Thanks for the wonderful information about the pencil. I was especially
interested to know the origin of the color yellow for pencils. How
Dr. Diane C. Gregory
Director, Undergraduate & Graduate
Studies in Art Education
Texas Woman's University
Denton, TX 76204
Quoting Sue Stevens <firstname.lastname@example.org>:
> Hi all,
> I did a lot of research on this a few years ago and made a nice handout on
> it. I have included the text below for your info. Sorry that I could not
> attach the nicely formatted page, but at least you have the information if
> you want it - by the way - cool pencil facts at the bottom of the section.
> Sue Stevens
> All about the
> In ancient Rome, scribes wrote on papyrus (an early form of paper from
> Egypt) with a thin metal rod called a stylus, which left a light but
> readable mark. Other early styluses were made of lead. Today we still call
> the core of a pencil the "lead" even though it is made from nontoxic
> Graphite came into widespread use following the discovery of a large
> graphite deposit in Borrowdale, England in 1564. Graphite left a darker mark
> than lead, making it ideal for use by writers and artists, but was so soft
> and brittle that it required a holder. At first, sticks of graphite were
> wrapped in string. Later, the graphite was inserted into wooden sticks that
> had been hollowed-out by hand!
> The hardness or softness of these pencils was dependent on the quality or
> purity of the graphite, and so was difficult - or impossible - to control.
> Different methods of refining and mixing of graphite were experimented with
> over the years, but it was not until about 1795 that a Frenchman,
> Nicolas-Jacques Cont?, developed a process for making pencil leads that is
> still in use today. The process, known as the Cont? Process, involves the
> mixing of finely powdered graphite with finely ground clay particles and
> shaping and baking the mixture. By controlling the ratio of clay to
> graphite, varying degrees of hardness can be obtained, as well as fairly
> consistent and reproducible quality from batch to batch.
> By the beginning of the twentieth century, a combination letter-number
> system had been established and was in use by nearly all European pencil
> makers, and was also used for some American-made pencils. This system is
> still in use today, and provides for a wide range of grades, usually
> consisting of the series:
> 9H, 8H, ... , 2H, H, F, HB, B, 2B, ... , 8B, 9B
> where 9H (Hardness) is the hardest, 9B (Blackness) is the softest. The
> letter "F" is also used to indicate that the pencil sharpens to a fine pont.
> At the same time, a number-only system was in use, particularly in the U.S.,
> which is still in use. The list below indicates approximate equivalents
> between the two systems:
> #1 --- B, #2 --- HB, #2? --- F, #3 --- H, #4 --2H
> The common #2, or HB grade pencil in the middle of the range, is considered
> to be the preferred grade for general purpose writing. Harder pencils are
> most often used for drafting purposes, while softer grades are usually
> preferred by artists.
> Pencils have been painted yellow ever since the 1890s. And that bright
> colour isn't just so you can find them on your desk more easily! During the
> 1800s, the best graphite in the world came from China. American pencil
> makers wanted a special way to tell people that their pencils contained
> Chinese graphite. In China, the colour yellow is associated with royalty and
> respect. American pencil manufacturers began painting their pencils bright
> yellow to communicate this "regal" feeling and association with China.
> The typical pencil can draw a line 56.3 kilometers ( 35 miles) long!
> The average pencil can be sharpened 17 times.
> You can write about 45 000 words with a pencil.
> Each year, more than 14 billion pencils are produced.
> 300 000 pencils can be made from a sizeable tree.
> Until 1876 almost all pencils were square . Then hexagonal, round and other
> shapes began to appear.
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