If you’ve spent time lurking through the Pencil Internet, you’ve probably come across some terms that have made you scratch your head. Like most enthusiast scenes, the pencil world is full of obscure pencil terms and jargon that can intimidate the novice pencil hobbyist.
We’re going to pave your entryway into the world of pencils by defining some of the most obscure pencil terms.
Bonded lead pencil cores are glued right onto their barrels to reinforce their strength and decrease their breakability. Manufacturers like Faber-Castell glue the lead core to both sides of the pencil, from eraser to tip. Any quality pencil likely features a bonded lead core.
The pencil slat is the thin piece of wood out of which manufacturers produce pencil barrels. Pencil manufacturers cut blocks of cedar wood into wide pencil-length slats that are then waxed, cut and cored into half of a pencil barrel. A lead core is sandwiched between two halves of a barrel to create the basic pencil.
Ferrules are the small metal bands that connect pencil erasers to the end of the pencil. On most pencils, ferrules are made out of aluminum. They are most commonly crimped onto the pencil’s end, though some are glued onto the barrel. Some pencils, like the Blackwing 602, have elaborate, multiple-piece ferrules.
‘Woodgrain’ describes the grain of the wood used to create a pencil’s casing. When looking at a pencil’s woodgrain, the most important elements to consider are the width of the grain and the “straightness” of the grain. Woods that feature grains that are fine (thin) and straight create pencils that sharpen evenly and easily.
Pencil lead isn’t actual lead, as your 8-year-old cousin would like you to believe. It’s made out of graphite, a pure form of carbon. Since graphite was discovered in 16th century England, people have used it to create pencils. Today’s pencil graphite, however, is made of a blend of graphite, clay and sometimes wax. Using various mixtures of these materials (or graphite formulations), pencil makers can produce pencil leads with different hardness and darkness, measured by the HB scale.
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