The Best Wood for Pencils

We’ve talked before about the different materials used to make pencils, and how to identify the material your pencil is made from. But what makes a wood good for making pencils? Let’s take a look at the two most popular woods used to make pencils: basswood and, the best wood for pencils, incense-cedar.


Incense-cedar is reddish-brown in color with a fine, straight grain. If you hadn’t guessed it from the name, incense-cedar pencils also smell delicious. For those of you who can’t help but give your pencil the occasional nibble when you’re anxious or deep in though, you may have even noticed the particular flavor of an incense-cedar pencil at one point in time (not that I condone snacking on pencils, but it happens!).

Incense-cedar endgrain from the Wood Database.

Incense-cedar endgrain from the Wood Database.

I love the smell of a good incense-cedar pencil as much as the next gal, but believe it or not the scent is not the only property that makes it an ideal wood for pencil casings. Incense-cedar responds well to a sharpener due to the fine grain and texture, allowing it to be sharpened with ease without splintering. It can also withstand greater variations in temperature than other woods without warping. This is an especially important consideration when you take into account that some pencils are shipped worldwide, from, through, and to many different climates. To learn more about the properties and uses of incense-cedar, click here.


Unlike incense-cedar, basswood (or linden wood) has no pleasant odor. It’s light brown to white in color, and very lightweight. Chinese basswood, specifically, is popular for use with pencils. American basswood is not used in pencils as often, in part due to it being less plentiful and more expensive.


Basswood endgrain from the Wood Database.

What it lacks in scent, however, it makes up in many properties that make it an excellent material for pencil casings. Its grain is fine and smooth which also makes it easy to sharpen. It is soft and light which makes it easy to work and shape. It’s also porous in a way that makes it take paint and finish well. Although basswood doesn’t stand up to variation in temperature and humidity as well as incense-cedar, it is still quite resilient when dried properly. To learn more about the properties and uses of basswood, click here.

Whatever your pencil is made from, make sure to take care of it and show it lots of love!

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