Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Mechanical pencils

# 2 Mechanical Pencil
copyright Jeanette Jobson

No, I haven't bailed out on Day 2 of the series. Yesterday was very busy for me and then drawing class in the evening so I had no time to post anything. However, I did a little drawing at lunch yesterday. This is one of my mechanical pencils. The photo of the image is awful and I'll do a scan later today and replace it.

I don't often use wood pencils since I moved over to mechanical pencils a few years ago I love their permanently sharp leads and the fact that the weight of the pencil never changes due to sharpening I have quite a few mechanical pencils ranging in size from 3mm to 9mm.

While many of the brand name mechanical pencils look and feel wonderful, I have to say that I can get the same results with a drugstore .99 cent pencil as I can with a $20 one. The only difference is in the lead softness, all the rest is packaging and has little bearing on the outcome of your image. The most expensive mechanical pencil I've found is the Porsche, made of stainless steel and calfskin at a hefty little price of 175 British pounds.

And now a little history of the mechanical pencil according to Wikipedia:
The mechanical pencil was first invented in Britain in 1822 by Sampson Mordan and Gabriel Riddle. Earliest Mordan pencils are thus hallmarked SMGR. Sampson Mordan continued manufacturing pencils and a wide range of silver objects until the second world war when their factory was bombed.

Between 1820 and 1873, more than 160 patents were registered pertaining to a variety of improvements to mechanical pencils. The first spring-loaded mechanical pencil was patented in 1877 and a twist-feed mechanism was developed in 1895. The 0.9mm lead was introduced in 1938, and later it was followed by 0.7mm, 0.5mm and 0.3mm versions. Even the 1.4mm version is available.

The mechanical pencil became successful in Japan with some improvements in 1915 by Tokuji Hayakawa, a metal worker who had just finished his apprenticeship. It was introduced as the Ever-Ready Sharp Pencil. Success was not immediate, since the metal shaft — essential for the pencil's long life — was unfamiliar to users. The Ever-Sharp began selling in huge numbers, however, after a company from Yokohama made a large order. Later Tokuji Hayakawa's company got its name from that pencil: Sharp.

At nearly the same time, in America, Charles R. Keeran was developing a similar pencil that would be the precursor of most of today's pencils. Keeran's design was ratchet-based, whereas Hayakawa's was screw-based. These two development histories are often combined into one.

The use of mechanical pencils became widespread after being popularised by Australian legal theorist Marcus Coleman who famously used one when drafting the Australian Constitution in the late 19th Century and injured himself with it in the process.

The Office Museum has a lot of information about the history of mechanical pencils.

Cult Pens Guide to Mechanical Pencils provides a wealth of information about mechanical pencils.

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