Written by Sanjana Nayakanti, a grade six student
An invention is something amazing, especially when you make something so cool that people start using it regularly. Like, the wheel, or….let me share with you the astonishing story of the invention of a not too mysterious, but a very influential tool of communication, the pencil.
Let me start with a question… Do you know what a pencil tip is made up of? I am sure many of you would know this. Well, if your answer was graphite, then yes, you are right!
The Story of Graphite
Graphite (also called pure carbon) mines were discovered in a village named Borrowdale in England in the mid-16th century. Now as we know, the connection between pencil and graphite, they are almost the same except that the pencil is a more modified version of graphite.
So the story goes like this. Once upon a time in the 16th century, a severe thunderstorm struck a little town in England called Borrowdale, caused a lot of damage, and blew off a lot of trees. After the thunderstorm passed, the villagers came across a mass of black rock exposed by uprooted trees. The rock was very dark. As the villagers examined it, they discovered that it was very soft, brittle, and left a dark mark on any surface. They had discovered graphite.
They decided to use bits of graphite to mark their sheep so that it became easy to identify to whom did the sheep belong. Eventually, people started using graphite to write. But it was soft and messy, so people started to wrap the piece of graphite in cloth for writing. Slowly, the modern world started to cover graphite with wood and that’s how the wood-cased pencil was born!
Birth of the Modern Pencil
A question might have popped in your mind… “Who might have come up with an idea to use wood instead of cloth?” It is believed that an Italian couple came up with this brilliant idea in 1564.
Later, in 1795-96, a French officer named Nicholas Jacques Conte from Napoleon’s army patented the modern-day pencils. He modified the look of the pencils and made them thinner and easier to use. His process was simple. He roasted a mixture of water clay and graphite at 1900 Fahrenheit and then put the solution in a small wooden covering. This turned out to be great because the more clay he put the lighter was the stroke of the pencil. We see this difference as 2B, 4B, 6B, 8B, 10B, and HB etc.
As pencils became popular, the eraser and the sharpener were also invented.
So, the next time you pick up a pencil, to write or to draw, think about that little village in England struck by a thunderstorm. And the curious villagers who discovered a really interesting black rock.
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