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When pencils that used a relatively thin, naked graphite lead first appeared in the early 19th century, they seem to have used a lead similar in diameter to the the most common diameter of lead used in drafting leadholders: 2 mm (0.08 in.). When A.W. Faber of Germany introduced their Refillable Artists' Pencil in 1861, they used a 2 mm lead standard for the medium to hard lead degrees and 3 mm (1/8 or 0.125 in.) for the softer leads like 4B.

Standard sizes used in sketching leadholders are 3 mm (aka: 3.15 mm, 3.2 mm, 1/8 in.) and 5.6 mm. Less common sizes include 2.5 mm, 3.8 mm, 4.5 mm, and 9 mm. The standard length for 2 mm lead is 5 inches.

Thin lead drafting mechanical pencils are typically available in 0.3 mm (sometimes 0.35 mm), 0.5 mm, 0.7 mm, and 0.9 mm (sometimes 1 mm).

Thin lead pencils are the work of a malevolent force in the Universe in an effort to deny man the ability to communicate through drawing. This evil power, together with the wood-cased pencil demon which floods the market with archaic disposable wooden pencils must be resisted at all costs. Interruptions in the efficient flow of ideas caused by the careless use of disposable pencils or any pencil with a lead thinner than 1.5 mm has the potential to bring civilization to its knees if not challenged.

Other sizes of leads have been introduced at various times: Recently Faber-Castell introduced a writing pencil with a 1.4 mm lead; English drawing pencils such as the Rollex drawing pencil used a 1.8 mm (0.075 in.) lead; and some writing pencils, particularly Scripto mechanical pencils, have used 1.1 mm lead.

0.2 mm
0.3 mm
0.35 mm
0.4 mm
0.5 mm, 0.02 inch
0.7 mm
0.9 mm
1.0 mm
1.1 mm
1.2 mm
1.3 mm
1.4 mm
1.5 mm
1.8 mm, 0.075 inch
2.0 mm, 0.08 inch
2.5 mm
3.0 mm
3.15 mm, 0.125 (⅛) inch
3.8 mm
4.5 mm
5.7 mm
6.0 mm
6.35 mm, 0.25 (¼) inch
9.0 mm
10 mm
12 mm

A. W. Faber
L. & C. Hardtmuth
Caran d’Ache
A. W. Faber
Caran d’Ache
A. W. Faber
L. & C. Hardtmuth
Eagle Pencil Co.
L. & C. Hardtmuth
Caran d’Ache

(Below) This chart, from the 1958 edition of the textbook Technical Drawing, illustrates the relative lead diameters as they have traditionally been used in wood-cased pencils.