The history of the pencil

Table of Contents

A pencil, as the name suggests, should be a pen made of lead. However, the main raw material of the pencil core we use now is graphite instead of lead. It is called the pencil because long ago, people did write and keep accounts with lead. According to records, people used pencils in my country in the early Eastern Han Dynasty, more than 1900 years ago. In Europe, as early as the Greek and Roman periods, pencils were also used. But this kind of veritable pencil is not easy to use, the lead strip is easy to break, the handwriting is lighter in color, and the handwriting is blurred.   By the 16th century, the English began to use a graphite strips. At first, it was mainly used by merchants to mark goods, so people called it “printing stone”. According to legend, the “printing stone” was accidentally discovered by a shepherd.

   In 1564, a violent hurricane hit the plains of Camberley, England. After the storm subsided, a shepherd drove the sheep past the tree. He walked to the root pit curiously and found a large black stone exposed in the pit. “Strange, what is this?” So, he jumped into the pit and used his hand to model the “Black Stone”. The hand was immediately stained black; with a stroke of his nail, a trace appeared on the “Black Stone”. He had never seen this kind of black and soft “stone”.

  Looking at his black hands, the clever shepherd suddenly thought: Use it to mark the sheep, and his flock will not be mistaken. He quickly picked up a lot of “black stones” and took them away. Since this kind of “black stone” is like lead, it will make things that come into contact with it black, so the shepherds call it “black lead”.

   Later, a shrewd businessman saw the “black lead” and decided that it can earn money in it. At that time, the British trade was developed, and merchants had to mark and write numbers on the packaging bags of goods when doing business, but the businessmen had always suffered from not having ideal writing tools. The businessman unearthed the “black lead”, cut it into strips, wrapped it in cloth, affixed it with a trademark, and sold it to people in business.

   Actually, this kind of “black lead” is graphite. Compared with a real pencil, the handwriting is bold and eye-catching, and the effect is much better. Therefore, this “printing stone” business is booming. The entire ship of “printing stone” crosses the English Channel and is transported to the European continent, almost becoming an indispensable commodity in the trade of various countries.

After using the “printing stone” for a period of time, people discovered its inconvenience: the handwriting is too dark and easy to fall off; it will break when you apply pressure; it is also easy to get your hands dirty when writing. How to overcome these shortcomings of the “printing stone”? Until the 18th century, the German chemist Faber overcame this difficulty. 

Faber believed: To improve graphite, it is necessary to grind graphite into powder, and then bond it with a certain substance to achieve the goal. According to this idea, he carried out repeated experiments and found that after adding a certain amount of sulfur antimony and rosin to graphite powder, improved graphite can be obtained after heating and solidification. It has the right hardness, smooth writing, clear handwriting, and it is not easy to get your hands dirty. In order to protect the pen core, Faber also wraps the lead core with a strip of paper. Thus, a new type of pencil was born.

   In 1760, Faber raised funds to establish a pencil factory to mass-produce pencils. Its products are not only sold domestically but also shipped to the UK, France, and other places.

  After the French bourgeois revolution broke out in 1789, neighboring countries such as Britain and Germany imposed blockades on France, and pencils could not be shipped in. For French writers and painters, this is tantamount to breaking food. At that time, a painter named Conti made up his mind to develop a pencil by himself.

  Conti knew that the amount of graphite is very limited, and it is necessary to produce as many pencils as possible with as little graphite as possible. In order to achieve this goal, he mixed various materials into graphite powder for firing. As a result, he was surprised to find that by adding different amounts of clay to graphite or using different temperatures during firing, pencil cores with different properties can be obtained. In 1790, Conti produced various pencils for different purposes. The pen invented by Kandy is very effective and popular. It is said that Napoleon also likes to use this pen.

   However, whether it is the pencil invented by Faber or Conti, there is a big problem: When writing, if you don’t pay attention, the pen is still easier to break.

   In 1812, there was an ingenious carpenter in the United States—William Monroe “put on” a wooden coat for pencils. Monroe created a pencil with protection ingeniously, that is, cut a groove on two small wooden strips, then put the pencil core on one groove, apply glue, and then put the groove on the other small wooden strip. Align the center of the pencil to form a modern pencil. To this end, Monroe also developed a special machine for “dressing” pencil cores.    Since then, people have developed different pencils that are more suitable for various needs.

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