First of all, pencils do not contain lead. Today’s ingredients – a liquid mixture of graphite and clay – are pressed through a thin hole during the production of crayons. The strand is then cut to size, burned in an oven and enclosed by two wooden strips.
The pencils have not contained lead for more than 400 years. Only the name reminds of the time when lead was written. When graphite was discovered in northern England in 1564, it quickly replaced the poisonous lead. Graphite is much better for writing because it is non-toxic and because it is one of the softest minerals. If you press a graphite pencil on paper, thin flakes dissolve, leaving a black mark.
The mix does it
For the production of pencil leads, or graphite mines, clay is also used. Both materials are ground very finely and then mixed. Depending on the mixing ratio, you can make a stronger or weaker pencil. The higher the graphite content, the softer the mine, the higher the clay content, the harder the shaft.
The mixture is pressed through a small hole in the liquid state, resulting in a thin strand. The is then cut into appropriate lengths and fired at 1000 to 1200 degrees Celsius in an oven. Burning turns the strand into a hard mine. Then two cut wooden strips are glued together around the mine. In the wood pieces, a groove has been milled lengthwise in the middle, in which the mine finds room. The colored pencil has no lead. You can read our Best Colored Pencil Sharpener Reviews to buy the best one.
Why so many types?
On most pencils, you will find an abbreviation that indicates the hardness of the pencil. The letter B stands for “black,” HB for “hard-black,” F for “firm” and H for “hard.” B and H are available in nine strengths (B to B9 and H to H9, respectively). There are slight differences between the manufacturers, so that a B2 from one manufacturer may be softer than a B2 from another manufacturer. Each hardness is best suited to a specific task. Harder pencils are used for writing and technical drawing, while softer ones are more suitable for artistic work. There are also pencils made of graphite only, making them even softer. You can have a look at our Who Invented the Pencil?