Question #127582. Asked by SterlingT.
Last updated Nov 02 2012.
Originally posted Nov 02 2012 8:54 AM.
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Philip_Eno 15 year member
Answer has 6 votes.
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Although lead has not been used for writing since antiquity, lead poisoning from pencils was not uncommon. Until the middle of the 20th century the paint used for the outer coating could contain high concentrations of lead and this could be ingested when the pencil was sucked or chewed.
No, Lead faded as a material for writing long before the pencil came in to use. Most pencil cores are made of graphite mixed with a clay binder, leaving grey or black marks that can be easily erased. Graphite pencils are used for both writing and drawing, and the result is durable: although writing can usually be removed with an eraser, it is resistant to moisture, most chemicals, ultraviolet radiation and natural aging. Around 1560, an Italian couple named Simonio and Lyndiana Bernacotti made what are likely the first blueprints for the modern, wood-encased carpentry pencil. Their version was a flat, oval, more compact type of pencil. Their concept involved the hollowing out of a stick of juniper wood. Shortly thereafter, a superior technique was discovered: two wooden halves were carved, a graphite stick inserted, and the halves then glued together-essentially the same method in use to this day.