Anarchist Gift Guide Day 15: Pilot .5mm Mechanical Pencils

Although purchased for dovetailing, these pencils also make good cat toys.

Anyone who’s taken a class with me in the last five years knows how I feel about .5mm mechanical pencils. When students’ dovetails are too loose or too tight, my first question is, “What pencil did you use to darken your knifeline?” If a dado is too loose (or too tight), my first question is, “What pencil did you use to mark the cutline?”

I find a .5mm mechanical pencil has the ideal lead diameter. The line it marks on a flat surface is exactly thin enough that you don’t have to decide where across its width to cut; you just cut the line. And if you drop a .5mm lead line into a knifed line, the lead catches on both sides of the line, leaving an unmarked trench between (which is where I instruct students to saw when cutting their pins).

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From left, lines from a .5mm, #2, and lumber pencils.

I don’t really have a favorite .5mm pencil in terms of the results, but because I tend to lose them a lot (especially while teaching, because I loan them out constantly), I buy inexpensive ones – whatever is available for less than $20 in a multi-pack at any office supply store, large grocery or drugstore.

And if you ever take a class with me, you’ll see a .5mm on the tool list. I mean it (few students seem to believe me!).

— Fitz

Read other entries from The Anarchist’s Gift Guide here.


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