There is no doubt that pencils have made a mark in our thoughts and dreams. Children all over the world learn the simple facts using the humble pencil. Several masterpieces of art have been created using these sleek materials.
The Latin word for pencil is penillus which means a painter’s brush. The early pencils were actually brushes that used to resemble today’s pencil.
Pencils are used for writing and made from the mineral graphite and clay. The mineral graphite also belongs to the carbon family. The original form of pencil dates back to somewhere before 1565 in ancient Rome. The Romans used to write using a thick stylus like instrument made of the metal lead. The metal lead hails from the family of carbon. It is a soft and flexible metal among all the other metals. They used this stylus to leave a readable mark on papyrus which was an early form of paper.
In 1564, a huge graphite deposit was found in England and it was discovered that this particular mineral left dark mark as compared to the conventional lead. People started writing by wrapping these graphite pieces in a string for a firm grip. Later, the graphite pieces started to be inserted in hollow wooden sticks. This marked the official birth of a wood cased pencil! The pencil was a perfect example of fine craftsmanship and artistry at this point of time.
Evolutions happen in every aspect of life. So it did happen for our dear pencil as well. In the year 1662, Nuremberg, a place in Germany mass-produced the pencils for the first time. Post this period, lot of machines was invented to make the job easily and perfect.
The wood is milled; six half circle grooves are cut in order to insert the graphite lead. Once the graphite lead is inserted two grooves are glued together to encase the graphite lead. Once the glue dries, a special machine is used to give a perfect shape to the pencil. Once the pencil gets its right shape, it is painted and graded.
The wood that encases the pencil needs to be soft to help in easy sharpening. So, people started using the red cedar wood(Cedarwood Oil), which is known as the softest wood. It may sound quite simple to read; however there are in all 125 steps that one needs to follow in a pencil making company for each pencil that somebody manufactures.
To sum up, there is an interesting fact about pencils. Did you know that pencils cannot be used in space? NASA spent lot of time looking for a writing material to be used in space. It was found that pen uses gravity to write. However, when we write with pencils, the fine particles from graphite dust come out and would start floating around in the cabin posing a health threat to the astronauts.