The Pencil

The origins of today’s pencil goes back to 1565, when a grey-black glistening substance was found in Borrowdale, in the Cumberland hills of England. It was said to be a ‘lead’ coloured material, greasy to touch an quick to stain the fingers. It became known as black-lead, and was found to be more convenient for a writing and drawing than pen and ink, because it could be rubbed out easily.

Ordinary lead pencils are probably the most versatile drawing tools that there are. There are a variety of grades ranging from Hard (9H to Soft 9B). The hardest is a 9H pencil and the softest the 9B. You will not need to use the whole range. For Graphics Technical drawing applications a 2H or 4H is best. For freehand drawing a HB or 2B will give the best results.

Staedtler tradition drawing pencil set

A good sharpener is essential when using traditional lead pencils to ensure you keep the point. It is also important to treat your pencils with respect as the lead can break inside the timber pencil if they are dropped or treated harshly.

As well as wooden pencils, there is also a large range of technical pencils otherwise known as Clutch Pencils. The advantage of these pencils is that you will get a consistent and even line thickness. Leads are available in the full range of hardness and in a variety of thicknesses. (0.35, 0.5, 0.7).

Drawing with a pencil

Key points in using a pencil.

  • Hold the pencil in a comfortable position.
  • You should hold the pencil about 20 to 30 mm from the point.
  • Avoid resting your hand on the paper as this can cause smudges. You should hold your hand slightly above the paper using your small finger as a guide.
  • Do not hold the pencil to tightly.
  • Keep your wrist firm and draw with your whole hand.
  • Placing a piece of paper under your drawing. It will give you a better finished result.

How is a pencil made?

Watch the following video sowing the manufacturing process of a pencil.