Invention of pencil


Saaransh : Mom, awaiting today’s bedtime story. Which story will you share today?

Mom : Guess the riddle and you will know the subject of today’s story.

Saaransh : Yay! I love the riddles.

Mom : This is an item you use. To write something, You keep it sharp on one end.

In the center there is a lead.

Can you guess what is it?

Saaransh : Is it Pencil? Oh, yah so the story is about Pencil Invention.

Mom : Yes, you guessed it right.

It was a usual day for people in Borrowdale, England. They saw a huge tree fell over. Under that tree locals noticed the rock layer with dark metallic grey color. This was the first graphite mine discovered. This can be considered as historic find because of the importance of pencil in our life. Since the knowledge of chemistry was at budding stage around this time people mistook it as lead. But it was not a metal.

Looking at the dark impression it had, locals started using it to mark their sheep. As it was messy and brittle to handle, they wrapped it in cloth / strings or even in sheep skin. People started selling this new tool on the streets which was called pencil a Latin derived name which means a small tail.

During that time new found pencil had edge over the quill pen. The pencil was completely dry, unlike Quill pen, there was no need to bother about spilling ink, and resulted in a dark mark on the paper compared to lead earlier used by Romans. Gradually this pencil became popular. America, Germany, France started production of pencil. The only known natural source of mistaken lead was in England.

Saaransh : Why you said mistaken lead?

Mom : That was in reality a graphite made of carbon. Hence, I referred it as mistaken lead

During Napoleonic wars, the graphite supply to France was ceased by British crown. This compelled France to find the alternative. French army officer, Nicolas Jacques Conte found a way to make pencil using limited amount of graphite. He mixed the graphite powder with clay, water and roasted at high temperatures. Resultant mixture was then encased in wooden covering. Thus the pencil was invented in 1795 by Nicolas. This paved way to the modern age pencil what you use today.

Saaransh : What is the use of clay in pencil?

Mom : Amount of clay determines the intensity of black impression created by pencil. More the quantity of clay that much lighter would be the pencil. This is how the variety of pencils came into existence as HB, 2HB, 3HB, 4HB, etc.

Saaransh : What does this HB stand for?

Mom : Good question

H – Hard and B – Black.

Do you know how this graphite word derived?

Saaransh : How?

Mom : Graphite derived from the Greece word Graphene which means ‘To write’

Now you know the interesting facts about the pencil which you use so frequently.

It’s time to retire for the day! Good night.

Saaransh : Good night! Mom.



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