Mechanical Pencils

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.


4 thoughts on “Mechanical Pencils

  1. I agree, the artistry and mechanical functioning on many of these things is quite staggering – they knock the inner workings of a fountain pen into a cocked hat – but that hasn’t stopped them from virtually disappearing into oblivion as far as use goes. Or do I have that wrong – perhaps folk here still use them – I do, but rarely – though I seem to have over fifty. Most of the time that I buy a pen set, there’s a pencil included – maybe though it’s the high end sets only that include them as standard.
    Leads have become thinner over the years – I’ve pre second war CS pencils that have leads like barge poles and a Cotswold Duo (one end pencil the other a biro) equally as thick – Lamy and Parker seem to be made for people who don’t press hard – they look to be the thinnest of leads – think I’d be for ever breaking the lead in those.

    When I started collecting, I had a dozen or so of really old pencils but gave them away thinking that I’d never use or want such things – how wrong can you be. Modern slim Parker pencils in stainless or gf livery are no doubt very cool, but when they’re all grouped it’s those in marbled and coloured plastic that look the most attractive. And the pencil seen most commonly – possibly the one that accompanies the 45 set (at least I think it’s the 45).

    1. I don’t know if the present unpopularity of vintage pencils will ever change. I have a few I won’t part with and one or two modern ones as well. I rarely use them. I agree that the highly coloured pencils are the most attractive. I think artists still use that very thick lead – in a clutch pencil like the Faber-Castell TK9400. I somehow ended up with loads of that thick lead.

  2. They do seem to turn up quite often and I sometimes wish I had collected pencils. If I had, and has still bought as many as I have pens, I would be considerably richer – well, less poor.

    I read Jonathan Veley’s Leadhead’s Pencil Blog regularly, and I’m pretty sure there is something there to help you date your Eversharp. This is a link to his English coloured Eversharp article. They are some of my favourite pencils, rivalled only by some of the most colourful Fyne Poynt and Conway Stewart models.

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