Secret Scotland

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Today is Mechanical Pencil Day

July 5 is Mechanical Pencil Day.

While  the world has moved towards digital communication in all it various formats, mechanical pencils still make writing and design easier than ever before. Mechanical Pencil Day celebrates the history of these pencils and encourages people to celebrate mechanical pencils and their many uses in our daily lives.

Digital may allow more accurate final work to be completed, but it still seems to be easier to get initial ideas out of your head using your favourite type of pencil, as marks are easily erased and altered. Pens can be fine too, but you have to be more certain of placing lines.

I’ve tended to favour mechanical pencils, starting with the clutch type (where expanding, spring-loaded jaws hold a fairly thick lead, which can be sharpened or shaped to suit), then advancing to the fixed diameter types with leads of (usually) 0.2, 0.3, 0.5, 0.7, and 0.9 mm, all in the usual grades of hardness, or colours.

Unlike nearly all the other types, these provide an accurate and consistent line width as they are used and wear down – and as they wear, it takes no more than a click on a button (at the top, or on the side) to advance the lead and carry on working, almost uninterrupted.

Smarter pencils of the type even offer automatic lead advance as it wears down, but I’ve found these to be unsatisfactory, as the tip length varies since it has to wear down and move a sleeve to activate the advance. That gets irritating, and more distracting than just pressing the button when needed – you never know when the lead will extend slightly, and the sleeve gets in the way when using the lead against a ruler or other guide, as it offsets it from the edge.

The only useful gadget I’ve found on such a pencil is one which rotates the lead (using the advance to add rotation to the extension made by each click), avoiding the biased wear which can develop and increase the line width (albeit slight) as the tip wears into an oval, if held at an angle.

Don’t forget the original wood pencil, which is still best for very wide lines, shaped points, shading, or any job which doesn’t demand a finer and more consistent line.

Pencils arrived around the time that graphite deposits were discovered in Europe during the early 16th century. The basic design was invented in 1565 by Conrad Gesner, a naturalist, and bibliographer from Switzerland. These were graphite sticks wrapped in string, later wood so it could be sharpened.

I didn’t mention the older type of mechanical pencil more commonly referred to as a ‘propelling pencil, and dating from before 1900.

I tried these many times, but found them to be… horrible!

Even the newest ones I tried didn’t hold their (fairly thick, maybe more than 1 mm) firmly or securely, meaning it wobbled around and rattled inside its supporting sleeve, so couldn’t really be placed accurately on the paper. Some even receded back into the body as they were used, as the mechanism allowed them to slide back inside under writing pressure. Very few were even sufficiently well-designed to be held, tending to be more decorative than functional.

The first mechanical pencil that moved the lead instead of manually sharpening the lead was patented in 1822 by Sampson Mordan and John Isaac Hawkins in Britain.

Mechanical pencils generally operate by one of three methods: ratchet, clutch, or screw.

Users now have the ability to create fine details and don’t have to use a pencil sharper. Mechanical Pencil Day celebrates the history of mechanical pencils and how it is today used in workplaces and schools all over the world.

People celebrate the day by collecting antique mechanical pencils, reading up on the history of these pencils, and appreciating its uses in daily life.

I would have this fairly rare gem in my collection as my personal favourite, for personal reasons, having inherited mine.

But, I made a silly mistake one day, decades ago, and lost it.

Staedtler Tekagraph

Staedtler Tekagraph


05/07/2019 - Posted by | Civilian |

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