What do those letters and numbers on your pencil actually mean??
Before you start out on your journey into drawing, it is reassuring to start at the very beginning and look at your tools, or equipment and get familiar with those and with the options open to you.
When you settle down to start a drawing, the most obvious tool you will reach for is a pencil. Life is never that simple however, since you are then faced with a huge choice of various versions available the question though is which pencil should you use???
Knowledge is power and it helps to know what those codes you see on each one mean!
The codes you see on your pencils always involve H and B
H quite simply stands for Hard and B for Black
A higher percentage of clay in the mix makes for a harder pencil and a higher percentage of graphite makes for a softer, blacker pencil, so it follows that the middle of the road pencil; an even balance, is HB and then the level of hardness or softness, (blackness), increase on a sliding scale from that centre mark. So 2H is harder than HB and 6H is even more so. And 2B is a little blacker and softer than HB and 6B is a lot softer and blacker still. You will often also find an F which stands for Finepoint; I think of this one as being very close to the H. The higher quantity of clay makes it easier to keep the point sharp for precision, but like many leads on the H scale the hardness can cause any amount of pressure to result in too much indenting or scoring of your paper surface.
..And now for a little bit of history… J
A common misconception is that a pencil lead contains just that but in fact it is made of graphite (mixed with clay).
Graphite was first discovered in Cumberland and early use would have been simple mark making as you could make with charcoal or coal etc. A very early version of the pencil would have simply been a chunk of graphite encased in wood in order to make it easier to use.
Later the idea of mixing graphite with clay then firing it and encasing the compound in wood created a more precise drawing implement.
I take a look at the different uses of these different pencils in my next blog.
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