Bainbridge Island Architect Jim Cutler Has Found the Perfect Pencil

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By Jim Cutler
The Louis Kahn–trained architect and lifelong tinkerer tells us about the tools he can’t work without.

Drawing is an architect’s method of communicating. My staff draws on computers; I am older and draw by hand. At the end of each workday, I have to scrub the graphite off the side of my right hand from rubbing it over the drawings I do with my favorite pencils. The pencils are from the ITO-YA store in Ginza, Tokyo. The store ships a box to our office every six months or so. I love these pencils—they have perfect lead, which is smooth and capable of everything from sharp lines to shading, and perfect erasers that completely remove my mistakes. And they’re beautiful: red barrels and a black eraser that’s fastened to the shaft, flush with the surface. 

To keep them sharp, I built a simple brass sharpener that can hold the shavings. When they get too short, I extend their life with a pencil "extender" I made out of bits of brass tubing. 

These three low-tech items travel with me and they’re all I need to apply my skills, wherever I am. 

Jim Cutler’s Japanese pencils, and the two devices he built for them, literally never leave his side.

Jim Cutler’s Japanese pencils, and the two devices he built for them, literally never leave his side.


Check out a few more things the 68-year-old Bainbridge Island architect likes here.