Definitions

pencil

pencil

[pen-suhl]
pencil, pointed implement used in writing or drawing to apply graphite or a similar colored solid to any surface, especially paper. From prehistoric times lumps of colored earth or chalk were used as markers. The Egyptians ruled lines with metallic lead, as did medieval monks. The so-called lead pencil—a rod of graphite encased in wood—came into use in the 16th cent. From the late 18th cent. pulverized graphite was mixed with clay to bind it and to provide different degrees of hardness—the more clay, the harder the pencil. Today the mixture is forced through dies, cut to the required length, and kiln-fired. The rods are laid in grooves of a thin board, a similar board is placed over them, and the wood is shaped into pencils, usually of round or hexagonal cross section. Pencils are also manufactured with cores of colored pigments mixed with clay and wax and of other materials. Mechanical pencils are commonly made of metal or plastic, the cores (or leads) being advanced by operating a screw mechanism or a propel-repel ejector mechanism.

Drawing executed with a pencil, an instrument made of graphite enclosed in a wood casing. Though graphite was mined in the 16th century, its use by artists is not known before the 17th century. In the 17th–18th century, graphite was used primarily to make preliminary sketches for more elaborate work in another medium, seldom for finished works. By the late 18th century, an ancestor of the modern pencil was constructed by inserting a rod of natural graphite into a hollow cylinder of wood. Pencil rods produced from mixtures of graphite and clays, true prototypes of the modern graphite pencil, were introduced in 1795. This improvement allowed for better control and encouraged wider use. The great masters of pencil drawing kept the elements of a simple linearism with limited shading, but many artists in the 18th–19th century created elaborate effects of light and shade by rubbing the soft graphite particles with a tightly rolled paper or chamois.

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