Before the graphite pencil was invented, people had to use other materials to draw lines on paper. The earliest known pencil was a sharpened clay rod used in Ancient Greece and Rome.
Later, people used wooden pencils, which required sharpening the wood every few strokes to get a new point. This process was time-consuming and tedious, making the graphite pencil a huge improvement.
Even after the graphite ore was discovered and processed into pure carbon deposits called graphite, artists still had to use other materials to draw with. Pencils were one such material that gained popularity due to its ease of use and light color.
Because it is so soft, however, many artworks today have holes or gaps in the drawn lines due to either pressing too hard or moving the drawing while it is drying.
History of pen use
The first known pens were in Ancient Egypt, where reed pens were used. These reed pens were fragile and required maintenance.
Reed pens were also used in Mesopotamia, or present-day Iraq, where the thick reeds that grew locally were used to make the pen tips. These tips had to be thick so they did not break when pressed against the papyrus surface.
Carved bone was then used as a pen point to write with ink. Both of these civilizations had to constantly replace and repair their pens due to this poor quality, which makes keeping track of time spent writing quite difficult!
The next major development in pen use came with the invention of parchment, a material similar to paper but made of animal skin. Parchment is durable so does not need constant replacement or repair.
Later on, in seventh century China, brushes became the most common writing instrument. This continued all the way until the 20th century when ballpoint and felt-tip pens became more popular.
When the pen was first invented, it was a liquid ink device that required pressure to push the ink from the reservoir through the channel and onto the paper.
As technology advanced, so did the pen. The gel pen emerged as a variation of the liquid ink pen. The gel pen allowed for more flexible thicknesses of line due to its thicker texture of ink.
The pencil, on the other hand, does not require any external pressure to produce a solid line on paper. The pencil is a solid material that has an exposed tip that can be rubbed against paper to produce a line.
The combination of these two common writing instruments creates a new variation-the gelpencil. A gelpencil is composed of both a gel pen and a pencil inside of its casing. This allows for more flexibility in line thickness due to the thicker ink in the gel pen and the solidity of the pencil.
A marble pen is one of the first forms of a pencil. A marble pen is made by carving out a piece of marble and then grinding it down to make a point. Then, another piece of stone or metal is placed on either end and held in place by string or thread.
Marble pens are very difficult to make, as the material needed to make them is very hard to work with. Because of this, only a few people have made them and they are quite rare.
Unlike graphite pencils, marble pens do not have a casing around the lead, making them much less protective and more prone to breaking. This makes them less useful for drawing complex drawings and sketches.
Despite being one of the first forms of drawing instruments, the marble pen was not widely used until the Renaissance era, when it became the predecessor of the pencil.
Before the pencil, there was the quill pen. Quill pens were made from the feathers of birds, typically geese. The long, narrow strip of feather was trimmed down to a point and then soaked in ink to ensure that it would not break when writing.
Like the pencil, the quill pen had a shaft or handle and a tip made of soft material that left a mark when pressed onto paper. The difference was that the quill pen had no inner core to reinforce the structure.
The softer tips of quill pens allowed for more delicate handwriting than pencils. However, because they were soft feather tips, they did not last very long. Additionally, it was more difficult to control how thick or thin the lines were written.
Quill pens were the predecessor to graphite pencils due to their similar shape as a writing instrument.
Inkwells were used to keep the ink fresh
The first known ink was made from tree soot. This was a very difficult material to work with, as it was very thick and hard to spread. It also took a long time to dry, which could be problematic when trying to write or read the text.
As time went on, ink became more refined. Materials like gallnuts, tannins, and cinnabar were added to the mix to make it thicker and slower-drying. This was done for the sake of convenience; it is easier to use an ink that takes a long time to dry than one that does not!
Ink became more diverse as different cultures learned new ways of making it. For example, Chinese ink is known for being very black and subtle in color. This is due to the use of special minerals like manganese in the mix.
The evolution of the pencil lead
Before the graphite pencil, there was the charcoal pencil. Charcoal is created by burning a substance and then rubbing a stick or paper against it. This creates a fine black dust, called charcoal.
Originally, charcoal was used to draw on stone walls and ceilings. It was popular because it was easy to smear and erase, just like with paper.
The name “pencil” comes from the plant husk that is used to hold the charcoal powder in place. The first known use of the term “pencil” was in 1662.
Until the 20th century, most pencils were made of natural materials such as wood or bamboo, with a soft lead inside.
Different types of pencil leads
While graphite is the most common pencil lead material, there are a few other types of leads you will find in the world. These include clay, plastic, and silicon.
Clay pencils are very popular especially in art classes. These pencils have a soft clay lead that needs to be pressed onto the paper rather than carved across it. These are fun and creative but difficult to use due to the soft lead.
Plastic pencil leads are exactly what they sound like- plastic. These leads are very common in office and classroom pencil sharpeners due to their durability. They can break easily, though, so careful handling is recommended.
Si Silicon has been used as a lead in some specialty pens and pencils. This material is more expensive and environmentally unfriendly, so it is not used very often.
How to use a pencil properly
The history of the pencil dates back to the 6th century BC, when Ancient Greeks first used a sharpened stick of lead with a wooden base as a writing instrument.
Around the fourth century AD, Romans developed the lead pen, which was made with a waxed wooden base and had bristles on its other end.
Later, in the tenth century, Arabs invented the ink reservoir made of capillary tubes that extended to the point. This innovation enabled continuous writing without having to re-fill the pen with ink.
The first pens made entirely of wood appeared around eighteenth century England. These were called “pencils” because they were less expensive than pens and had shorter points.