Why Incense-cedar Matters

It’s been over 100 years since our parent company CalCedar was founded in northern California to supply Incense-cedar to the global pencil industry. Over the course of the last century, we learned a thing or two about what makes a good pencil, so in 1996 we launched Pencils.com as an educational website designed to let us share that knowledge with the world.

Today, the wood used when crafting a pencil is still the single most important contributor to the quality of the finished product, and Incense-cedar is still the best wood in the world for that process. The benefits can be seen from tree to final pencil nub.


Incense-cedar features a smooth, straight grain not found in many other softwoods. This allows it to be machined with precision without splintering or splitting. When a pencil slat begins its transformation into a pencil, the first step in the process is known as “grooving.” During this process, a machine cuts grooves into the wood where the graphite will eventually go.

After adding a touch of glue or another bonding agent, the graphite is laid into the groove and another grooved slat is sandwiched on top. A smooth, even groove allows the glue to be evenly distributed, which is essential to creating a high-quality pencil. A splintered or uneven groove results in graphite that is not properly bonded, leading to the dreaded problem of having the graphite fall out of the center of your pencil.

Pencil Making Today





This smooth, straight grain also allows for the beautiful finishing you see on cedar pencils from around the world. Because Incense-cedar does not split or splinter, the finished unpainted pencil stick has a smooth, even surface. As anyone who has painted the walls of their room knows, it’s easier to paint a surface without much variability in texture. The same applies to pencils.



The benefits of a smooth, straight grain don’t stop at the manufacturing process, they extend to the classroom, office or creative space as well. When sharpening an Incense-cedar pencil, that grain allows the point to be formed without chipping or breaking. And, since the graphite is securely bonded inside the barrel of the pencil, it won’t fall out or break either. For teachers, this means less distractions in the classroom and less time spent at the pencil sharpener.



We think it’s important to know where the wood in your pencils comes from. Incense-cedar only grows in the forests of northern California and southern Oregon. It is strictly regulated and sustainability harvested, unlike the rainforest and other unsustainable woods used in lower quality pencils. In fact, there are more Incense-cedar trees in the forests today than there were when CalCedar got its start over 100 years ago.



All of this culminates in a pencil that not only feels good in your hand, but one that you can feel good about using. Over the next several weeks, we’ll be continuing this discussion and sharing what we’re doing to make sure high-quality, Incense-cedar pencils are accessible to everyone, from teachers and students to everyday pencil users.


3 replies
  1. William Brink
    William Brink says:

    “the finished by unpainted pencil stick has a “
    “In fact, there are mode Incense-cedar trees”

  2. Jim McGraw
    Jim McGraw says:

    • What does an incense cedar tree LOOK like?
    • What is done with the parts of the tree that are unsuitable for pencil making?
    • Does CalCedar own the forest that it harvests?
    • Is the incense cedar threatened by the pine beetle that is wrecking massive destruction on the forests of the western US?

    Thank You!


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