Grease pencil

Two grease pencils.
Historical diplomatic usage

The grease pencil, a wax writing tool also known as a wax pencil, china marker or chinagraph pencil (especially in the United Kingdom), is a writing implement made of hardened colored wax and is useful for marking on hard, glossy non-porous surfaces such as porcelain, glass, rock, polished stone, plastic, ceramics and other glazed, lacquered or polished surfaces, as well as the glossy paper that is used for photographic printing (particularly for contact sheets), x-rays, and for marking edits on analog audio tape and film. It is also used to label theatrical lighting gels. It is often used as a construction or handyman's marking tool as it rarely scratches the surface it is used on. It may be used to mark a wet surface. They are also favored among some traditional artists. Due to its ability to write on glass, it is often used in chemistry labs to mark glassware.

Grease pencils were also widely used during the mid-20th century in aircraft control centers, military radar defense system stations on land and in aircraft carriers in particular. As information came in from radar operators and radio, men would take details of aircraft locations, vectors, weapons and fuel status and other information and write it in reverse on a large, clear panel of glass, which was readable to the officers on the other side of the panel. The information would be continuously updated as the situation changed. They have largely been replaced by digital displays in the modern era.

In the days when broadcast studios had a library of LP records, a track which was prohibited from public performance could be defaced by a wavy white or yellow chinagraph line, giving a visible warning to the presenter as well as making that track unusable.

This pencil is available in several forms. The outer casing may be made of wood (like an ordinary pencil) and sharpened with a knife or pencil sharpener. Other types are covered in paper and sharpened by pulling a string to peel off the paper, needing no additional tools to remain functional. More recently, it has been produced in propelling form, essentially similar to a clutch pencil but with a different lead.

This pencil is usually made from non-toxic opaque wax similar to a crayon but stronger. Marks made by grease pencils are resistant to moisture and can usually be removed by rubbing the marked surface with a paper towel.

Use in history and popular culture


  1. Osman, Tarek (2013-12-14). "BBC News - Why border lines drawn with a ruler in WW1 still rock the Middle East". Retrieved 2014-04-30.
  2. , Discussion of the pen Russell Crowe uses in A Beautiful Mind
  3. "Walt's Last Words: NOT Kurt Russell". Mouse Planet. Archived from the original on November 12, 2013. Retrieved 24 March 2016.
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