Some Background on the Original Word Processor -- Pencils
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From: Peter Langston <psl>
Date: Tue, 17 Aug 99 12:20:15 -0700
Subject: Some Background on the Original Word Processor -- Pencils
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Why are most pencils yellow?
Pencils have been painted yellow ever since the 1890s.
During the 1800s, the best graphite in the world came from China. American
pencil makers wanted a special way to tell people that their pencils
contained Chinese graphite. In China, the color yellow is associated with
royalty and respect. American pencil manufacturers began painting their
pencils bright yellow to communicate this "regal" feeling and association
Today, 75% of the pencils sold in the United States are painted yellow.
Believe it or not . . . There's no lead in pencil lead!
The center of the pencil - known as the writing core - is made of a nontoxic
mineral called graphite. Graphite came into widespread in the 16th century,
following the discovery of a large graphite deposit in Borrowdale, England.
Graphite left a dark mark, making it ideal for use by writers and artists.
But it was so soft and brittle that it required a holder. At first, sticks
of graphite were wrapped in string. Later, the graphite was inserted into
wooden sticks that had been hollowed-out by hand! The wood-cased pencil was
Today's writing cores are a mixture of graphite and clay. By varying the
ratio of graphite to clay, pencil makers can adjust the "hardness" of the
The hardness of the core is often marked on the pencil -- look for a number
(such as "2" or "3"). The higher the number the harder the writing core.
Some pencil manufacturers use the letter "H" to indicate a hard pencil.
Pencil makers also use combinations of letters -- a pencil marked "HB" is
hard and black; a pencil marked "HH" is very hard, and a pencil marked
"HHBBB" is very hard and really, really black.
© 1999 Peter Langston