Video: When a pencil beats a knife
As long as you keep the pencil tip tight to the piece you’re scribing around, you can cut and pare to that easy-to-see line and produce a nice, tight fit
If you want tight joinery, rely on a fine knife line rather than a pencil line, right? Well, not always, according to Steve Brown, a full-time instructor at North Bennet Street School in Boston. Brown points out that because a knife slices wood, its bevel can mar wood around a joint—wood you want to keep—potentially leaving unsightly gaps. For him, when transferring dovetail joinery from one board to another or tracing around a hinge for its mortise, a pencil’s the way to go. This is because a pencil marks the wood instead of damaging it. And the pencil line can still yield tight joinery, Brown says. As long as you keep the pencil tip tight to the piece you’re scribing around, you can cut and pare to that easy-to-see line and produce a nice, tight fit. Brown does recommend keeping your pencil lead as sharp as possible by frequently rolling the tip on 220-grit sandpaper. This way, the crisp line can lead to crisp joinery.
More on FineWoodworking.com:
- Understanding The Three Types of Layout Lines by Jeff Miller – Layout lines vary, and understanding when to use each type is fundamental to fine work
- Layout: Pencil vs. Knife by Christian Becksvoort #179–Sept/Oct 2005 Issue – For accuracy and efficiency, you’ll need both
- Tool Test: Marking Knives by Steve Latta #198–May/June 2008 Issue – These must do more than follow a straightedge