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What are Drafting Pencils?

what are drafting pencils

What are drafting pencils? At first glance, you might easily mistake a drafting pencil for a regular mechanical pencil, and you are not alone. If you do not know what makes a drafting pencil different from run-of-the-mill mechanical pencils, you would not be able to tell them apart.

As the name suggests, a pencil is a writing tool primarily used for drafting, more specifically technical drawings used in making blueprints or plans. Although traditional drafting has mostly been left at the wayside in lieu of computer-aided designs, there are still a lot of draftsmen and architects that like doing it old-school.

If you are interested in learning what makes drafting pencils special, we will be discussing them more in-depth later.

Drafting Pencils Defined

A drafting pencil is a type of mechanical pencil. Just by looking at it, you might not even know what makes a drafting pencil different from ordinary mechanical pencils. However, what you need to be aware of is that they are specialized pieces of machinery. They have small details that make them perfect for their intended use.

Here are some of the features that make drafting pencils different and distinctive from regular mechanical pencils.

Longer metal sleeve

what are drafting pencils for

When you are doing technical drawings, like architectural details and shop drawings, you will be required to make long straight lines. This means you will need to slide the pencil along the edge of a long ruler, triangles, and other drafting tools. These can usually break a regular mechanical pencil lead.

A drafting pencil has a metal sleeve or ferrule that supports the extruded lead. The ferrule is the one that makes contact with the ruler, which keeps the lead from breaking while drawing long continuous lines.

Small and thin eraser

If you look at the other end of the drafting pencil, you will notice that there is a protruding metal bit. That is a cap that covers the thin eraser of the drafting pencil. Pull it off and you will find the small eraser.

The eraser of drafting pencils needs to be thin because you can use them to erase small details. The erasers also have small metal ferrules to give the erasers extra strength.

The eraser also acts as a stopper that keeps the pencil leads inside the chamber of the pencil. If you need to refill the pencil, you just have to pull out the eraser and place the leads inside the tube opening.

They use harder pencil leads

Another thing that you will notice about drafting pencils that you do not usually see in regular mechanical pencils is the type of pencil leads they use. As mentioned earlier, drafting pencils usually draw long and straight lines. If the lead were to break in the middle of drawing said lines, it could damage the paper.

This is why drafting pencils need to use harder pencil leads. The marks left behind will most likely be lighter compared to softer leads, but that is also preferable since the draftsman will be going over them with a fine-tip marker anyway.

They have a more ergonomic design

drafting pencils defined

Even though most mechanical pencils are already quite ergonomic, drafting pencils take it up a notch. When you are making technical drawings, you will be at the table for hours at a time, which is why you need a drafting pencil that is comfortable to hold and use.

Usually, you will find that drafting pencils have metal barrels with knurling around the front. This makes the pencils easy to hold and control even when you have sweaty palms, which tends to happen when you have been drawing for hours straight.

Lead extrudes in smaller increments

Because of the metal ferrule, drafting pencils do not need to extrude that much pencil lead. This is unlike regular mechanical pencils that put out pencil lead by around 1mm increments, which is fine for normal writing tasks. However, that would be too long for drafting purposes.

When you push the button of a drafting pencil, a very small amount of pencil lead goes out the end, making it harder to break when you are drawing.

They are more durable

Although you can get cheap drafting pencils, the ones used by professionals usually have an almost all-metal construction. If you are a professional draftsman, you will need a pencil that can last for more than just one project.

Drafting sessions often take a lot of hours to complete, and you will need a pencil that can handle all that abuse. Mechanical pencils meant for school use typically give out after a dozen or so sheets of drawings. Professional-grade drafting pencils can last for years.

What Are Drafting Pencils For?

What are drafting pencils used for? Before the advent of CAD (computer-aided design) drawings, architects and engineers would use large sheets of paper and pencils for creating drafts for blueprints. This is where the drafting pencils got their name.

Drafting requires the capability to create thin and uniform lines, which is why draftsmen did not typically use regular graphite pencils back then. The longer you use a graphite pencil, the wider you are making the tip as well. Drafting pencil leads is always a consistent thickness regardless of how many lines you have drawn.

These days, drafting pencils are usually used for marking out revisions in blueprints and drawing additional details that need to be added later.


Even though drafting pencils look almost identical to regular mechanical pencils, if you observe them closely and determine what are drafting pencils exactly, you will find minute differences. You should also take note that even though the differences seem small, they make the drafting pencil better suited for their intended purposes.

Now that you know what are drafting pencils, you will no longer mistake them for regular mechanical pencils. If you are interested in trying your hand at old-school drafting, you will need a reliable pencil in your arsenal.

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