Who invented the pencil box?

The pencil maker

Pencil maker has existed since the beginning of modern times, i.e. for over 500 years.
In the beginning, lead points were actually used to produce so-called. ‘Lead pen’.

England was the pioneer of modern pencil manufacture. Already from 1558 in the nordengl. Locality Keswick Pencils made what by 1564 in the nearby Borrowdale newly discovered graphite deposits were significantly further promoted. From the 1660s onwards, graphite rods made of Borrowdale graphite set in wood were used in many countries.

1662 becomes one in the annals of the city of Nuremberg ‘Bleyweißstefftmacher’ named Friedrich Staedtler mentioned.
In 1760 Caspar Faber began making pencils in Stein near Nuremberg.


coat of arms
the pencil maker town
stone


Job titles

Pencil maker and pencil maker - (outdated) Lead penmaker, Bleyweisschneider, Bleyweißstefftmacher

Specialization: Crayon maker


Guild membership & patron saint

Text for the collective picture:

The pencil maker

The pencil has been used for almost 600 years,
but the art of pencil making was only mentioned later.
In the time of Emperor Maximilian, the time of the last knight,
she is skilled, united and well known.
Venerated as the patron saint guild Saint Thomas Aquinas.

[Tengelmann collection picture with historical illustration from approx. 1575.]

The Italian Dominican monk Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) was an influential philosopher and eminent Catholic theologian. In 1323 he was by Pope John XXII. canonized.


The pencil

The predecessors of the pencil all contained lead. The ancient Egyptians are said to have poured liquid lead into reeds and used it to write. Used by scholars and scribes in the Middle Ages Silver or lead pen - which, however, could be scratched rather than written - had tips tipped with poisonous lead; they were also referred to as Tear lead or Writing pencil.

A new material came into play after shepherding in the English woods of Borrowdale discovered black chunks with which one could paint and write. The shepherds used them to mark the backs of their sheep with black lines.

Since these lumps were as heavy as lead, they were initially thought to be lead ore Galena (also Galena or White lead called). The writing implements made with it were first referred to as ‘Lead pencils’ until finally the simplified form 'Pencil' naturalized.

It was not until 1779 that the chemist Carl Wilhelm Scheele was able to prove that the presumed lead ore is an independent substance that is non-toxic crystalline carbon. Ten years later the mineralogist Abraham Gottlob Werner - derived from the Greek word γραφή (graphein / German: to write) - the name ‘graphite‘.
However, the term pencil remained in use and is still sometimes confusing.

• The pencil lead - degrees of hardness and names

The Viennese Joseph Hardtmuth, Founder of the later global company KOH-I-NOOR, developed a process in 1790 in which graphite dust is mixed with clay and water and then burned in a furnace. Depending on the amount of clay, he was able to modify the hardness of the mines.

French chemist, painter and inventor Nicolas-Jacques Conté discovered in 1795 how impure graphite from mines in Germany and Austria could also be used. He pulverized the degraded material and then slurried the graphite. Independent of Hardtmuth, he also recognized that the hardness of the mines could be influenced by a different graphite-clay mixture.

The leads of today's pencils consist of graphite as a pigment, clay as a binding agent, and fats and waxes as an impregnating agent. For refills for fine lead pencils, a polymer framework is used as a binding agent instead of clay. The mixing ratio of graphite and clay is decisive for the hardness of the lead: the higher the graphite content, the softer the lead - the graphite content varies roughly between 20% and 90%. The actual hardness is also influenced by the heat and duration of the firing. The diameter of the leads is 2 mm for common pencils and 0.2 mm for fine lead pencils.

• Variants & accessories

The Carpenter pencil is used for marking on materials with a rough, solid surface such as wood, masonry or concrete. It has an elliptical or square-oval cross-section and a rectangular lead cross-section in order to create a narrow line along the ruler without breaking.

The Copy pen has a metallic, often purple, shiny lead, whether it has aniline dye incorporated into it, which is water-soluble, but also more or less poisonous.
Before the invention of the ballpoint pen, it was very widespread as a document-proof writing implement.

The Mechanical pencil (also called a pencil, lead pen) has a metal or plastic cover instead of a wooden casing for the lead, which is constantly shortened by sharpening. Since the handling remains the same regardless of the lead length, a pencil extender is never required.

colored pencils (also called colored pencils) have a colored lead made of color pigments, fats, waxes, binders and minerals (such as talc or kaolin) instead of a graphite lead. In contrast to pencils, the lines of commercially available colored pencils are very difficult, and often not at all, to be erased.


The work of the pencil maker

The Making of Pencils - 1903, USA

The pencil commonly used today is not, as its name suggests, made of lead, but of graphite. The name comes from the fact that before pencils were made from graphite, lead ore was used for this purpose. Graphite was first used for pencils after the famous Cumberland mine was discovered in England in 1565. The graphite obtained there was of remarkable purity and could be used without further treatment by cutting it into thin plates and working it into wood. England had a monopoly on the pencil industry for two centuries.
In the 18th century, however, the pencil industry had also found its way to Germany. In 1761 Caspar Faber began making pencils in a modest way in Stein, a town near the Bavarian city of Nuremberg. Nuremberg subsequently developed into the center of the pencil industry and remained so for over a century. Faber’s descendants have been making pencils for five generations and to this day have devoted their interest and energy to developing and perfecting pencil production.
Eberhard Faber, a great-grandson of Caspar Faber, emigrated and settled in New York in 1849. In 1861, when the war tariff came into force, he founded his own pencil factory in New York City and, with 4 other branches, became a pioneer of the pencil industry in the USA. The wages were very high compared to those paid in Germany, and Eberhard Faber recognized the need to create labor-saving machines in order to overcome the purely manual operation. Many automatic machines were invented which greatly simplified the methods of making pencils and improved the product. Today American manufacturers supply 90% of the domestic demand and have largely entered the competition of the world markets.


