What Wood are Pencils Made of | Know the Truth

Pencils are a common tool for making art and taking notes. Most people don’t think about where they come from or what they’re made of. However, wooden pencils do have a history. Where most carbon pencils are made of graphite and clay, some are made of wood. But have you ever wondered what wood are pencils made of?

The type of wood used in pencils can affect their performance. In this blog post, we’ll take a look at some of the most common types of wood used in pencils and discuss their pros and cons so if you’re curious about the nitty-gritty details of pencil construction.

What Wood are Pencils Made of

Are All Pencils Made of Real Wood?

Pencils are generally made of wood, but this doesn’t mean each pencil is carved from a single piece of tree. The difference between real wood and fake wood is important for pencil construction.

Real pencils are made of slats (thin sheets of wood) that are glued together into different shapes depending on the type of pencil. The slats are then painted or covered in graphite over the wooden exterior.

On the other hand, fake pencils have their lead cores wrapped in plastic to a smoother texture. They look similar to real pencils, but they’re not made up of separate pieces of wood—making them easier to produce than full-length wooden pencils.

Types of Wood Used for Pencil | Quick View

Incense CedarReddish BrownStraightDurable
Caribbean PineLight YellowStraightDurable
PoplarCreamy YellowStraightLess Durable
Red CedarReddish BrownStraightSlightly Durable
JelutongLight YellowFine Durable
Beech WoodReddish BrownAttractive Less Durable
BasswoodLight BrownStraight Less Durable
AbachiCreamy WhiteGrainy Texture Less Durable
Vatta WoodReddish Hue Fine Durable
White Fir WoodReddish Brown Fine Less Durable

Types of Wood Used for Pencil Making (Details)

Following are a few types of wood that pencil manufacturers commonly use:

1. Incense Cedar

The most common type of wood used in pencils is incense cedar, and it’s softwood and comes from  Western North America and Asia. Incense-cedar has several advantages over other types of wood:

  • It’s lightweight, so it doesn’t add unnecessary weight to pencils
  • The thin, dark-colored bark flakes off in small pieces when you sharpen the pencil giving a tip an exciting texture
  • Due to its soft nature, the wood can be easily cut without forming any splinters
  • It has a lovely scent

2. Caribbean Pine

This type of wood is also relatively abundant in the United States and Europe. The source is a fast-growing tree known as Pinus Caribaea.

  • The color is light, and it doesn’t have a strong smell
  • It’s a mixture of soft and hardwood, which makes it durable
  • The grain is straight and light yellow in color

A famous pencil brand Faber-Castle use their plantation of Caribbean Pine to make a range of pencils. Many pencils are made with a mixture of different types of wood like Caribbean pine and incense cedar.

3. Poplar       

The source is the tree Populus deltoides. Poplar is a softwood often used in pencils because it’s easy to work with and relatively cheap. However, due to the low density of the wood, it is not ideal for pencil making.

  • It doesn’t have a strong smell
  • The color is light, and the grain is straight
  • Pencils made from poplar are less durable than those made from harder woods

4. Red Cedar

Red cedar is a type of wood that grows in the eastern and southern United States. The wood is from a tree called Thujia plicata. This is the traditional source of wood pencils.

However, when the market got saturated with cheap pencils, it was replaced with Californian Incense Cedar. The main features of this wood are following: 

  • It’s a hardwood that’s durable and makes perfect traditional American pencils
  • The color is reddish-brown
  • Grain is straight
  • It has a strong smell which can be unpleasant

5. Jelutong

Jelutong comes from Asia. The main source is the tree Dyera costulata and has a number of qualities that make it attractive for the pencil industry:

  • It’s durable and resists warping easily
  • The color is light yellow, making it very similar to incense cedar
  • Pencils made from Jelutong are less likely to break
  • The oily sap present in the wood can make it difficult to sharpen

6. Beech Wood

Beech is a hardwood that’s often used in pencils because it’s strong and doesn’t break easily. It is mostly found in Europe.

  • The color is light, and the grain is attractive
  • It has a strong smell which can be unpleasant
  • Beech pencils are less durable than those made from harder woods

7. Basswood

Other names for Basswood are Limewood or American Linden wood. It is abundantly found in Europe, North America, and the Far East. The main source is the Tilla tree. Basswood is a common type of wood used by Chinese pencil manufacturers.

Although it is abundantly used, Basswood can not use for high-quality pencils.

  • Pencils made are hard, and sharpening is difficult
  • It has a faint smell that most people find pleasant
  • Basswood pencils are less durable than those made from harder woods

8. Abachi     

This wood comes from the tree Triplochiton scleroxylon. The wood is basically hardwood and abundantly found in the forests of Africa.

