How to Sharpen a Carpenters Pencil?


While it might seem like an obvious question, there is actually some nuance in learning how to sharpen a carpenters pencil. Unlike a standard round #2 pencil, the wide flat design of a carpenters pencil means you’ll generally need to hand sharpen these pencils.

There are number of different ways to sharpen a carpenters pencil, with some variations having specialized use cases. Whatever way you choose to sharpen it, all that’s needed to achieve a sharp, durable tip is a sharp knife and a pencil.

Let’s take a look at a few different ways to sharpen a carpenters pencil – so you’ll be ready for whatever marking task comes your way.

Standard Tip

The standard way of sharpening a carpenters pencil results in a nice sharp tip that can mark a thin line on one edge, and a wide line when turned to the side. This tip is useful for a wide variety of marking tasks, including marking fine lines for finish carpentry and other delicate tasks.

standard tip

It’s also fairly durable, so you can use it without worrying about breaking off the tip.

To sharpen your pencil with a standard tip follow these steps:

Step 1: Sharpen Wide Edges

The first step is sharpening the two wide flat edges of your carpenters pencil. Using a sharp blade or utility knife, cut away from you using your thumb for better control.

sharpening wide edge of pencil

Keep cutting until the lead is fully exposed on one side. Then, flip the pencil over to the opposite side and repeat the process again.

Step 2: Sharpen Narrow Edges

Next up, you’ll want to sharpen the pencil’s two narrow edges. Use short strokes and cut away from yourself until the lead is fully exposed on both sides.

sharpening pencil's narrow edges

Step 3: Sharpen Lead

Once the lead is fully exposed, you’ll want to clean up the lead and give it a nice sharp edge. Use your blade to whittle away the graphite on the wide sections until you achieve a nice chisel-shaped edge.

sharpening lead

That’s about all you need to do for a standard tip!

Blunt Tip

A blunt tip works well when you need to make markings on rough, difficult-to-mark materials like brick, stone, concrete, and painted wood. The thick lead creates a line that’s easy to spot from a distance – even on these rough surfaces.

blunt tip carpenters pencil
Blunt tip.

Step 1: Sharpen Wide Edges

The process for sharpening a blunt tip is essentially the same as the one described above, except you want to leave the tip as untouched as possible.

First, cut away from yourself with a sharp blade of the pencil’s wide edges. Cut until the lead core is fully exposed on both sides.

Step 2: Sharpen Narrow Edges

Next, flip the pencil over to the narrow edge and cut away until the lead is fully exposed on both sides. Be careful not to cut away too much lead as you want to leave as much of it intact as possible.

That’s about it for the blunt tip. When you’re done you should be left with a fully exposed lead section that can make a thick line on whatever you’re marking.

Offset Scribe Tip

The offset scribe tip is useful for scribing parallel lines at a given offset without any specialized scribing tools. This tip results in a tip that measures 3/8” from the far edge to the pencil tip.

offset scribe tip
Offset scribe tip.

The goal here is to sharpen from the far edge until the very end of the lead. This will leave a nice sharp tip useful for scribing.

Step 1: Sharpen Wide Edges

Like the previous two steps, you’ll want to start by sharpening the two wider edges of your carpenters pencil. Sharpen until the lead is fully exposed on both sides.

Step 2: Sharpen Far Edge

Next, you’ll want to sharpen a long sloping edge on one of the narrow sides. This edge will end right at the endpoint of the lead on the opposite side.

sharpening offset scribe tip
Sharpening the far edge.

Use your blade to cut away wood carefully until you hit the graphite. Then, shave away at the graphite until you reach a narrow tip at the endpoint of the lead.

Step 3: Sharpen Close Edge

Lastly, you’ll want to sharpen the last remaining edge to create a sharp point. Cut from a higher starting point than you did in the previous step to make the offset point.

sharpening the closer edge
Sharpening the closer edge.

Using a Carpenter’s Pencil Sharpener

If you want to sharpen your pencil without whittling away by hand, you can also use a specially made carpenters pencil sharpener like the IRWIN Carpenter Pencil Sharpener.

These sharpeners are made to accommodate the wide, flat shape of a carpenters pencil, and will actually save you pencils over time, as they use up less material each time you sharpen with them.


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