Did you know that woodless pencils exist? For a long time I had no idea there was such a thing as a woodless pencil, and when I mentioned to my husband a few days ago that I’d just bought a set of woodless pencils, he was quite surprised. For a time, he couldn’t quite figure out what I was talking about. Even after the pencils arrived and I took one out to show him, he was still a bit astonished to think that a pencil could be made completely of graphite — no wood at all.
So, what’s the big deal about a woodless pencil? Do you need one? What would you do with it if you had one?
I’m sure I would have been asking those same questions if someone had mentioned woodless pencils in the past. As chance would have it, however, I found myself with one of those strange things, and while I wasn’t sure why I needed it, I liked it. It came as part of a set of pencils I purchased, and for a long time it just sat in a pencil holder on my desk.
I guess primarily I just liked looking at it. Yeah, I’m weird, I know, but there was something so pure and simple about that solid stick of graphite. That’s really what a woodless pencil is, you see. Just graphite.
The pencil I had was a standard 2B pencil, a sort of good, all around pencil to have close at hand. And since it was always close at hand, I began using it. I liked the way it felt to my fingers — smooth and well-balanced.
At the first of this month when I began my “index-card” project, I began turning to my woodless pencil each morning to make my initial “composition sketches”. I do these on a separate index card, jotting down notes about values, colors, and thoughts, and then I create my oil painting using that card as a guide.
Recently, however, disaster struck. My beautiful graphite stick was on my desktop, and I somehow knocked it off. As it rolled from the desktop onto the floor, I nearly cried, knowing it would probably shatter into a million pieces. Truthfully, it wasn’t quite that bad, but, yes, it did break into several pieces. I saved the pieces, of course, and I’ll actually be able to use them now and then, but I immediately went to Amazon and found a beautiful set of woodless pencils. This was when and how I learned that just like regular drawing pencils, woodless pencils come in a variety of grades. The set I purchased Is a beautiful set of 12 pencils, ranging from 2H to 10B. You’ll notice that these graphite sticks are usually on the softer side. This is because one of their primary uses is in shading large areas in a drawing.
Now, to be blunt about it, there’s no real difference between a “woodless” pencil and a regular drawing pencil, other than the fact that one is encased in wood and the other, obviously, is not. A woodless pencil feels a bit heavier than its regular counterpart. I like the feel, but some artists don’t.
And, as I’m sure you’re probably wondering, woodless pencils can be sharpened in exactly the same way you sharpen your usual pencils. The difference is that you’re sharpening away graphite, not wood shavings. Another thing to keep in mind is that you can easily make powdered graphite from a woodless pencil, but then again, you can buy graphite powder, so why not just do that instead?
In the end, I suppose it’s probably a personal thing, maybe the sort of thing that could be labeled a “quirk”, but I happen to love my woodless pencils. Maybe it’s just because they’re different, or maybe it’s because they’re a sign that I really am an artist. After all, who else would have a woodless pencil?
I’d have to say, honestly, that nobody really needs a woodless pencil, but if you happen to come across one while browsing about in your favorite art supply store, why not pick it up and give it a try? You might shrug and say, “No, I don’t need it,” or you might smile and say, “Hey, I think I have to have this!”
Either way, now you know all there is to know about woodless pencils. Oh, no, wait, I forgot to mention one thing you might be curious about. Generally these woodless pencils have a light matte coating, so, no, you don’t get graphite all over your hands.
Now, whether you opt for traditional pencils or decide to go woodless, happy drawing!