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Modern pencils are made industrially by mixing finely ground graphite and clay powders, adding water, forming long spaghetti-like strings, and firing them in a kiln. The resulting strings are dipped in oil or molten wax, which seeps into the tiny holes of the material, resulting in smoother writing. A juniper or incense-cedar plank with several long parallel grooves is cut to fashion a "slat," and the graphite/clay strings are inserted into the grooves. Another grooved plank is glued on top, and the whole assembly is then cut into individual pencils, which are then varnished or painted. Afterwards people can then add personal things like pencil grips and eraser toppers. Eraser toppers are extra erasers that can be removed after being used.
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Modern pencils usually do not contain lead as the "lead" of the pencil is actually a mix of finely ground graphite and clay powders. Before the two substances are mixed, they are separately cleaned of any foreign matter and dried in a manner that creates large square cakes. Once the cakes have fully dried, the graphite and the clay squares and are mixed together using water. The amount of clay content added to the graphite depends on the intended pencil hardness (lower proportions of clay makes the core softer), and the amount of time spent on grinding the mixture determines the quality of the lead. The mixture is then shaped into long spaghetti-like strings, straightened, dried, cut, and then tempered in a kiln. The resulting strings are dipped in oil or molten wax, which seeps into the tiny holes of the material and allows for the smooth writing ability of the pencil. A juniper or incense-cedar plank with several long parallel grooves is cut to fashion a "slat," and the graphite/clay strings are inserted into the grooves. Another grooved plank is glued on top, and the whole assembly is then cut into individual pencils, which are then varnished or painted. Many pencils feature an eraser on the top and so the process is usually still considered incomplete at this point. Each pencil has a shoulder cut on one end of the pencil to allow for a metal ferrule to be secured onto the wood. A rubber plug is then inserted into the ferrule for a functioning eraser on the end of the pencil.
- Pencils.com. "The HB Graphite Grading Scale." Pencils.com. Web. 14 Mar. 2012. <http://www.pencils.com/hb-graphite-grading-scale>.
- Petroski, Henry. "Appendix A from "How the Pencil Is Made," by the Koh-I-Noor Pencil Company." The Pencil: A History of Design and Circumstance. New York: Knopf, 1990. Print.