How to use an ink line marker

Ink line marker is a tool for drawing straight lines as a marking line on wood and other materials. When straight lines are drawn on wood using a ruler and pencil, the lines may be distorted due to the unevenness of the wood grain. The ink line marker has long been useful in the construction industry because it can draw straight lines without being affected by the grain of the wood. 

What is an ink line marker?

Ink line markers are carpentry tools that were introduced to Japan from ancient China. It has been used for a long time in an extremely wide range of areas including East Asia and Southeast Asia. In ancient times, the size and structure differed depending on the region, and there were various types of materials used, including wooden ones with elaborate carvings on the body, bamboo ones, and ones made of animal horns. Today, plastic is the most common material.

A basic ink line marker consists of the following four elements.

Thread winding

There are two types of thread winding mechanisms: one with a built-in spring that automatically winds the thread, and one that  manually winds the thread by turning the handle.

Automatic winding ink line marker


Manual winding ink line marker


Ink line thread

This is a thread wound around a spool of thread, which contains ink and transfers straight lines onto the material. Depending on the line to be drawn, a thick thread product or a fine thread product may be used.

NeedleThis is a needle attached to the end of the ink line thread. It is pressed into the material to secure the end of the ink line thread.


This is a part that is filled with cotton, sponge, etc. inside where the ink is applied. Located in front of the thread spool, the thread coming out of the thread spool passes through the inside of the tank and comes out containing the ink.

How to use an ink line marker 

Using an ink line marker is not difficult if you understand its structure. The following is an explanation of how to use it.

Filling the jar with ink

Open the tank and pour a small amount of ink onto the sponge or cotton inside. nks may come with the ink bottle, but if you prepare it yourself, you need to be careful about the amount of water in the ink. If there is not enough moisture in the ink, it cannot be transferred. On the other hand, if there is too much moisture, it will cause blotting. After putting the appropriate amount of ink into the tank, gently close the tank lid to seal it.

Also, as time passes after filling the jar with ink, the water may evaporate and the ink may become too thick. In this case, replenish water as needed.


Pulling out the ink thread

Remove the needle from the tip of the thread, stick it in the spot where you want to start drawing the line, and secure it in place. Then, pull the ink stick straight away from the needle and gently pull out the ink thread. The ink thread is then pulled out from the spool, passes through the ink pad inside the tank, and comes out of the tank containing ink.


Flick the ink thread

After pulling out the ink thread to the end of the area you wish to draw a line, lightly pinch the middle of the stretched ink thread with your fingertips and place the ink line marker body on the material. When you have secured it in a good position, lightly flick your finger or slightly pull and release the inked thread. The entire ink thread will then snap against the material, leaving the ink  to be transferred to the material.


In this case, the end of the sumi ink thread on the side of the main body of the marker may lift up, preventing proper transfer to the end of the thread. If you are not familiar with this method, it is safe to use a product with a guide  for pressing the ink thread against the surface of the material.

※Tips on how to flick the inked thread / how to draw a curve

When flicking the ink thread, lift it vertically above the straight line you want to draw and gently release your finger. If you release your finger from the straight line, the inked thread will bend and the line that will be transferred will be distorted.

Once you become accustomed to using the ink line marker, you can also use this method to draw curved lines.


The ink line marker has been used for a long time, from the time of the construction of Horyuji Temple to the present day. It is a simple tool that anyone can use, and  can be useful in a variety of situations.