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Sunday, June 19, 2005
Nobody can be certain when the first writing instrument was invented, but it's safe to say that it has been around for a long time. For this reason, a discovery in Borrowdale, England, in 1564 is considered the birthplace of the modern day pencil. As the story goes, an unknown passerby found bit sof shiny, black stuff clinging to the roots of a fallen tree -- and the materical could be used to write and draw. The discovery caused quite a stir and the stuff, graphite (a form of carbon) became known as "Blacklead".

Making graphite truly practical for use was a problem because it is naturally soft and brittle. It needed a bolder. At first, sticks of graphite were wrapped in string. Later, grphite was inserted into a wooden sticks that were hollowed out by hand. Though laborious, the method proved to be productive and the wood cased pencil was born.

The first patented process used for making pencils was introduced in 1795 by French chemist, Noclas Conte. His patent called for using a mixture of graphite and clay that was fired before it was pout in a wooden case. The earliest pencils made this way were cylindrical with a slot. After the clay graphite mixture (called lead) was inserted into the slot, a strip of wood was put back into place.

An important element of Conte's process was his ability to produce a variety of hard or soft leads, depending on how he kiln fired the powdered graphite. This was important to artists, writers and draftsmen.

Although the firt mass produced pencils were made in Europe and shipped overseas to the United States, war in Europe cut oof imports and America was left to devise its own pencils. Thus, William Monroe, a cabinetmaker in Concord, Massachusettes, amde the first American wood pencils in 1812. Apparently, he did something right.H ehad picked up on earlier prioneers who successfully marketed the instruments, even when they were only available overseas.

For example, Benjamin Franklin advertised pencils for sale in his Pennsylvania Gazette in 1729 and George Washington surveyed the Ohio Territory with a pencil in 1762.

When pencils were first mass produced, they were not painted in order to show off the quality wood casting. The early pencils were made with eastern red cedar, a strong splinter resistant wood that grew in the southeastern part of the United States and eastern Tennessee.

Millions of pencils are made yearly in modern times. They come in nearly every conceivable color and hardness or softness and are desgined as specialty pencils that can write on nearly any surface for any reason. It's certainly a toll that is indispensible to tradepeople, artist and writers.

The pen has an equally interesting history. The first pen and paper system hails from ancient Egypt. The scribes of the pharoahs and high priests used reeds with the ends chewed into filaments capable of holding ink.

Over time, as pigments improved, pens evolved into sharpened instruments with slits cut into the ends of them. In the 16th century, featehr quills were developed and represented a great leap in the quality of writing instruments. They were able to be sharpened, were pliable, and broke less under the user's hard pressure.

Three hundred years later, in the mid 19th century, metals were used (the fountain pen was developed) but users still had to dip the instrument into an inkwell and write until the tip was dry. In essense, pens in the mid 19th century were used in the same way as reeds had been thousands fof years before.

As with many inventions, someone saw a problem with the status quo and wanted to solve that problem. Such was teh case in 1884 for insurance broker Lewis Waterman. He was fed upo with the inconvenience of dipping the pen into an ink well. Prior to this, the reason that ink reservoirs were not incorporated into pens was because it was difficult to control the ink flow.

Waterman created a solution. To keep pressure on ink flow, he came to the conclusion that air should replace the ink as it was used. To do this, he created two or three channels that permitted air and ink to move simultaneously.

Later, roller balls and ballpoints were developed. The differece between fountain pens and ballpoints is quite extreme. In a ballpoint pen, the ink is directed toward the pull of gravity -- that is, pointed toward the paper when held with the point down (in writing). The ink dries immediately and the action is similar to painting a wall with a roller. A roler ball pen differs, still. The first difference is a cap that is required so the ink does not dry out. The second is that the ball does'nt apply ink. Instead, it acts like a flow regulator and friction reducer.

So far, on one seems to have solved a nagging problem with ball points: leakage. Hopefully, that will be the next techological breakthrough!!

(abstracted from the book: THE 100 GREATEST INVENTIONS OF ALL TIME by: Tom Philbin)
posted by infraternam meam @ 2:06 AM  
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Name: infraternam meam
Home: Chicago, United States
About Me: I am now at the prime of my life and have been married for the past 25 years. Sickly at times, but wants to see the elixir vita, so that I will be able to see my grandchildren from my two boys.
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