History of the Pencil
In the 16-th century the locals of the Lake District discovered a large uprooted tree. They took out the unknown black substance from under the tree. This stuff broke easily. It was shiny, and smooth to the touch. And it left a black smear on the hands of all who touched it. People used it for marking their sheep, and later for writing. When this stuff became invaluable people who wanted to make money began to smuggle it. It received the name graphite. In 1752 there was an act of parliament which made the smuggling of graphite an offence. The punishment was the imprisonment.
The Italians were the first who invented the wooden casing for it. It made the writing easy. Italian craftsmen took two pieces of cedar, hollowed out two small sections, laid the lead into one of them, glued the other section over the top and left the two halves to set. The Germans applied mass-production techniques for pencils.
Some pencils are harder, some are softer. It depends on the mixture of clay and graphite. More clay in the mixture helps make a pencil harder and sharper. More graphite makes it softer , thicker and darker.
Pencil manufactures all over the world use the so-called HB grading system. The H stands for the hardness, the В stands for its blackness. An HB pencil is a standard pencil. Numbers in front of HB indicate the precise hardness or blackness of a pencil. The higher the number, the harder or blacker the pencil is. So a 2В pencil is blacker than а В while a 2H is much harder than, lighter and finer than an H. Interestingly, the mine in the Lake District remains the only significant source of graphite in the world. Adapted from "Modern English Digest."