one of the oldest and also most widely supplied writing utensils, the pencil originated in pre-historic times once chalky rocks and also charred pole were used to attract on surface as differed as animal hides and cave walls. The Greeks and Romans used flat pieces of command to draw faint present on papyrus, however it was not until the so late 1400s that the earliest direct ancestor that today's pencil was developed. Around one century later graphite, a common mineral occurring as soft, lustrous veins in rocks, was discovered near Borrowdale in northwestern England. The Borrowdale mine supplied Europe v graphite for numerous hundred years; however, since people might not climate differentiate in between graphite and lead, they described the previous as "black lead." cut into rods or strips, graphite was heavily wrapped in twining to provide strength and a comfortable handle. The finished product, dubbed a command pencil, was fairly popular. In the late sixteenth century, a method for gluing strips that wood around graphite was found in Germany, and also the modern pencil started to take it form. In 1779, scientists identified that the product they had previously assumed was command was actually a kind of microcrystalline carbon the they named graphite (from the Greek "graphein" an interpretation "to write"). Graphite is one of the three natural forms of pure carbon—the others room coal and also diamond.

In the so late eighteenth century the Borrowdale mine was depleted, and, together graphite was now much less plentiful, other materials had to be combined with it to develop pencils. A Frenchman chemist, Nicolas Jacques Conte, found that once powdered graphite, powdered clay, and water were mixed, molded, and also baked, the perfect product composed as smoothly as pure graphite. Conte likewise discovered that a more difficult or softer composing core might be created by varying the relationship of clay and also graphite—the an ext graphite, the blacker and softer the pencil. In 1839, Lothar von Faber of Germany occurred a method of do graphite paste into rods that the same thickness. That later invented a machine to cut and groove the pencil wood. Adhering to the depletion the the once-abundant graphite resource at Borrowdale, various other graphite mines were progressively established about the world.

A number of these mines were collection up in the united States, and the first American pencils were produced in 1812, after ~ the battle of 1812 finished English imports. William Monroe, a cabinet machine in Concord, Massachusetts, created a an equipment that cut and grooved timber slats precisely enough to make pencils. About that time, American inventor Joseph Dixon emerged a an approach of cutting single cedar cylinders in half, place the graphite main point in among the halves, and then gluing the two halves earlier together. In 1861, Eberhard Faber developed the unified States' an initial pencil-making factory in new York City.

Today, the hardness of a pencil is designated by numbers or letters. Many manufacturers use the numbers 1 to 4, v 1 gift the softest and also making the darkest mark. Number 2 pencils (medium soft) are provided for common writing. Pencils are additionally sometimes graded by letters, from 6B, the softest, to 9H, the hardest. The idea of it is registered an eraser come a pencil is traced to Hyman W. Lipman, one American whose 1858 U.S. Patent to be bought through Joseph Rechendorfer in 1872 for a reported $100,000.

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The first step in pencil manufacture entails making the graphite core. One method of law this is extrusion, in which the graphite mixture is forced through a die opening the the ideal size.

In enhancement to the conventional timber pencil, a number of other pencils are widely used. In the beforehand 1880s, the find for a pencil the didn't require sharpening brought about the development of what has actually variously been termed the automatic, propelling, or repeating pencil. These instruments have actually a steel or plastic case and also use leads similar to those uncovered in lumber cased pencils. The lead, lodged in a metal spiral inside the case, is organized in ar by a rod through a metal stud fastened to it. When the lid is twisted, the rod and stud relocate downward in the spiral, forcing the lead toward the point. The early on twentieth century witnessed the advance of colored pencils in i m sorry the graphite main point was changed by a mix of colours or dyes and also a binder. Today, fancy pencils are obtainable in much more than 70 colors, with 7 various yellows and 12 various blues. However, the cedar-casing command pencil—manufactured in ~ a pace of 6 billion per year in 40 various countries—continues to outsell all of its competitors, consisting of the ballpoint pen.

Raw products

The most crucial ingredient in a pencil is the graphite, which most human being continue to contact lead. Conté's an approach of combining graphite through clay is tho used, and also wax or various other chemicals are sometimes included as well. Essentially all graphite supplied today is a produced mixture of herbal graphite and chemicals.

The wood used to produce pencils must have the ability to withstand recurring sharpening and cut easily without splintering. Many pencils room made indigenous cedar (specifically, California cedar), the an option wood for countless years. Cedar has a satisfied odor, does no warp or lose its shape, and also is easily available. Part pencils have erasers, i m sorry are held on with a ferrule, a metal case that is either glued or hosted on with steel prongs. The erasers us consist the pumice and also rubber.

