We are a somewhat backward-looking lot with our fondness for the fountain pen and cursive writing. We also take an interest in dip pens and their nibs and have been known to dabble in the use of the quill. Even earlier methods of writing such as the silverpoint and the reed hover around our subconscious. There is one much more modern method of consigning words to a medium that is largely forgotten though its use was prevalent even as late as the nineteen fifties.

I’m talking about the slate and slate pencil, the use of which was accompanied by the most hideous screeching in every classroom in the land. Perhaps it is due a revival in these times when we are becoming conscious of the damage that papermaking does to the environment. Infinitely reusable after a wipe with a sponge, it may be the ultimately green form of writing. The better slate pencil was made out of soapstone and it didn’t screech quite as much. The cheaper and more common tool was made of a slightly softer slate. Later chalk was used, which brought a welcome silence to the classroom.

There are many alive today who remember bringing their slate to school. When the sponge in its tin was forgotten, a covert spit and rub with the cuff did the job. Parents were not too keen on this, as you might imagine. The other drawback was that a slate could break if dropped and was quite expensive to replace. It gave rise to the expression, “to wipe the slate clean”.

If you feel the need for one, I am amazed to discover that they are available at Amazon!

2 thoughts on “Slate

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