The fascinating
pencil’s history

The pencil looks as casual, simple and honest thay it may get unnoticed. It’s like a leftover, forgotten and underrated. However, it’s a unique item, essential and magical. An excepcional design example because its simplicity and functionality.

The pencil looks as casual, simple and honest thay it may get unnoticed. It’s like a leftover, forgotten and underrated. However, it’s a unique item, essential and magical. An excepcional design example because its simplicity and functionality.

The pencil have been with us since relatively recently. You can say it was born from a spell, when a lightning stroke on a Borrowdale’s oak and left a graphite streak, a stone capable to draw.

First was used to mark the sheep, envolved in ropes or leather.  Graphite was knowed before, but the mineral removed from those mines was so pure and solid, that it could be cut ny bars and be manipulated in shapes that they could before. They called it “black lead”.
England held the graphite’s monopoly until Germany managed to develop new compounds with acceptable quality mixing graphite powder  with sulfur and antimony. In 1760 the company Faber began the large-scale manufacturing.
Graphite became a scarce resource with a high strategic value for its application in the mold drawing weapons. In the Napoleonic France ( those times isolated from the rest of Europe) it was very difficult to get it, so the engineer Nicholas Jacques Conté developed his own system by baking a mixture of graphite powder and clay. A system that is still the most used with some improvements .

When this new material, much cheaper than the pure graphite, was coated with cedar wood to make it more manageable our current pen born . It was lacking some refinements (such as giving hexagonal shape) but that will happen some time later, in the mid-1800s.

The color pencils are made from pigments, resins and oils that give them different consistencies and capabilities, but the manufacturing process varies slightly from the one used for graphite’s.

Another story is the eraser, the special buddy for the pencil . This one could be managed risk and stains free, but, over all, could be erased. At the end with fresh bread (who didn?t use it sometime?) and later with rubber but this one was rotten easily. Until the vulcanized process, when the modern eraser was born.

The pencil can be used as example for our development process. A tool that connects the most traditional aspects from our culture with the chemical’s and engineering’s and finally with the artistic creation and dissemination of knowledge. Few things have been so important in our history.

Like any other technique of artistic accomplishment, pencil and color pencil  are neither better nor more difficult than others. Also they can’t be considered less “noble” than oils, watercolor or acrylic. They are simply another technique, with its peculiarities and difficulties. We tend to think that they are  almost destined for children’s scribbling, but we hope make it clear that they are not from the works shown here. They can be much more …

Need more information about the pen? read you the interesting article “La exquisita complejidad del lápiz” by  Sergio Parra in www.yorokobu.es.

You also have Wikipedia or this curious video of manufacturing process of colored pencils Caran d’Ache.