Drawing with graphite

This TED video "Small Thing Big Idea" might ignite the artist in you and perhaps bring new light to the ordinary pencil. Most of us remember the bright yellow pencil we started with to make marks and learn writing and arithmetic skills. It had the handy little eraser on one end and my favorite part was being able to sharpen it. Sticking the pencil into the sleek chrome pencil sharper with the crank on the other end and winding it around and around, periodically checking its sharpness is a fond memory.

David T. Nethery says - “Wonderful video. You mentioned the Eberhard-Faber Blackwing 602 as a favorite pencil of writers such as John Steinbeck and Vladimir Nabokov (and composer Stephen Sondheim, too !) but it was also a favored pencil for many animators, among them, Chuck Jones . The modern Blackwing 602 (made by California Cedar Products Company) is a close match to the original Eberhard-Faber version. (Stephen Sondheim says he thinks it’s even better than the original) . The Eberhard Faber Blackwing 602 was officially discontinued in 1998, leading to hoarding and high prices being charged for remaining stock when it turned up (at one time original Blackwing 602’s going for around $25 - to - $40 EACH , for one pencil !) Thank goodness California Cedar Products brought it back into production in 2008.

Sometime I liked sharpening so much that I would end up with a tiny little stub of a pencil and using that tiny stub to write the alphabet could be a challenge. Still I persisted in my sharpening quest. The best time to do this would be during a quiet time or test in class. That grinding pencil sharpener was clearly distracting. In the back of my mind I knew this but I couldn't be dissuaded from marching up to the sharpener and grinding away. This also brings to mind how much I liked the smell of the graphite and wood shavings.

Rather than a permanent mark like a pen the sweet little pencil allows mistakes and corrections to occur. The  eraser on some pencils is such a weird color like -hmmm pink, flesh color, puce (what's that color?) and sometimes it just makes the erasure worse leaving behind impossible to remove graphite streaks. So pick up a kneader eraser when your creating you drawings. Works much better and you will like the silly putty feel of it and kneading process. 

I find the octagonal shape to be a plus and a minus. The many facets of the octagon help hold the pencil firmly but lets not grip so hard we create calluses so loosen the mind and loosen the grip. 

Ever wonder which pencil is best for your needs? Lets examine a few options starting with the hardness of the graphite inside the pencil. 

Historically, pencil manufacturers use a numeric score and a letter on their pencils. The number indicates the hardness of the graphite (how much clay is added) and the higher the number the harder the core which equates to a lighter mark.

The second graphite grading scale is known as the HB scale (H, HB, B 2B etc). Most pencil manufacturers outside of the U.S. use this scale, using the letter “H” to indicate a hard pencil. Likewise, a pencil maker might use the letter “B” to designate the blackness of the pencil’s mark, indicating a softer lead. The letter “F” is also used to indicate that the pencil sharpens to a fine point.

Source:  Pencils.com

Source: Pencils.com


Generally, an HB grade about the middle of the scale is considered to be equivalent to a #2 pencil using the U.S. numbering system.

In reality however, there is no specific industry standard for the darkness of the mark to be left within the HB or any other hardness grade scale. Thus, a #2 or HB pencil from one brand will not necessarily leave the same mark as a #2 or HB pencil from another brand. Most pencil manufacturers set their own internal standards for graphite hardness grades and overall quality of the core, some differences are regional. In Japan, consumers tend to prefer softer darker leads; so an HB lead produced in Japan is generally softer and darker than an HB from European producers.

Finding what works best for your own artistic and writing needs is generally a matter of personal preference and experimentation with different brands of pencils.