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Why Are Carpenter Pencils Flat? 3 Reasons

Photos of carpenter pencils

Here are 3 reasons carpenter pencils are rectangular and flat-shaped.

1. Doesn’t roll off surfaces

Rectangle flat pencils don’t roll. That’s not the only reason though. in fact, it doesn’t entirely explain the rectangle shape. After all, you can achieve a non-rolling pencil with a square pencil. Keep reading.

It’s no fun working on whatever you’re working on, only to not find the pencil you desperately need to make a mark only for it to not be where you set it down because it rolled away (usually falling to the floor).

The easy solution to that problem is make it flat.

As a kid I loved building stuff and often thought it odd carpenter pencils were flat.

Eventually, I learned the reason for it. Makes total sense.

2. Measuring device

Carpenter pencils are exactly .5″ wide and the thickness is a1/4″.  This comes in handy more often than you might think. You have a handy measuring device in your hands.

3. Flexible use

You can sharpen it different ways depending on how you’ll use it.  Examples include:

  • Scribe pencil: Make the point a set distance from the edge of the pencil for drawing a straight line.
  • Finer Point or edge: For finer markings.
  • Blunt Edge: Best for marking rough surfaces such as brick, concrete or stone.  A round regular pencil would more likely break.

PRO TIP: Sharpen both ends of your pencil so when one end goes dull, you don’t have to sharpen it immediately and can quickly flip it around and carry on.  

The question shouldn’t be why carpenter pencils are flat but why are other pencils round?

Serious question.

Round pencils rolling is not just a problem for people building things. I can’t tell you how many times in school or now helping my kids with their homework that the pencil rolls off the desk or table.  Annoying.

I really should just get my kids carpenter pencils for school.

Of course, there is also a reason they don’t issue flat carpenter pencils in schools and that is the points aren’t as fine.  Carpenter pencils are great for drawing lines and even marking down numbers but they aren’t great for writing and doing math in school.

Because it’s rectangular in shape, can you buy a pencil sharpener for a carpenter’s pencil?

Yes, you can. Here’s a popular one. It works.

IRWIN Carpenter Pencil Sharpener (233250)

PRO TIP: Carry two sharpened pencils at all times. That second pencil will come in handy more often than you think.

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