There was a time when I gave no consideration to mechanical pencils, was barely aware of them as my only interest lay in fountain pens. Over the years that gradually changed. I began to be aware of the artistry in even the most ordinary pencil. There are, of course, highly collectable silver pencils in every shape imaginable, from frogs to assegais.
Fifty years and more ago, when someone received a pen and pencil set they were just as grateful for the pencil which was going to be used equally as much as the fountain pen. The pen was for permanency of writing, for formal use and for correspondence, but when you needed to take note of something for yourself or do a bit of calculation, there was the pencil. There was no cap to remove and the lead lasted for a long time especially if it was of the harder variety.
Some pencils, then as now, came on their own. I have this delightful yellow and black pencil that you might have been given if you stayed at the Rosetor Hotel in Torquay. The hotel is sadly gone, demolished years ago but the pencil, which might have been considered ephemera, proved to be less ephemeral than the bricks and mortar.
Someone – I’m not sure who – made pencils for Wahl Eversharp in England. Many, like this patterned ring-top example are silver plated. There are gold plated examples too, as well as solid silver pencils.
A variation is this smooth silver plated flat-topped pencil. I lack the knowledge to date any of these pencils, though in the case of the Wahl Eversharps I would hazard a guess at the thirties or forties. The yellow pencil might be later.
All these years later these pencils still work perfectly without any requirement for servicing beyond the insertion of new lead, which is still widely available in all the vintage sizes.
The more I think about it the less I understand why there is less demand for mechanical pencils than fountain pens. They are, in many cases, pieces of personal jewellery, yet practical and convenient.