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Pencil or mechanical pencil

April 03, 2018 4 min read

 Pencil or mechanical pencil

A reading for graphite lovers

It has always been said that writing changed the course of human history, but according to Forbes magazine, the real revolution took place when the population had easy access to the elements of writing and, consequently, to knowledge. This is why the prestigious magazine considers the pencil to be the fourth most relevant instrument in history.

From the invention of the first pencil to the present day, the industry has reached noteworthy levels of perfection and refinement. Today, we are revealing a world familiar to graphite lovers, but still unknown to those who usually opt for ink.


We must go back to roman times to find the first predecessor of a pencil, where they use a metal rod, usually made of lead, to tear paper. Thus, even though it was more embossing rather than writing as we understand the concept nowadays, this lead to create the first pencils. In the XV century, the first pencil mines were made by mixing lead and tin. It was not until 1564 that an enormous deposit of graphite was discovered. In Borrowdale (England).

In order to ease its transportation, graphite was fragmented in thin sticks. However, when cutted, graphite turned into a highly brittle material. So it was necessary to protect graphite with ropes and leather to prevent the sticks from cracking.

Later on, italian artisans conceived a new way to protect the graphite sticks so that it does not get damaged: they hollow a wooden rod and fill it with graphite. The first pencils were created.

In 1660, mass quantities of pencils were made in Nuremberg (Germany). Numerous craftsmen established their workshops there. One of these craftsmen, Kaspar Faber, began to stand out for the outstanding quality of his creations, being the first generation of the now renowned Faber-Castell company.

In 1770, Edward Naime began to commercialize rubber erasers. Later, in 1795, a French chemist named Nicolas Conté invented a formula that combined powdered graphite with clay, which allowed to lower the costs while achieving the same utility. Finally, in 1822, Sampson Mordan and John Hawkins patented the first mechanical pencil: an instrument very similar to the pencil but equipped with an innovative mechanism to advance the lead without having to sharpen the pencil, and to replenish it once it was worn out, without having to replace the entire instrument.

Nowadays, both the pencil and the mechanical pencil have become such a common instrument that they are essential in every desk. How to choose the perfect one?


Most common lead diameters are 0,5 mm, 0,7 mm and 0,9 mm. Get to know its properties and typical purposes:

  • 0.5 MM: Recommendable for those whose handwriting is small, as the stroke 0,5 mm leads create is finer. It is also indicated for artist that draw using little strain.
  • 0.7 MM: Ideal to write numbers since this lead is soft but tougher. Ain't need to apply as much pressure as using a 0.5 mm lead, which is better when it is necessary to make corrections and wipe off a written line without leaving any groove. Therefore, we recommend it for artists that want to draw with precision. Both 0,5 and 0,7 mm are perfect for technical drawing.
  • 0.9 MM: If you usually apply much preassure to your mechanical pencil, use a 0,9 mm lead as they are darker and leave less grooves on the paper.

There are other lead sizes available for artists and draftsmen, like 2mm or 5,6 mm. Regarding these thicker leads, also called sketch pens, they usually incorporate lead sharpener as they will need to be sharpen in spite of being used with a mechanical pencil.

Aurora sketch

Aurora America Sketch pen, Limited Edition

Portaminas Graf von Faber-Castell Classic Anello

Graf von Faber-Castell Classic Anello Mechanical pencil


Lead hardness also influences the stroke. In general terms, the softer the lead is, the darker the lines will be. HB, B and 2B leads are frequently used.

  • H means hard, the hardness increases with the number.
  • B for black, softer leads create more intense black lines.
  • HB for hard black,which refers to the combination of both.

The average hardness is HB. If the lead hardness is not indicated, it is usually this one. HB is definitely the best option for those who aren't sure of which lead to choose.

Soft leads create darker strokes while the lines made with a harder one are lighter. Regarding its uses, harder leads are perfect for drawing up while the softer ones allow us to darken the sketch and to create more intense shades.

If you need to mold the lead, the softer it is, the easier it will be. However, they blunt faster.


Dureza de la mina según propiedades y uso preferente

Get to know our wide range of mechanical pencils and pencils..

If you require more information or if you would like to place an order, please do not hesitate to contact us or visit our store in Madrid, at Nuñez de Balboa 90.
We will be pleased to help you.

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