The Pencil

When you think of the written word we rarely think of the writing instrument used to produce the words on paper. All of us probably can imagine a feather being used to produce words when dipped in ink, but how did the pencil evolve?

The forerunners of the pencil were camel hairs and thin metal sticks used for scratching on to a surface. When a pure deposit of graphite was discovered in England in the 16th Century, our current model for a pencil came about. The graphite was thought to be lead, and lead is still described today as the core of the pencil.

The graphite used in pencils at first was pure and cut into lengths. But it was very fragile and had to have a covering to keep it from breaking. Originally sheepskin was used.

Wooden casings for pencils were then developed to hold the graphite. Two wooden halves with a groove for the graphite were glued together once the graphite was placed in the grooves. This process, developed in the 16th Century, remains the process used today.

England was the only source of pure graphite which could be formed into the pencil. Germany developed a way to make graphite sticks from powdered graphite, which was more available.

Settlers in America had to import pencils from Europe until 1812. Concord Massachusetts became the pencil capital of the colonies when an ingenious inventor discovered how to make a pencil out of inferior graphite using a clay binder. The inventor’s name was Henry David Thoreau, whose father had a pencil factory.

It was in 1858 when a patent was issued for an eraser. Over time, many variations were added to pencils. When you think of the beginnings of pencils, you realize that rather than one beginning it was, in reality, a series of beginnings in materials used, production, processes, aesthetics, and uses. Virtually all of the pencil improvements were done without the pursuit of patent protection.

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“Map out your future, but do it in pencil.” – Jon Bon Jovi (Singer)

How To Use

Useful guides for incorporating messages into discussion.