Today, we will discuss the basic but one of the most important art tools — pencil, but to be more explicit about its core. Thus, if you ask yourself, “what is pencil lead” and “where does pencil lead come from” then this article is for you! I always learn, and once I find something interesting, I want to spread this information among all my friends and soul mates.
What Is a Pencil Lead Actually?
Everyone knows that lead is a type of metal. But you might have noticed that the writing material which is inside any pencil, including a mechanical one, hardly resembles metal.
The pencil core is just called “lead,” but there is nothing in common with iron ore. Meanwhile, the core contains a carbon mineral, mainly graphite.
The pencil casing is usually made of wood that firmly holds the lead. In case of mechanical ones, the body is plastic, and the core is retractable and easy to remove.
The Origin of the Pencil Lead
The first mention of pencil lead was in the middle of the second millennium in Borrowdale, England, when, highly likely after the storm, the tree stumps exposed an unknown black substance. The people living there took advantage of it by marking their sheep with that material. And mistakenly, since the substance looked like plumbum, they called it “lead.”
Gradually, people guessed that the tree fractions could be cut and used as writing sticks.
That location became the only known place in Europe where the lead was at that time.
Eventually, there was established the Cumberland (Derwent) Pencil Museum.
It took almost two centuries to discover that the “lead” was actually a type of carbon mineral. That finding belongs to chemist Carl Scheele. Besides, there appeared another word, “graphite,” which means “to write” in Greek. However, the majority of people still were using the more familiar word “lead.”
In a while, people found other deposits of that marking substance, but it had a less solid structure. And at the end of the 18th century, Nicholas Jaques Conte discovered that the lead powder thoroughly mixed with clay and baked in a furnace allows forming any shape of the lead. That was a huge step to a pencil prototype.
How a Pencil Lead Is Made?
As already mentioned, the main ingredient of lead is graphite. Furthermore, the manufacturing process hasn’t changed a lot from that one that was in the 18th century.
The production of pencil lead is not an easy task since it requires graphite mining. Once the coal is gotten from the underground (whatever form it has: lumps or flakes), it’s loaded in a grinder that turns it into powder. After that, the powder is nicely mixed with clay, formed in thin sticks that go to the furnace at a high temperature. After the baking process, the leads are inserted into the wooden barrels with bonds. Once the assembled parts are dried off, the pencils are ready.
What About Colored Pencil Leads?
There is not much difference between color and regular graphite core. However, there are some additives in colored cores. In particular, there is a color pigment and extenders.
The color pigments differ from manufacturer to manufacturer, and the more they are expensive, the more durability, vibrance, and lightfastness they show. Besides, the recipes and technologies on how to make color cores are under the top-secret among companies.
The extenders are also crucial in colored pencil manufacturing. They are responsible for core softness, consequently, application characteristics.
It seems that there is no big deal with pencils, but they do have an enormous influence on humanity. That is why it’s pretty important to know the history of the first writing tools, particularly lead. Hopefully, this article revealed all the secrets. Now you know everything about the pencil core and will never ask “What is lead?” again.
Don’t forget to tell your friends about your findings, or it’s better to share this article on social media.