In the shop, my mechanical pencil is as important as my eyeglasses. I use a mechanical pencil with a 0.5mm lead to darken in my knife lines when cutting dovetails, tenons or other joinery.
I like the really thin lead because I can usually drop it into a knife line and , with just light pressure , the lead will mark only the right and left sides of the knife line. That makes it easier to split my pencil line when sawing.
I know you are beginning to think I have an engineering background. Really, I’m not all that fussy.
While I like my mechanical pencils, I’ve always hated three things about them: the pencil mechanism itself, the lead and the eraser. Oh, and the pocket clip is flimsy, too.
I generally buy the Pentel pencils, which are the top of the line here in Kentucky. Their mechanisms tend to jam; I get about six months out of a pencil. The eraser is as effective as a gummy bear. The lead breaks too easily.
But heck, that’s what you get, right?
Today I was at Staples looking to replace my latest ex-Pentels when I noticed something I’d never seen before: “Super Hi-Polymer Lead,” which is supposed to be 25 percent stronger. (Stronger than what? Stinky cheese?)
I picked up a pack of the stuff with my new soon-to-be-dead pencils and used it to mark half-blind dovetails all afternoon. You know what? It really is stronger than the regular lead. I didn’t snap a single lead through six sets of dovetails. That is a record.
So if you’re a mechanical pencil dweeb like me, check out the Hi-Polymer stuff next time you need a refill. Hey, now I only hate two things about my mechanical pencils.
– Christopher Schwarz