  • It’s also lightweight, making it easier to work with when you’re tattooing large areas of skin quickly
  • The interior of the wood is light yellow or creamy white in color
  • Abachi has a grainy texture which is not suitable for making premium pencils

9. Vatta Wood

The source of Vatta wood is the tree Macaranga peltata. Vatta wood is used in India and Sri Lanka for making high-quality pencils.

  • The color is light with a reddish hue, and the grain is fine
  • It is a hardwood which makes it durable
  • Vatta wood is expensive and difficult to find

10. White Fir Wood

The main source of White Fir Wood is the tree Abies concolor. It is easily cultivated in Northern America. It is a perfect alternative for the expensive pencils made from Cal Cedar.

  • It’s also smooth and doesn’t break easily
  • It can easily replace expensive carbon pencils
  • The color is reddish-brown, and the grain is fine
  • Like basswood, white fir has a strong smell which some people find unpleasant

Frequently Asked Some Questions:

Following are some of the frequently asked questions related to the article:

Q: Are all pencils made of cedarwood?

No, all pencils are not made of cedarwood. The wood is the most important component of all the pencils. However, various types of wood are used for the composition of pencils. The quality of the pencil depends on the type of wood that is being used in the production of the pencils.

Incense-cedar wood is the top mark of high-quality pencils. Along with that, the pencils that are not the best quality and on the quality budget are made up of poplar or basswood.

The pencils made of cedar wood are very durable and versatile with their natural insect and weather resistant quality. Along with these merits, cedarwood gives a very aesthetic look to the pencils.

Q: What wood are number 2 pencils made of?

The number 2 pencils are usually made of cedarwood. However, manufacturers use other types of wood as alternative materials as well. The type of wood used in the manufacturing of number 2 pencils depends upon the availability of the wood and cost.

Cedarwood is typically considered as easily machined and straight-grained. Therefore, it is taken as the best choice of wood when it comes to making number 2 pencils.The main ingredients of the pencil leads used in the number 2 pencils are the mixture of certain different materials.

These materials are formed as a mixture of graphite, wax, and clay. Binding or adhesive material is also used in this mixture which helps the lead of the pencil to fit inside the wooden shaft of the pencil or in the pencil core.

Q: Is cedar hardwood or softwood?

Cedarwood is definitely a softwood. This iconic and famous wood is best known for its aromatic essence, versatility, spicy aroma, and beauty. It does not come under the category of hardwood, for sure.

The main belongings of this wood are to the conifers such as fir trees and pines, which are the gymnosperms plants. The most common term used for these plants is “soft wood.”

On the scale of hardness, cedarwood comes on the lower end. It is widely famous for its deadly beauty, good look, usability, and lightweight. Incense-cedar, Alaskan yellow cedar, and Port Orford cedar are the most common cedar types available in the market to manufacture premium pencils and other commercial purposes.

Q: What wood are pencils made of in the UK?

The united kingdom is widely recognized for manufacturing the best quality pencils all around the world. The Derwent pencils are the only manufacturer that is left in the whole UK. The wood for pencil making used in the UK for manufacturing the pencils is the California cedarwood and Weymouth Pine.

Both of them are imported from the united states. In Keswick, there is a pencil museum which is owned by the Derwent pencils as well.

In addition to this, the United Kingdom is considered as a home place to the Cumberland Pencil Museum. In that pencil factory, the whole history of pencil making and pencils can be explored to a greater level.

Q: How Many Pencils Does a Tree Make?

There is an ongoing debate about the number of pencils that can be made from a tree. The exact number to be told about the manufactured pencils is still uncertain. There are different references present on various blog sites.

One of the earliest references was made in 2009, and according to that, one tree can be made about 170,000 pencils. And about 14 billion pencils can be produced from 82,000 trees. However, this blog does not use any authentic references. Instead of this ambiguity, this is used by different sites over many years.

Although, after a lot of searching about the exact numbers of pencils that are easily made by a single tree, a comment has been taken into the light.

According to this, 300,000 pencils can be manufactured from a tree by digging up various blog posts and sites about this query.

However, if any pencil maker can shed light on the number of pencils that can be made from a tree and about the size of the tree, then it would be an immense contribution. Source: [1] [2]

Final Words

This article explains the different aspects of pencil making, including the types of wood that are used in this process. Various types of wood are used for the manufacturing of various kinds of pencils.

The quality, the design of the pencils, and the purposes for which the pencils are used all depend upon the wood used in its manufacturing and the graphite or lead inside it.

Different types of wood make different pencils depending upon the need while keeping the other commercial aspects in mind.

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Maria Tanish

Hello World! Tanish here, a student of Fine Arts. Drawing was my passion from an early age but I also love to do some DIY projects to spend my leisure. Even I work as a writer, to share my knowledge about the ins and outs of drawing and the art industry itself. As an artist, I always wanna share my experiences with you all.

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