Whether I was a student or a teacher, pencils have always been absolutely paramount. Paper, pencils and pens. Three vital components regarding academic life. Most individuals certainly know where paper was born. But how did pencils originate? An intriguing site - www.coolquiz.com claims that Nicolas Jacques Conte was able to successfully manufacture pencils after others had failed to do so. This incredible feat occurred in 1795. A famous family named the Fabers had been involved in a vain quest. They were also trying to produce pencils. You would think that Conte's secret formula for success would have undergone many modifications over the last two centuries but it hasn't. He utilized graphite and clay. This mixture was pressed into a consistency similar to dough. Then it was forced into sticks and they were sent off to a kiln. Eventually, The Fabers learned from their previous mistakes. They found both fame and fortune. As for Nicolas Jacques Conte, he has achieved a high level of fame. He was a true Renaissance man. Conte was the probable inventor of the modern pencil and he was also known as a chemist. He was a balloonist and an army officer. Some have labeled him a true genius.
I am guilty of collecting both useless and important stuff. My only son has a humongous collection of pencils. Some are classic pencils with the familiar yellow color. Another interesting and informative site - www.pencils.com provides some historical information regarding people who love to collect pencils. Fifty-three years ago, the idea for a newsletter entitled "The Pencil Collector" was conceived. By 1958, 191 people had become addicted to this unique genre of collecting. They were the charter members of the American Pencil Collectors Society. Fast forward fifty years. The ranks swelled to over three hundred active members. Ranging in age from teenagers to the burgeoning sea of retired persons.
History and Science are normally intertwined but I must quickly navigate into the more scientific waters of the pencil as a writing instrument. I found a website that could assist me with this important task -www.pencilpages.com . First of all, a cedar block needs to be cut into slats. They have to be uniform. The slats are then stained. Grooves must be cut into one surface. Leads that have already been prepared are positioned into the grooves. Next, a second slat is placed on top of the first one. Then they are bonded together. It becomes a tasty little pencil sandwich. Next, it needs to undergo a milling process in order for the pencils to actually turn into individual entities. The pencil will receive a cosmetic treatment. It gets painted and finished. A ferrule is crimped onto the end of the pencil. The last step of this procedure includes the eraser. It is crimped into the ferrule. There are twelve steps in all.
My son had been intrigued by some seemingly ordinary pencils that had been twisted and curled into unique shapes by a former teaching colleague of mine. She told me how she and/or her husband had developed a special process for creating these fascinating writing tools. She sold them at our school for a small sum of money. The students were thrilled and everyone was fascinated. Sadly, time has eroded my memory and I can not remember how they did it. They were incredible little works of art. Speaking of pencils, I used to use colored pencil shavings as an integral part of a Surrealism art project that I'd created for my former Spanish III studentsin order to pay homage to two famous Spanish painters: Picasso and Dali.
I thought of a simple yet complex question. Why are pencils important writing instruments? A gentleman named Denis Baron wrote an article entitled "From Pencils to Pixels: The Stages of Literacy Technology". I readily admit that I did not read his entire article but I read enough to understand the basic meaning he was initially trying to impart. He stated that the pencil was not a complicated device. But that it does envelop advanced technology. He also stated that pencil-making processes were top secret endeavors, even at the very beginning of this genre of technology. The final piece of information that he provided (of great interest to me) contradicts the earlier date mentioned above. He claims that the modern pencil was born in the 1560s. If you look at www.pencilpages.com, you will find 1565 and also England for the birthplace. All of this information could be subject to dispute though.
My personal thoughts regarding pencils as writing instruments would naturally ooze into a great collective pool of ideas regarding this marvelous invention. Pencils are still very affordable. They come in a wide variety of colors and styles that appeal to all ages and of course to both genders. They are functional yet fanciful. They allow ordinary human beings to engage in the regurgitation of useless information as well as the more pleasurable tasks of penning original poems, essays, short stories and plays. Pencils allow us to doodle harmless images that help us to focus on boring lectures while we dutifully take notes. Pencils also allow us to capture the beauty and ugliness of Nature in all her various forms. Pencils allow us to calculate simple and/or complex problems. Pencils are quite durable unless we abuse them and then we realize that they too are fragile and can succumb to death at any given moment. Pencils have been a worthwhile invention and they will probably continue to flourish as long as humanity appreciates the need for the humble pencil's services.