The main raw materials those used to make a pencil are graphite, clay, cedar wood, and rubber.
Although graphite occurs in comparatively large amounts in many places, it is rarely of sufficient purity to be available for pencil production. Iron oxides, silicates, and other contaminants are found in the ore, all of which must be carefully separated to ensure a smooth, usable material. Lead manufacturers mainly use the graphites found in Eastern Siberia, Mexico, Bohemia and Ceylon.

The graphite coming out of the mines is broken into small pieces, whereby the impure particles are separated by hand. It is then finely divided in large pulverizers and placed in water pipes so that the lighter graphite particles float up from the heavier contaminant particles. In the case of cheaper grades, this separation is also carried out using centrifuge machines, but with less satisfactory results. After the separation, the graphite is filtered.
After it has been subjected to a similar process, the clay is placed in mixers together with the graphite, the mixing ratio depending on the desired degree of hardness - a larger amount of clay increases the degree of hardness / a smaller amount increases the softness.

In addition, the required degree of hardness is achieved through the subsequent work step, i.e. by pressing the lead compound and shaping it in order to glue it into the wooden housing. A highly compacted lead results in a pencil with better carrying properties, an important characteristic of a high-quality pencil. For this purpose hydraulic presses are used, into which the still plastic clay-graphite mixture is introduced. The presses are provided with a die in the desired caliber through which the material is pressed. The die is usually made of sapphire or emerald or some other very hard mineral substance so that it doesn't wear out too quickly from friction. The material exits the press in a continuous strand that is cut to the desired length (usually seven inches for an ordinary pencil), placed in crucibles, and fired in muffle furnaces. The lead is now ready and only needs a wooden sleeve to turn it into a pencil.

The wood used to make pencils must be dense, straight-grained and soft, so that it can be easily connected and easily polished. No better wood has been found than the United States native red cedar (juniperus virginiana); a durable, compact and fragrant wood that is now used almost exclusively by pencil manufacturers around the world. The best quality is obtained in the southern states, especially Florida and Alabama. Eberhard Faber founded the first cedar saw mill in Cedar Keys / Florida in the early 1860s, destined for his own use and a considerable export to European manufacturers.

The wood is cut into small slabs (7 "long, 2½" wide, and ¼ "thick) and then thoroughly dried between blades to stop moisture and resin leakage and prevent warping later. The wooden panels are then passed through automatic creasing machines, each with six semicircular grooves in which the leads are then inserted.

A second plate with adequate grooves is smeared with glue and placed over the plate containing the leads and glued. The block is then passed through a shape cutting machine, where the pencils are cut off and given the desired shape (round, hexagonal, etc.). The pens are then passed through grinding machines to give them a smooth surface.

After sanding with sandpaper, which is necessary before staining, the surfaces of the pencils are painted, as desired, using one of several methods. The most common method is the mechanical one in which the pens are fed one at a time from funnels through small openings just large enough to accommodate the pen. The lacquer is automatically applied to the pencil as it passes through and then placed on a long tape or in a drying tray. The pens are slowly transported over a distance of about 6 meters, whereby the applied paint dries, and then emptied into a container. When enough pencils have accumulated, they are fed back into the machine's hopper and the process repeated. This happens as often as is necessary to produce the desired finish; 10x or more for high-quality pencils.

Another method is dipping in lacquer bowls, whereby the pens are hung at their ends on frames, dipped in their entire length and very slowly pulled out by machine, which produces a smooth lacquer effect.
After painting, the pens are passed through machines where the ends are trimmed with very sharp knives and paint deposits are sanded off with sandpaper to give them a clean look.
The finest quality pencils are polished by hand; a job that requires considerable sensitivity on the part of the performer and takes months of practice to develop the appropriate skill.

The next operation is stamping the pins. For this purpose, a gold or silver sheet cut into narrow strips is applied to the pencil and placed in an embossing press. There a heated steel die comes into contact with the sheet, whereby the letters are glued to the pencil at the contact points. The excess sheet is removed and after a final cleaning, the pencil is ready for packaging; unless it is to be completed or embellished by adding a metal cap, an eraser or other attachment.

In the United States, about 9 out of 10 pencils have small erasers on them. These are either glued directly to the wood with the lead or the pins are provided with small sleeves made of nickel-plated brass at the rear end into which the eraser stoppers are inserted.

The rubber stoppers used for pencils are just one of many rubber products (erasers, ribbons, etc.) that are manufactured at the E. Faber factory in Newark. These articles are all made from pure para-rubber, which is thoroughly kneaded in huge, powerful machines, then hardened, mixed with sulfur and necessary ingredients and vulcanized. The rubber is pressed into shape as required and cut to the required size. "

[Scientific American – 22.8.1903]

VIDEO: Mechanized Pencil & Crayon Making Today

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Time traces


Pens made of lead or lead alloys were used for writing and drawing
used from Roman times to around the middle of the 18th century.