The manufacturing procedure

now that many commercially offered graphite is made in factories rather than mined, manufacturers room able to easily control its density. The graphite is mixed with clay according to the type of pencil being made—the an ext graphite used, the softer the pencil, and also the darker its line. Because that colored pencils, colors are added to the clay, and virtually no graphite is used.

processing the graphite

1 Two techniques are provided to form the graphite right into its finished state. The an initial is an extrusion an approach in i m sorry the graphite and wax mixture is compelled through a mold to develop a spaghetti-like string, which is then reduced to an exact measurements and dried in ovens. In the 2nd method, the graphite and also clay mixture is poured into a device called a billet press. A plug is inserted over the height of the press, and also a metal ram ascends indigenous the bottom to squash the mixture right into a hard, heavy cylinder called a "billet." The billet is then gotten rid of from the optimal of the device and inserted into an extrusion push that pressures it v a mold, slicing turn off strips the

To do the lumber casings for the pencils, square slats room formed, and also then grooves are reduced into the slats. Next, graphite pole are put into the grooves top top one slat, and also then a 2nd slat through empty grooves is glued on peak of the graphite-filled slot. Appropriately sized pencils are reduced out of the sandwich, and the eraser and metal ferrule are attached.

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size of the pencil core. After being cut to size, the cores pass follow me a conveyor belt and also are gathered in a trough come await insertion in the pencil wood.

do the lumber casings

2 The cedar generally arrives at the factory currently dried, stained, and waxed, to protect against warping. Logs are then sawed right into narrow strips referred to as "slats"; this are around 7.25 inch (18.4 centimeters) long, .25 inch (.635 centimeter) thick, and 2.75 inches (6.98 centimeters) wide. The slats are put into a feeder and also dropped, one-by-one, top top a conveyor belt which moves them follow me at a continuous rate. 3 The slats room then planed to provide them a flat surface. Next, they pass under a cutter head that renders parallel semicircular grooves—one half as deep as the graphite is thick—along the size of one side of every slat. Continuing along the conveyor belt, fifty percent of the slats room coated through a class of glue, and also the cut graphite is laid in the grooves of these slats. 4 The slats there is no glue—and without graphite in the grooves—are inserted on another belt that carries them come a device that choose them up and turns castle over, for this reason they room laying on the belt through the grooves encountering down. The 2 conveyor belts then meet, and each unglued slat is inserted over a slat with glue and also graphite, forming a sandwich. ~ the sandwiches have been eliminated from the conveyor belt, they are placed into a metal clamp and squeezed by a hydraulic press and also left clamped together until the glue is dried. As soon as the pencils space dried, the ends space trimmed to eliminate excess glue.

Shaping the pencils

5 The following step is shaping, as soon as the sandwiches actually come to be pencils. The sandwiches are inserted on a conveyor belt and moved through two set of cutters, one above and one listed below the belt. The cutters over the sandwiches cut approximately the peak half, when the lower set cuts roughly the bottom fifty percent and separates the finished pencils. The majority of pencils are hexagonal, so designed to keep the pencils indigenous rolling off surfaces; a single sandwich yields 6 to nine hexagonal pencils.

final steps

6 after the pencils have been cut, their surfaces space smoothed by sanders, and also varnish is applied and dried. This is done with varnishing machines, in i beg your pardon the pencils room immersed in a vat the varnish and also then passed v a feel disk, which removes the overfill varnish. After ~ drying, the pencils are put through the procedure again and again till the desired shade is achieved. Finally, the pencils receive a finishing coat. 7 The pencils once again are sent on a conveyor belt through shaping machines, i m sorry remove any type of excess varnish the has built up on the ends of the pencils. This step additionally ensures that every one of the pencils are the same length. 8 Erasers space then attached, organized to the pencil through a round, metal situation called a "ferrule." The ferrule first attaches come the pencil either through glue or with little metal prongs, and then the eraser is inserted and also the ferrule clamped approximately it. In the final step, a cook steel dice presses the firm logo onto each pencil.

colored pencils

fancy pencils are developed in much the same way as black-writing pencils, other than that your cores contain coloring materials such as dyes and pigments rather of graphite. First, clay and gum are included to pigment as bonding agents, and then the mixture is wet in wax to give the pencils smoothness. As soon as the pencils have been formed, the outsides room painted follow to the shade of the facility mixture.

Quaility control

because they take trip along a conveyor belt during the manufacturing process, pencils are thoroughly scrutinized before they are dispersed to the public. Workers room trained come discard pencils that show up dysfunctional, and also a choose number room sharpened and tested once the process is complete. A usual problem is that the adhesive of the sandwiches occasionally doesn't adhere, however this nuisance is usually captured when the sandwiches room being cut.

where To Learn more


Fischler, George. fractional Pens and also Pencils. Schiffer Publishing, 1990.

Petroski, Henry. The Pencil: A background of Design and Circumstance. Knopf, 1990.

Thomson, Ruth. making Pencils. Franklin Watts, 1987.


Leibson, Beth. "A Low-Tech Wonder." Reader's Digest. July, 1992, p. 92.

Lord, Lewis J. "The little Artifact the Could." U.S. News & civilization Report. January 22, 1990, p. 63.

Sprout, Alison. "Recycled Pencil." Fortune. June 15, 1992, p. 113.

Urbanski, Al. "Eberhard Faber: the Man, the Pencil, the Born-Again Marketing Company." Sales & Marketing Management. November, 1986, p. 44.