Pencil Lead Information

Which diameter lead do I need?

Early pencils (1820s to 1920s) take a wide variety of lead widths, most of which are no longer manufactured. The best source for these early leads is antique/collectible fairs where one may be successful in finding the odd pack.  Generally there is no way of knowing which size lead a pencil takes without using a micrometer - please don't ask us as we will not be able to tell you and we will not have any of these leads in stock.  Everything gets easier from the 1920s on!  Much more information on early leads is available at the Legendary Lead Company who also have a wide range of leads for sale

Pencils made by fountain pen manufacturers (such as Parker, Waterman etc) from the 1920s to the late 1940s and sold as part of a set generally take 1.18mm (usually abbreviated to 1.1mm) which is the standard width used by all Yard-o-Led pencils and is still manufactured by Yard-o-Led today

From the late 1940s, the standard gradually changed from 1.1mm to 0.9mm.  So Parker 45, 51, 61 and 75 rotary pencils and most other manufacturers' pencils all used 0.9mm.  Clutch pencils sometimes still used 1.18mm.

Since the 1980s, there has been a tendency for manufacturers to offer thinner leads such as 0.5mm and 0.7mm.

So, taking the Parker Duofold pencil as an example, normal lead widths have changed as follows:

1920s-1940s - 1.1mm
1950s-1960s - 0.9mm
1988-mid 1990s rotary mechanism - 0.9mm 
from around 1995 continuous feed mechanism - 0.7mm

Today, the Parker Sonnet, Latitude, Insignia, 45, Frontier, Jotter and Vector all take 0.5mm and only the Duofold and the Vector 3-in-1 take 0.7mm