pencils for decades. They would take a stick of graphite and then sandwich it between two pieces of wood.
Now, what kind of wood do they use? Typically, pencils are made from any one of the many varieties of softwoods. This kind of wood provides just the right stiffness to protect the graphite, and they are also light enough so they are easy to hold and use.
To give you a better idea about the wood contained in pencils, here are some of the types used by most manufacturers:
This is the most popular type of wood used for making pencils. Incense cedar is a type of softwood and it grows in a lot of areas in the American
Northwest and East Asia. If you want to know what wood are Ticonderoga pencils made of, a popular brand, cedar wood is the answer.
These pencils use cedar wood material, which is responsibly sourced from renewable reforested trees. This is the reason for Ticonderoga pencils having reddish-brown colors.
Benefits of Incense Cedar
- Lightweight – It has the perfect heft and feel.
- Easy to sharpen – The wood is so soft that you can easily whittle it down to a fine point.
- It is easy to cut and does not splinter easily.
- It smells nice.
White fir is a tree that you can find in abundance in North America. It is one of the many trees cultivated for wood because it grows quickly. It is also quite soft and light, making it ideal for pencils.
Benefits of White Fir
- Beautiful reddish-brown wood with uniform grain
- Soft and easy to shape
- Comes from a renewable source
Despite the name, you can find Caribbean pine trees thriving in the continental United States and many parts of Europe. Faber-Castell often uses this wood for their pencils.
Benefits of Caribbean Pine:
- It does not have a strong smell.
- It feels like a mix between soft and hardwood, which makes it very durable.
- The grain runs straight down the wood.
- Has a nice light-yellow color
Beech is a hardwood tree typically found in Europe. Even though beech is technically a hardwood tree, it is a bit on the soft side, which makes it ideal for pencils.
Benefits of Beechwood:
- Has a light color and a beautiful grain pattern
- Quite soft and easy to form into pencil slats
The red cedar is a type of coniferous tree that grows throughout the Southeast United States. Not so long ago, red cedar was the most popular wood used for pencils but it has been replaced mostly by incense cedar as it is much cheaper and grows faster. Another downside is that it has a somewhat pungent smell.
Benefits of Red Cedar:
- Because it is hardwood, it is very durable.
- Has a beautiful reddish-brown color
- The wood has a straight grain.
This is fast becoming a close contender to becoming the most popular wood for making pencils. The Jelutong is a tree native to several Southeast Asian countries, and it is highly favored because it grows straight and a lot quicker than most of the trees in this list.
Benefits of Jelutong:
- Grows quickly
- Quite soft and easy to carve
- Has a straight-grain pattern
Vatta is a tree that is native to countries in South and Southeast Asia, mostly in Sri Lanka. Unlike most of the wood in this list, the Vatta tree is not coniferous, but it does have properties similar to North American and European coniferous trees.
Benefits of Vatta Wood:
- Has a beautiful red color
- The tree grows naturally straight.
- Quite hard so it is durable
This is the wood typically used for making cheaper brands of pencils. The main reason is that it is quite common and cheap. However, because the poplar material is not that dense, it is quite easy to break.
Benefits of Poplar:
- Almost odorless
- Has a light color and straight grain
- Very lightweight, making pencils easy to use
How to Properly Store your Pencils?
You may not be thinking too much about how you stow away your pencils since they are so cheap anyway. However, think about the environmental impact you are making because you are wasting precious wood.
In the case of drawing pencils, you need to take care of them just because they are expensive.
Store them upright – When you are keeping your pencils in a jar, always place them with the sharpened tip pointing upward.
Store them horizontally – If you keep your pencils inside a case, place a bit of foam on the side facing the sharpened tips. This will prevent unnecessary damage to the case and the pencils.
Use a proper sharpener – Make sure that the blades of the sharpener you are using are quite sharp. Using a blunt sharpener may cause the wood of the pencil to split.
Store in a cool and dry place – Even though pencil wood is treated to resist moisture, it is still best if you don’t store your pencils in a humid place. If moisture can find a way to get inside your pencils it will cause the wood to weaken and split.
So, what wood are pencils made of? It depends on the company making them. However, most of the timber used for making pencils is softwood. The main reason is that they are easier to shape into pencils. Some varieties of hardwood, though, are still soft enough for pencils but hard enough to make them durable.
The most important takeaway from this article is that the wood used for making your pencil was mostly sourced responsibly from renewable sources. This is especially true with popular pencil brands.