Anyone who’s taken a class with me in the last five years knows how I feel about .5mm mechanical pencils. When students’ dovetails are too loose or too tight, my first question is, “What pencil did you use to darken your knifeline?” If a dado is too loose (or too tight), my first question is, “What pencil did you use to mark the cutline?”
I find a .5mm mechanical pencil has the ideal lead diameter. The line it marks on a flat surface is exactly thin enough that you don’t have to decide where across its width to cut; you just cut the line. And if you drop a .5mm lead line into a knifed line, the lead catches on both sides of the line, leaving an unmarked trench between (which is where I instruct students to saw when cutting their pins).
I don’t really have a favorite .5mm pencil in terms of the results, but because I tend to lose them a lot (especially while teaching, because I loan them out constantly), I buy inexpensive ones – whatever is available for less than $20 in a multi-pack at any office supply store, large grocery or drugstore.
And if you ever take a class with me, you’ll see a .5mm on the tool list. I mean it (few students seem to believe me!).
Read other entries from The Anarchist’s Gift Guide here.