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What wood are pencils made of?

Ever wondered what wooden pencils are made of? And why specifically that wood?

Most wooden pencils are made out of Cedarwood. Cedarwood is a softwood that’s excellent for pencil production. Pinewood, which is also a softwood, is another popular type of wood used for pencils. Popular cedarwood brands include the Palamino Blackwing pencils. Popular pinewood pencils include Faber-Castell pencils.

Keep reading to find out what other types of wood pencils are made of and why you should care which type of wood is used.

Why are pencils made out of cedarwood?

Most pencils are made out of cedar wood because cedars are coniferous trees. Like spruces and pines, coniferous trees are softwoods, making them best to use for pencil production.

Wood for pencil production requires to be soft yet strong, knot-free and finely grained. The wood has to be easy to sharpen as well.

Nothing is more frustrating than wood that is too hard to be sharpened!

Most common types of wood for pencils

The most common types of wood for pencils are:

  • (Californian) Cedar
    • This wood is used for most pencils
    • Found in North America
    • Found in Europe and Africa
  • Caribbean Pine
    • This wood is used by major pencil producer Faber Castell
    • Found in Central America
  • Weymouth pine
    • This wood is used by Derwent
    • Found in North America
  • Poplar wood
    • This wood is used by cheaper brands
    • Found in North America
tall trees
Photo by cmonphotography on

What type of wood are charcoal pencils made of

Some charcoal pencils are made of hardwood like poplar or bass. (Charcoal) pencils are made out of slats. Slats are thin pieces of wood that are glued together. Sometimes these slats are unwaxed. This makes sharpening this hardwood more difficult.

Be very careful when using an electric sharpener with hardwoods. Consider using a knife to sharpen your hardwood based pencils!

My expensive electric sharpener broke when I tried to sharpen a charcoal pencil. Learn from my mistake and use a handheld sharpener or a knife.

What type of wood are Ticonderoga pencils made of?

Ticonderoga pencils are most likely made of California Incense Cedar. The company that manufactures the pencils only states that they use premium wood. Premium wood in the pencil industry is California Incense Cedar. This wood is sustainably managed and sourced in North America.

You can find these popular pencils at Walmart, Target and any craft store.

How many pencils can a tree make

170,000 pencils can be made out of a single tree according to WorldAtlas. 2 billion pencils are annually made from 82,000 trees.

What wood are cheap pencils made of?

Cheap pencils are usually made of unwaxed hardwoods like poplar. Cheap pencils are therefore harder to sharpen and tend to break more easily.

But cheap pencils aren’t all that ethical. More on that later.

What are American pencils made of?

Pencils that are manufactured in the USA are mainly made out of Cedarwood. This type of wood is sourced in, as you might’ve guessed, North America. This type of wood is now used as premium wood for pencils. Before the popular use of this wood, Red Cedar was used until the source became too scarce.

A popular type of American pencil wood is the Californian Incense Cedarwood.

What wood are pencils made out of in UK

Pencils that are made in the UK are made from Weymouth Pinewood. Since pencils are internationally sold, the type of wood may vary. Derwent is the only manufacturer of pencils in the UK.

Can any wood be used for pencils?

The best wood for pencils is wood that is soft yet strong, finely grained and easily sharpened. So there are woods that are better to use (cedar) and woods that shouldn’t be used. After all, the pencil has to be practical.

What wood are Luminance pencils by Caran d’Aches made of?

Luminance pencils by Caran d’Ache are made of Californian Cedar wood.

What wood are Polychromos by Faber-Castell made of?

Faber-Castells Polychromos are made of Pinewood. Faber-Castell produces their own pencils with their own trees which are grown in Brazil.

Why you should care what type of wood pencils are made of

We go through many pencils in an artist’s life. Every pencil we buy has to be produced. This costs energy and recourses. After this, we can use, or consume the pencil. That’s why buyers of products are called consumers.

Buying and using a product is always at the cost of something. But it becomes dangerous when consuming a product that affects the environment drastically.

That’s why the source of a pencil should be known to the buyer. I totally agree that not the consumer but the companies that produce the pencils are the major ones to blame. But we, as consumers, are able to influence those companies.

bird s eye view of lumbers
Photo by Pok Rie on

Low-End Pencil Brands vs High-End Pencils Brands

Unfortunately not every pencil is made the same way. The production of some pencils is actively contributing to deforestation.

High-end Pencil brans

High-end pencil brands fortunately are taking responsibility. There are certain ways of sourcing wood that are managed in a specific way to avoid exhausting the tree population. Usually, this means that for every tree that is cut down, 1 or more trees are planted.

Premium Californa incense Cedar wood is managed this way.

Low-end Pencil Brands

The main goal of low-end pencil brands is to make a profit. Usually, cheap generic brands don’t value eco-friendly products. They just want to earn money. Instead of carefully picking their sources, they go to what’s cheapest.

They use wood from trees that are sourced from questionable places. This happens mostly in rainforests. These places are not managed in an eco-friendly way.

Sourcing of these trees results in major deforestation which is detrimental to the local biodiversity (and much more serious issues).

Are there cheap pencils made from cheap sustainable wood?

Cheap wood, such as poplar wood, is used for lower-end pencils as well. The thing is, poplar wood is, unlike cedar, a hardwood. Sharpening them is a lot harder. This may result in a lead that is prone to break.

Therefore using pencils made from this wood might be less eco-friendly in the end, because you need to replace them more often.

Which brands to buy

Here are some (major) brands that use sustainable wood sources:

  • Crayola
  • Faber-Castell
  • Derwent
  • Palamino Blackwing
  • Sprout
  • Ticonderoga
  • Bruynzeel
  • Staedler

+ more.

Here are some brands that you shouldn’t buy:

  • Any generic brand that doesn’t enclose info on how their wood is sourced
  • Brands from websites that sell at an incredibly cheap price

The number one rule to finding out if a certain brand is eco-friendly is to look for the brand’s material list. If you can’t find it, it usually means they sourced their materials unethically (or they bought it from somewhere and even they don’t know where the wood comes from).

You might think that making these small decisions on whether to buy or not to buy a pencil doesn’t matter, but in the overall picture, it does. All those small decisions from a lot of people have a great effect in the end.

I hope you will make an informed decision on which brands to buy. Check out this article which features the best pencils for sketching and shading. See you next time,

♡ Laura

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