Pencil Points

Some years ago, while touring England with Janny during one of her book tours, we visited the Lake District. I saw a sign "Visit the DERWENT PENCIL FACTORY". As I have used their pencils, decided to visit. A representative described how specific degrees of clay are mixed with graphite to achieve various pencil "lead" hardnesses with 9B - softest (no clay) to 9H - hardest (lots). Much of the cedar used to make pencils had come from de-commissioned railroad cars from Henry Flagler's Jacksonville to Key West railroad with the cars made from Georgia cedar trees.

What I found most interesting was the floor display diorama showing a graphite mine entrance, all shiny with graphite dust rubbed off by miners. Outside stood a life sized, armed British Redcoat mannequin. The caption for the scene read that mined graphite was used to line the stone molds used to make cannon balls and artillery shells, as graphite is slippery, does not stick the hot ore to the mold, and does not burn. Each miner was searched under guard as they left the mine to insure no graphite was being smuggled out to be sold to foreign governments for their ammunition production. The term BLACK MARKET originated in the smuggling of graphite. Artists using graphite instead of charcoal or ink in their work during that time would likely be suspected of buying smuggled goods.

So, the pencil we use has a history of being a guarded military resource, the mother of the Black Market, and caused artists to be suspected as outlaws.

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