A pencil is a writing instrument that we have been using for ages. We all learned how to write with a pencil. Unlike pens, pencils allow us to erase the mistakes we make & rectify them. Graphite vs lead pencil, which is the better choice? Read below to decide for yourself!
1. A Peek into History
During the old days, people used a fine brush made from camel hair to write. It was a long time before the discovery of the pencil. Another writing material used was a thin metal stick called a stylus to make marks by scratching or shaping on papyrus, wax tablets, or palm leaves. This method and instrument of writing were widely used by the Romans.
2. Uncovering Mine Deposits
A violent storm uprooted the trees in Borrowdale parish in Cumbria, England in the mid-1500s, that led to the discovery of mine deposits of graphite. It was the first time when graphite was extracted. In its pure solid form, it was confused with the mineral lead. Graphite was thus named plumbago, where plumbum is the Latin word for lead ore. That is perhaps where the misconception that pencils contain lead along with graphite vs lead pencil debate arose. (See Why are people afraid of storms)
3. Making of Pencil
Graphite is a soft dark mineral form of carbon that is capable of leaving a dark mark. So, to get good writing material, it was used to make pencils. The earliest attempt of making the casing for graphite leads was in 1560 when an Italian couple Simonio & Lyndiana tried to fill the hollow sticks of juniper wood with the graphite. These pencils that they created were flat and oval-shaped.
Later, better methods were invented. In one of the methods, a wooden stick of the required length was taken, and a slit was made. Then, a graphite stick was inserted and glued into this slit. This technique is still in use today for making pencils. (See Why do some people chew on pens?)
4. Graphite vs Lead Pencil
There are no different things as a graphite pencil and a lead pencil. A pencil lead is only an indication of how graphite was confused with lead when it was discovered. People tend to think lead pencils have lead in their core and graphite pencils have graphite in their core. But every pencil lead is made of a mixture of graphite, & clay as its core.
5. Shades of Pencils
The color obtained from the pencils ranges from light grey to dark black. The mixture of graphite with clay and water decides the color of the pencil.
- If the amount of graphite is higher than the clay, then the writing tip will be soft, and the written form will be black in color, hence the name B pencils.
- If the amount of clay is higher than graphite, then the pencil lead is hard, hence the name H pencils.
- Other advances in pencil lead include the addition of grease or charcoal to the graphite mixture, or extra liquidated graphite, depending on its use.
6. Types of Pencils
Pencils are available in triangular, round, and hexagonal shapes. There are even bendable or flexible pencils in the market today. They can have standard sizes of 6 mm, 7 mm, and 19mm. There can be charcoal pencils, colored and watercolor pencils, grease pencils, and pencils with a solid or liquid form of graphite. The shape, size, and intensity of the pencil will depend on its use. There can even be mechanical pencils that look like pens due to their metal casing and push-up button, in which the thin lead is pushed out from the hole at the tip of the pencil. Based on uses, pencils are classified as:
- Carpentry pencils with properties of strength and anti-rolling.
- Copying pencils, also known as indelible pencils, were substituted for fountain pens.
- Library pencils are used for their leak-proof and disposable quality.
- Pencils used by animators, known as Erasable pencils. (See Why Animated movies are popular)
- Steno pencils used by Stenographer,
- Eyeliner pencils are used as cosmetics.
So, the confusion about graphite vs lead pencil is now solved. We know that graphite is the material that the pencil lead is made of. Lead is just the name given to sticks of graphite inserted in pencils for writing, drawing, sketching, and other purposes.