Pencil

by curiousmiscellany

The pencil was born shortly after the discovery of a large graphite deposit in Cumbria, England around 1500. Initially wrapped in sheepskin, graphite eventually found its home in a wooden encasement in 1560 when an Italian couple, Simonio and Lindiana Bernacotti, thought to hollow out a piece of juniper wood and insert a stick of graphite (today incense cedar is typically used). The hexagonal shape came in the early 1800s by an American pencil mill owner, (I kid you not) Ebeneezer Wood. In 1858, the pencil was crowned with an eraser and by the end of the Nineteenth Century, it donned for the first time its golden yellow robe.  Though perhaps dull and nothing special to us today, that particular shade of yellow was actually meant to evoke the romance of the Orient—copying the color of Manchu imperial dress—at a time when a new and richer deposit of graphite was found on the Siberian-Chinese border. As for the graphite itself, most pencils today are made from a mix of graphite powder and clay. They come in twenty plus grades, with a usual range from hard to soft: 9H being the hardest, HB being medium (Our No. 2 pencil is HB) and 9B being the softest. For the record, pencils were never made with lead though when graphite was discovered it was thought to be. In fact, the lead poisoning culprit was actually the yellow paint.

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