Since the 14th century, artists have used sticks made from a mixture of lead and zinc, which were sometimes called "silver pencils", for drawing. Slate pencils have been known since the 16th century.

That night in 1565, a storm broke out in the English county of Cumberland. It rained continuously, and the gusts of wind were so strong that even the young strong trees bent down to the ground. It is not surprising that the next morning residents had to remove a lot of uprooted old trees from the road. Under one of them they found some previously unknown black stone.

Not much time has passed, and by royal decree this stone was categorically forbidden to be exported from England. In addition, the stone was allowed to be mined only six weeks a year. Violators were facing the death penalty... What is this stone that cost more than a human life? He was not a gem or a diamond, although he was in a "kinship relationship" with the latter. And it was valued for one quality: surprisingly soft, it left clear black marks on fabric, paper, light skin. So graphite was found, which became the main material for the production of pencils.

But, having determined the unsuitability of the new material for the manufacture of bullets, they began to produce thin, pointed sticks from it and used them for drawing.

These sticks were soft, dirty hands and were suitable only for drawing, but not for writing. In the 17th century graphite was sold on the streets. Artists, to make it more convenient and the stick was not so soft, clamped these graphite "pencils", between pieces of wood or twigs, wrapped in paper or tied with twine. The first document mentioning a wooden pencil is dated 1683. In Germany, the production of graphite pencils began in Nuremberg. The Germans, mixing graphite with sulfur and glue, received a rod of not such high quality, but at a lower price. To hide this, pencil manufacturers resorted to various tricks. Pieces of pure graphite were inserted into the wooden body of the pencil at the beginning and at the end, while a low-quality artificial rod was in the serenine. Sometimes the inside of the pencil was completely empty. The so-called "Nuremberg goods" did not enjoy a good reputation. The modern pencil was invented in 1794 by the talented French scientist and inventor Nicolas Jacques Conte.

Pencil History

At the end of the 18th century, the English Parliament imposed a strict ban on the export of precious graphite from Cumberland. For violating this prohibition, the punishment was severe, up to the death penalty. But despite this, graphite continued to be smuggled into central Europe, which led to an increase in its price. On the instructions of the French convention, Conte developed a recipe for mixing graphite with clay and producing high-quality rods from these materials. With the help of high temperature treatment, high strength was achieved, but an even more important fact is that changing the proportion of the mixture made it possible to make rods of different hardness, which served as the basis for the modern classification of pencils by hardness (it is indicated on the pencil): M (or B - for blackness) is soft and T (or H - for hardness) is hard. A standard (hard - soft) pencil, in addition to combinations of TM or HB, is denoted by the letter F (for fine point). P.S. Unlike Europe and Russia, in the USA a numerical scale is used to indicate hardness. Modern pencils use polymers that allow you to achieve the desired combination of strength and elasticity, make it possible to produce very thin pencils for mechanical pencils (up to 0.3 mm).

The hexagonal pencil shape was proposed at the end of the 19th century by Count Lothar von Fabercastle, noticing that round-section pencils often roll off inclined surfaces for writing. Almost two-thirds of the material that makes up a simple pencil goes to waste when it is sharpened. This prompted the American Alonzo Townsend to create a metal pencil in 1856. The graphite rod was placed in a metal tube and could be extended to the appropriate length if necessary.

This invention influenced the development of a whole group of products that are used everywhere today. The simplest design is a mechanical pencil with a 2 mm lead, where the rod is held by metal clamps (collet) - a collet pencil. The collet opens when the button on the end of the pencil is pressed, which leads to extension to a length adjustable by the owner of the pencil. Modern mechanical pencils are more advanced. Each time the button is pressed, the pencil section is automatically fed. Such pencils do not need to be sharpened, they are equipped with a built-in eraser (usually under the pencil feed button) and have a different fixed line thickness (0.3 mm, 0.5 mm, 0.7 mm, 0.9 mm, 1mm).

A very familiar combination of words is a simple pencil.

How was it born?

What does the word "simple" mean?

The device of the pencil itself or the kind of black trace that the pencil leaves?

But is it so simple, this simple pencil?

After all, in the language of specialists, it is called differently: black graphite. The life path of this seemingly unpretentious device for writing and drawing was also quite difficult. His distant ancestor can be considered a firebrand from the fire, with which primitive man created the first masterpieces of painting on the walls of caves.

With the advent of paper, new means for writing and drawing were required. Ink and ink were born. But carrying a bottle of ink everywhere with you, waiting for them to dry, suffering from blots and poor quality of pens is not an occupation for artists. Therefore, since time immemorial, painters have tried to use various improvised means.

Information has been preserved that graphite rods for writing and drawing were already known in ancient Greece. But with the decline of antiquity, the rods, like many other things, were forgotten by mankind. And when people faced the problem of what to draw, it was solved simply with charcoal. You could take a burnt twig from the hearth and draw. But this is a way for children. Professionals needed better tools at hand. They were recommended to cut dry and thin willow sticks, plan, sharpen on both sides, tie into bundles, and then: "Take a new pot and put enough in it so that the pot is full. Then take the lid and cover it with clay to make the pot impervious to smoke. In the evening, go to the baker, when he finishes work, put this pot in the oven and leave it there until morning, and in the morning see if the coals are well burned and if they are black enough." This is a recommendation from the "Treatise on Painting" by Cennino Cennini, an Italian painter of the Renaissance.

But, despite all the tricks, the coal was still coal — it fell off the paper, dirty hands, easily smeared on the drawing. The masters came up with different methods to combat this. For example, they covered the paper with an aqueous solution of glue and dried it. Then these sheets were painted with charcoal. When the work came to an end, the drawing was held over steam. As a result, the adhesive layer was moistened and absorbed charcoal. And when the drawing dried, the charcoal was already pretty well fixed.

Another way is to draw with metal stick pins.

He has also been known for a very long time. The lead gave the lines a pale gray color. They were not suitable for drawing, but they were quite suitable for lining lines for text. When a pin was made from a material to which lead was added, a darker line was obtained, which over time darkened even more under the influence of air. However, it could be easily erased with bread crumb or pumice stone. The silver pin left a dark gray line that turned brown in the air. But nothing could remove it, the silver pin did not forgive mistakes. It is clear that only such masters of drawing who did not draw a single extra line could use it. Silver drawings by Durer, Leonardo da Vinci, Lucas Cranach have survived to this day.

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