Monday, June 02, 2014

Pencil Ponderings

"Oh no," I hear you cry. "She's going nuts for pencils now. Where will it all end?!"

Well, no, this is actually more of a woodworking post. Although... okay, so I may have been looking at pencils with more than passing interest. Just looking.

So, if everyone would please turn to page 62 of their copy of “De Rerum Fossilium Lapidum et Gemmarum Maxime, Figuris et Similitudinibus Liber” and look at figure 7.5. What d'you mean you haven't got your textbook with you, Crapforth? Share with Binns Minor then.

Not having a copy either, I don't know exactly where it may be found among the pages, but in 1565 (or maybe 1567), a Swiss gent called Conrad Gessner (or Gesner) had his book published, and apparently as all students of pencil history know, gave us the first description of a pencil:

"The stylus shown below is made for writing, from a sort of lead, which I have heard some call English antimony, shaved to a point and inserted in a wooden handle."

Thus more of a lead holder than what we might think of as a pencil, but let us not quibble. Not much to go on regarding construction from Conrad, but some bright German sparks have come up with a modern take on the thing; the Cleo Skribent Der Gessner Pencil:

Okay, so at this point I got interested. All wood, including the "clutch" mechanism. I went on a search for more images:

Some other useful angles here and here. And with some Photoshoppery magic, created this:

Initial measurements (and some of the pics) came from the fascinating Dave's Mechanical Pencils Blog, and from there I worked out what I think are some of the other key dimensions (could be a mm here and there - they're a handmade thing anyway) and gathered all the salient facts together.

Lead diameter: 5.6mm
Overall length: 154mm
Barrel diameter: 12mm
Barrel flared end: 15.5mm
Barrel materials: Cherry, or Swiss Pear, or Maple, or Spanish Broom
Clutch holder overall length: 34mm
Clutch holder collar (large) diameter: 9mm
Clutch holder collar length: 11mm
Clutch holder shaft (small) diameter: 8.5mm tapering down to 8mm
Clutch holder material: ?

Thoughts on the best choice of species for the clutch holder are encouraged. I wondered about beech; it looks beech-like here. But I presume it has to be able to give slightly, and perhaps beech is too hard. 

Anyway, there ya go - someone go forth and make one. Lead of the right size is readily available online, and a handmade workshop pencil might be something different for folks seeking ideas for Secret Santa. There are only so many marking knives, gauges, and screwdriver handles you can gift before you've saturated the market. Then come back here and tell us about it. 

Before you ask, yes, I'd have taken a crack at it already if my tailstock didn't need the strength of ten to wind it in and out - I've disassembled it, I've squinted at it, I've greased it, and I still have no idea what its problem is. Heck, if squinting at it doesn't work, I'm all out of ideas.

Of course all of the above presupposes that there hasn't already been one or more in depth articles on the making of same already, all of which have eluded me entirely. In which case, apologies; I'm so out of touch I could be a High Court Judge...

No comments:

Post a Comment

Owing to vast quantities of spam this blog is getting, I'm afraid only registered users can post. All comments are moderated before publication, so there may be some delay. My apologies.