Pencil, a name applied to instruments of various forms and material for writing, drawing, and painting. The first form of pencil is supposed to have been made of earth or chalk, and used by the early Greeks and Egyptians in monochromatic pictures. As early as the 4th century B. C. wet colors were used by the Greeks, and applied with a small pointed brush, called a pencil. Such pencils are made of the hairs of the camel, badger, sable, mink, kolin-ski, polecat, and goat, and the bristles of hogs. The finer hairs, as those of the sable, are exclusively used by artists. The hairs, selected and arranged with their points in the form of an acute cone, are bound with a thread and drawn through a goose quill, or a conical tin or silver tube, to which a wooden handle is fixed. - Lead pencils, so called because made of graphite or black lead, are among the most widely-distributed manufactures. The best graphite for drawing pencils is in the Cumberland mines, England. Vast quantities also have been found in Siberia of a very fine quality. But graphite is rarely found so free from impurities as to form pencils homogeneous enough to be relied on by the artist. It is therefore finely pulverized and again formed into solid blocks by the application of great pressure, usually in hydraulic presses.
Great difficulty was experienced in consolidating the particles and causing them to adhere without using some cement, by which the quality would be injured. This was at last accomplished by Mr. Brockedon of London, who after subjecting the material to considerable pressure enclosed it in a case of glued paper with an orifice, placed it under the receiver of an air pump, and exhausted the air. Then by a contrivance the orifice in the glued paper was closed, and the block removed and subjected to further pressure, when it became as solid as a natural block from the mine. The pencils are made by sawing the block into square bars, inserting these in grooves of corresponding size cut in pieces of wood, covering them with other pieces of wood, and reducing these by machinery to the desired shape, which is usually that of a cylinder, but it may be hexahedral or octahedral. The maker's name, and letters or numbers indicating the degrees of hardness, fineness, or depth of shade, are then stamped upon them.