Introduction: Oak Carpenter's Pencil

Picture of Oak Carpenter's Pencil

First step is to get all your ducks in a row. The oak I used is actually trim molding. 1/4 inch thick, 1/2 inch wide with one flat side and then one side the corners are chamfered. This stuff is very affordable, I paid .69 cents a foot at my local big box hardware store.

Step 1: Getting the Lead Out, Literally

Picture of Getting the Lead Out, Literally

So, after scouring the interwebs and only finding Chinese manufacturers on Alibaba that sell carpenter pencil lead by the thousands, I decided I'd have to very carefully carve out the lead from an existing pencil. I used a variety of tools, including a micro pull saw, pocket knife, and utility knife. By far the best though was an exacto knife with a new sharp blade. I broke the lead a couple times, but it was near the front and I was still able to use it.

Step 2: Mark Everything Out

Picture of Mark Everything Out

I just used the lead itself to lay everything out. I marked the width out and then used a pair of dial calipers for the depth. I laid everything out on the end grain that way all my marks would line up between the two pieces. Then it was just a matter of transferring those marks down the length of each piece; I used a speed square to keep everything straight.

Step 3: Cutting the Groove

Picture of Cutting the Groove

I live in an apartment so I couldnt really hammer away with a chisel to remove material. If this isn't an issue for you chisel away, just be careful on the depth, it really easy to go too deep. I used the above pictured tool the most. It's one of a set of wood carving tools. The technique that worked the best is scoring along my marked line to just above my desired depth and then coming in with the wood carver chisel to remove the material. Take your time. My tools weren't as sharp as I needed them to be so I had a lot of tear out and the fished daddo was pretty rough. But that's OK, we're filling this thing up with lead and glue. The glue will forgive our lack of precision on this build.

Step 4: Glue Up and Clamp

Picture of Glue Up and Clamp

Once we have everything notched out, it's time to test for fit, then glue. You know its a good fit when you can put the lead in the bottom grooved wood piece and then place the top wood piece over it and there is no visible gap on long the side.

Place a good sized bead of wood glue in each daddo and carefully apply glue on each side of the lead, then assemble the pencil. Clamp the pencil along its length. Medium to large spring clamps are good for this, but use whatever you got. If you put enough glue in you'll get a lot squeezing out on the sides. This is OK, we will sand this down after its dried.

Step 5: Sanding and Finishing

I used a razor blade to scrape off the excess glue. Then hit it with various grits of sandpaper starting with 60 and working your way up to 220. Then apply your Finish of choice. I wanted to keep things natural so I just used a butcher block conditioner.

I wanted to apply paint to mine to give the pencil a more finished appearance. I had some "Oneshot" brand of enamel paint, so I used that, but you can use any paint that you have on hand. I was just painting the end of the pencil so I just dunked it in so I wouldn't have to deal with brushes and clean up. Give the paint time to dry, the it'll be time to "sharpen" our new pencil and call this project done! Let's go!!

Step 6: Sharpening the Pencil

To sharpen the pencil we will be cutting the top end of the pencil into a pyramid. The first step is layout the cut lines. To do this measure down from the top 1 1/2 inches. Draw a square line on all sides of the pencil based on that 1 1/2 inch mark. At the top of the pencil, on each side, place a mark at the center. Place a straight edge on the center mark and the corner of the 1 1/2 inch base line, draw a line. Then do this on the other side of the same face. What you'll end up with is a triangle on each face of the pencil blank.

Now we cut. There's a thousand and one ways to do so. I cut mine by hand. If you have power tools that's even better. A miter saw would be best to get accurate angled cuts. If you're cutting by hand use an exacto micro saw, or a micro pull saw, DeWalt makes good one. The key is to use a saw with a thin kerf.

Alternatively you don't have to sharpen your pencil in a pyramid like mine. You could go the rustic route and just eyeball your angles, but with hardwood you'll need to saw. That's it, we're done!

Step 7: Finished

Picture of Finished

I added a d-link to mine and put it on a retractable key clip for convince. The possibilities are endless as how you finish yours.


nick.bright.148 (author)2014-12-09

Could you please link to the bulk leads lol i would like to make many of these.

tjk1939 (author)2014-12-02

Nice work, but I think you may have too much free time on your hands.

danilo.bar1 (author)2014-12-02

Good work! but....

