Techniques for removing pencil marks before finishing?

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    Michael B

    Hi all,

    I’ve almost completed the tool tote project (in pine), but before gluing up I wanted to remove all the pencil marks in preparation for finishing. I plan on finishing with bleached shellac.

    I know the pencil marks on end grain can be easily removed by sanding/filing/planing. What I’m unsure of is how to remove the pencil marks running the length and sides of the housing dados. I want to maintain the housing dado’s crisp edges, so am unsure about planing or sanding in case I do damage the edges.

    I had a go at using methylated spirits to remove the pencil, and though it removed much of the pencil, it’s still fairly visible.

    What are your techniques for removing pencil marks? Is it fairly safe to plane away the marks on the housing dados?


    Salko Safic

    I’m surprised you haven’t yet tried this simple yet effective technique; use an erasure. It really works, planing also works. When you scribble on timber take the light approach you don’t need to see it a mile away. When Paul makes a mark he uses it mostly for illustration purposes, that is for your benefit, however on occasion you will see him making a light mark. Also when you want plane pencil or crayon marks away which are far easier to remove crayon than pencil you set your plane to take off 1/1000th and only where your marks are.

    Hope this helps.
    The Lost Scrolls of HANDWORK
    (Hand tool only woodworking magazine)

    Thomas Angle

    Cabinet scraper works well if an eraser does not go it. I have even set the plane to shave a hair and a fresh iron to do it also. Sanding work, but messes up the planed look.

    Arbovale, WV

    Proverbs 18:13
    13 He that answereth a matter before he heareth it, it is folly and shame unto him.

    David B

    eraser, scraper, sandpaper. And make sure you don’t draw with the point of the pencil when you make your markings b/c that makes the lead penetrate much deeper and is harder to remove.

    Michael B

    Thanks everyone for the input, the pencil marks are now gone!


    I forgot to mention I did try an eraser without much luck, but then the eraser itself was old and plastic feeling. I went and bought a nice new one, and low and behold if the pencil markings don’t just disappear! I think I probably did mark the wood a little too heavily too, so I’ll keep my marks light on the next project.


    Thanks for the tips. I don’t have a scraper yet, so that may be my next purchase.


    You’re right, I think part of my problem was the pencil markings were made with the tip of the pencil, so I probably pushed the graphite into the wood fibers. I’ll use a more angled, lighter touch next time.


    @fraganator A scraper may not work very well on the pine but is fantastic on hardwood. Soft B lead is easier to remove, but also makes a line that smudges. Planing a housing may be a problem if there are shoulders. Also, there are various kinds of erasers and you may have more luck with one vs. another.


    Couple things: Pencil “lead” comes in different hardness. Always use a soft #2 lead and use a rounded or flattened tip so penetration is minimal. With this, usually an eraser will remove the marks.

    Acetone does a very good job for those that a eraser will not get.

    Located in Honeoye Falls NY USA. The Finger Lakes region of Western NY.

    "If you give me 6 hours to fell a tree, I will take the first 4 to sharpen my axe" Abe Lincoln

    Michael B

    I’ve got a HB and 2B pencil, so I’ll have a go at marking some scrap with both and see how things go (I used a HB originally). Thanks again for everyone’s input.


    Use the right leaded pencil and get one of those “white” erasers, if that doesn’t work take a super fine shaving with your plane.


    Steve Massie, I live in the great State of Florida, US

    Michael B

    Thanks again for all the tips. I’ve spent a few days finishing up the project and I think it came out not too shabby.

    Tool Tote

    • This reply was modified 6 years, 1 month ago by Michael B.
    • This reply was modified 6 years, 1 month ago by Michael B.

    Great looking project. Nice job…

    Located in Honeoye Falls NY USA. The Finger Lakes region of Western NY.

    "If you give me 6 hours to fell a tree, I will take the first 4 to sharpen my axe" Abe Lincoln


    I’m using multipurpose wipes to get rid of pencil marks.
    It’s quick and effortless and also great for wiping out glue squeezes.


    I had the same problem. I came across (not sure where) a recommendation to use more of the “side” of the pencil rather than the tip to avoid denting or bruising the wood. So simple, but makes a big difference.

    Dan Roper

    Denatured alcohol on a soft cloth will remove pencil marks even on pine.



    Hugo Notti

    I like hard pencils on wood, because the lines are more precise. But for marking the reference sides and other information, I do like royjensen, I use the side of the tip, which does not penetrate the wood can be removed easily with a few strokes of an eraser, scraper or a plane.


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