I cannot give you the gift of better eyesight in the shop because, oh, wait, I actually can.
Speaking as someone who has had pitiful eyesight since first grade, I have always looked for ways to improve my marking tools. Without a doubt, the one tool that has improved my game more than any other (at any price) has to be a Draft-Matic .3mm mechanical pencil.
You can buy these pencils at any art-supply store (or even WalMart) for about $12 or $13. The pencil is extremely well made. It is one of only two mechanical pencils that I have not worn out within a couple months. My current Draft-Matic is four years old and works as well as the day I bought it.
The trick to using the yellow-barreled bugger is to think of it as a highlighter – not as a writing instrument. I knife in most of my joinery cuts with a cutting gauge or marking knife. Then I run this pencil through the knife line. Unlike thicker leads, the .3mm drops to the bottom of the knife line, making it stand out like I ran a laser through it.
The knurling on the barrel of the pencil gives you control and feedback you don’t get with other pencils. And you need the feedback. The lead is quite fragile, so you need to learn the light touch required to use the tool.
But the tighter joints are worth the extra effort.
— Christopher Schwarz
Read other days of my gift guide:
Day 1 is here. Rockler Mini Drill Bit Set
Day 2 is here. Brownell’s gunsmith drill bits
Day 3 is here. Grip mini pry bar
Day 4 is here. Tiger Flakes
Day 5 is here. Gramercy Holdfasts