...aaargh! How much dust on your Mac keyboard...! ^_^

bllwdcrvr (author)2014-12-01

Great instructable!! I think this would be a great project for us of some of that pallet wood I got stacked up around here!! It could be very well answer the need for the "Not so ordinary carpenter pencil"- or a project for an inspired crafty person or woodworker/carver--Once again great fill in for the "no-roll" pencil.

oneeyedlab (author)bllwdcrvr2014-12-01

Thank you! I think pallet wood was made for this project! Yeah, there's no rolling this beast of a pencil, lol!

kjlpdx (author)2014-12-01

this should prove difficult to sharpen. This is why they use soft wood with the soft graphite ( carpenter for 40+yrs)

oneeyedlab (author)kjlpdx2014-12-01

I thought it would too, but I've been using this thing for a few weeks now and it's held up to what I could throw at it. I've been using a sharp exacto knife or my Kershaw pocket knife to keep it sharp and it worked out great. Much to my surprise. I thought I'd have to sharpen this thing on the mitre saw, lol!

granthams (author)2014-12-01

Menards sells a two pack of mechanical carpenters pencils for 99 cents. When the lead gets too short, simply pull out the insert and push it in the back for a new insert with lead. These nice little lead inserts might be simple inexpensive way to add a custom touch to your idea.

jptrapshooter (author)2014-11-29

Perhaps using graphite sticks (art supply) might work for this rather than carving up an existing pencil.

saldente (author)2014-11-23

This would make a nice gift for my dad. Maybe with a gold dipped end.

oneeyedlab (author)saldente2014-11-27

Awesome! Gold would be cool!!

binaryben (author)2014-11-26

What beautiful idea!

oneeyedlab (author)binaryben2014-11-27

Thank you!

THEFIRSTBDC (author)2014-11-22

Is there a benefit to an Oak carpenter pencil over buying a standard one at Home Depot?

chris.koledo (author)THEFIRSTBDC2014-11-27

It's a cheap, simple project that you can do with kids.

My (almost) three year old and I are making these for grampa this year for Christmas.

oneeyedlab (author)chris.koledo2014-11-27

How wonderful!

Greasetattoo (author)2014-11-27

Would this lead work?

oneeyedlab (author)Greasetattoo2014-11-27

Im not sure, but I'm going to give something like this a try when I make the walnut pencil.

da12vid1 (author)2014-11-26

The retractable key clip idea is brilliant. I can't count how many times I've misplaced pencils while working on a project.

The whole project is really cool.

oneeyedlab (author)2014-11-23

Caitlinsdad, I like your ideas! Sawdust and glue is genius! A kitchen workshop you say? Hmmm, I might have to look it that;)

caitlinsdad (author)oneeyedlab2014-11-23

Thanks, the sawdust trick is an old one, you can even mix tile dust and caulk to match the grout. By the way, just use the reply button on the comment you are answering so the original poster sees your replies.

oneeyedlab (author)2014-11-23

AquinesA, LEDs!! That's a great idea. Alternatively, I saw a instructable on here where someone added a level to a existing carpenters pencil. If I make another one of these, I might have to put a level in it. Perhaps back lit with LEDs! Full circle, lol

oneeyedlab (author)2014-11-23

minercarver, lol yeah no lead in it any more, but thanks for the heads up:)

minercarver (author)2014-11-23

Nice sturdy pencil but Oneshot is a professional sign painters paint and the last time I bought any it contained lead so no chewing the end :^)

caitlinsdad (author)2014-11-23

Hmmm, maybe try cutting a kerf or groove with a handsaw to get the major portion dug out for the pencil lead or wrap the edge of a metal straightedge with sandpaper and hack away at it. Save the sawdust to mix with glue as wood filler. My workshop is the kitchen, I hear ya.

AquinesA (author)2014-11-23

I like it...your giving me ideas to make my own pens & pencils with led groovy....

Fan Blades (author)2014-11-22

Nice. But why?

terrefirmax2 (author)Fan Blades2014-11-23

If you don't know the answer, you shouldn't even think about making it...

oneeyedlab (author)2014-11-22

Tvanaarsen, I like that rule of thumb! Thank you for the kind words. Good luck, would love to see how yours turns out if you give it a go:)

tomva (author)2014-11-22

Deweymakes - Rule of thumb in my shop - If anyone rolls their eyes or asks why I bothered doing was the right thing to do.

I'm guessing that lines drawn with this pencil are always straighter.

I am definitely going to try this.

oneeyedlab (author)2014-11-22

raz-0, good looking out! Yeah I saw something like that from Husky at the Home Depot. Might give'em a try if I decide to make more of these.

raz-0 (author)2014-11-22

You can buy striker dura lead refills for mechanical carpenter's pencils. They have notches, but they are available other than importing by the thousands.

oneeyedlab (author)2014-11-22

I've been trying to figure that one out since the idea popped in to my head. It wasn't too hard to make and after using the pencil for two weeks, it's held up pretty well. Sure it's easier to just go buy a dozen cheap carpenters pencils, but that could be said about a lot of things we woodworkers spend our time making. Besides all that it has been pretty cool to use this pencil and know I made it. And it's prettier than the lumber yard freebie:)

About This Instructable




Bio: I make things, usually with paper, pixels, and wood. Sometimes other materials.
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