One of the odd things about the pen and pencil world is that these are tools people use every day but they often lack the vocabulary to describe what they are using. After all, technical discussion of pens and pencils doesn’t exactly come up very often in normal human interaction.
With the goal of aiding your talk about wooden pencils, here is the anatomy of a wooden pencil explained.
The Parts of a Wooden Pencil
Here are the parts of a wooden pencil, explained piece by piece. We’ll start at the back and work our way forward.
The eraser is the soft rubber part at the top of a pencil that is used for erasing writing you’ve done. It’s generally pushed into the ferrule and then held in when the ferrule is pressed into place. Some pencils have replaceable erasers, like the Blackwing 602, which has a clip that holds a rectangular eraser in place.
The ferrule is the metal piece at the top of the pencil. Its primary job is to hold the eraser in place.
Most ferrules are round columns, like a pipe, but some are flat. The flat ferrule is most famously associated with the Blackwing 602 pencil but it was first used on the Eberhard Faber Van Dyke pencil.
Many pencils do not have a ferrule. These are usually pencils for artists who either don’t erase their work or use an separate eraser.
Ferrules are normally made of thin pieces of aluminum, but in the past they have been made of cardboard, plastic, and brass.
Ferrules are a popular area for design elements with most brands adding some sort of paint stripe or distinctive coloring, like the green used on a Ticonderoga or the metallic purple of a Mitsubishi 9852.
The body of the pencil is its main component. It’s made of wood, though the type of wood can vary widely. Most high end pencils are made of cedar, which can be recognized by its distinctive smell. Even within the world of cedar pencils there can be much variation, with the Blackwing using California Incense Cedar, for example, and the Musgrave Tennessee Red using Eastern Red Cedar.
Many other types of softwoods, like bass wood, have been used and pencils are sometimes seen in special editions made of specialty woods, like the Caran d’Ache gift set which has pencils made of Polychrome Sipo, Streaked White Birch, African Assamela, and Grey Limba woods.
Pencil bodies are normally hexagon (having six flat sides and rounded corners) but some are simply round and others come in speciality shapes.
The body of a pencil is normally made of two pieces of wood that are glued together.
Inside the two pieces of wood is the pencil’s graphite core, which is normally called the “lead.” This can be sold in a number of hardness levels, which are one most important attributes of any pencil.
The lead is graphite colored, a dark grey, otherwise the pencil is generally known a “colored pencil” not a “wooden pencil.”
This is part of the label that tells you the hardness level of the pencil’s lead. It will typically be (from softest to hardest) 10B to 10H. The most common hardness levels are HB and, in the US, #2.
Most pencils have a logo, a brand name, and the model name printed on the pencil. These are generally written from the tip towards the eraser, making them readable for right-handed people while using the pencil.
The point is the entire area that is exposed and shaped when sharpening a pencil. It is made up of the collar and the writing tip.
This is the section of exposed wood that you can see on a sharpened pencil.
This is the piece of angled lead that is used for writing. When a wooden pencil tip breaks, this is the part that breaks. The writing tip is the exposed lead you see after sharpening the pencil.
A pencil sharpener will sharpen a pen to an acute or obtuse angle — that is a blunt or sharp end.
A larger angle will have a wide tip angle, which means a short writing tip and a small collar. The short writing tip will blunt quickly but it will be unlikely be break because so little of it will be exposed.
A lower angle will have a long writing tip and a long cover. The long tip will stay sharp longer but it will be more prone to breaking and will benefit from using a tip protector, basically a pencil cap.