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Blog entry by tomfidgen posted 11-28-2011 06:18 PM 1505 reads 0 times favorited 9 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Remember you’re grade school teachers saying you’d get lead poisoning if you didn’t keep your pencil out of your mouth?

Well, they lied.

In 1564 an enormous deposit of graphite was discovered in Borrowdale, England and pencils have been made from this non-toxic material ever since. Up until that point however, writing implements were indeed made of lead and would carry a justified warning of ingestion but once graphite was discovered the scribbles became much more user friendly and I’d guess a bit tastier as well.

Originally, thin sticks of graphite were wrapped in string to keep these brittle implements from constantly breaking. Not long after, hollowed wood was used and the pencil as we know it was born.

The first massed produced pencils came in 1662 from Nuremberg, Germany (go figure) and once the Industrial Revolution took hold, pencil manufacturers were coming out of the wood work.

In North America, early settlers depended on pencils being imported from over seas. That was until 1812 when William Monroe, a Concord, Massachusetts cabinet maker started making the first pencils in the new world!

A cabinet-maker eh? I’m not at all surprised. Why? And why really all this talk today of pencils?

Because this is where the creative process begins. With a pencil in your hand.

It isn’t at the work bench and it sure as hell isn’t in front of a computer. It’s the ghost of inspiration waiting inside an empty sheet of paper and these simple tools, graphite sticks wrapped up in cedar, carefully sharpened and eager to bridge the gap. From that first spark of inspiration out from your imagination and into a reality on the page in front of you. That’s a good place to begin. It isn’t always easy to get there but like sawing dovetails or sharpening plane irons practicing every day will help.

I’m at the beginning of my book and thought I’d share those fun facts about this invaluable tool we so often take for granted.

Do you have a pencil and a sketch book? You’d better get one.

Stay tuned…

-- tom fidgen,

9 comments so far

View Dennisgrosen's profile


10880 posts in 3682 days

#1 posted 11-28-2011 06:28 PM

P-P-P-P-Plenty of them …. now I just have to learn to use them
what end shuold be against the paper … did you say ... and what is sharpening pencils ;-)

good blog Mr Fidgen


View tomfidgen's profile


38 posts in 4306 days

#2 posted 11-28-2011 08:36 PM

ha!-; ) thanks Dennis.

-- tom fidgen,

View glue4you's profile


162 posts in 3047 days

#3 posted 11-28-2011 08:40 PM

Dennisgrosen: Don’t bother learning how to use them, there will be an app for your iphone soon that will make pencils and creativity obsolete.

-- Alex ----- Bavaria in Germany

View Dennisgrosen's profile


10880 posts in 3682 days

#4 posted 11-28-2011 09:24 PM

nop it wont…. I don´t have and will not have an iphone dingy thing (noatter what brand) att all even if I winn one it will be sold as scrap….. sorry glue4you …. but I don´t think its the 8 wonder of the world
and either is the ipad (even thuogh I use ipad alot in my dayly work)

I will stop here before you get me started too much with my rant :-)
just know I´m not against new things … but not all is so good as some saying it is :-)

okay …. were can I learn what end of a pencil that shuold have contact with the paper …. ?


View glue4you's profile


162 posts in 3047 days

#5 posted 11-28-2011 11:22 PM

Dennisgrosen: I keep forgetting that also, so I sent mine to a specialised sharpening service that sharpened both sides of it. Now it’s fool proof :-)

-- Alex ----- Bavaria in Germany

View Dennisgrosen's profile


10880 posts in 3682 days

#6 posted 11-28-2011 11:28 PM

got it …. sending to sharpening service … hmmm

View Steve's profile


16 posts in 4320 days

#7 posted 11-28-2011 11:34 PM

Tom. I have always admired your work and have not seen any projects posted from you in quite a while. I know that someone of your skill cannot be sitting idle. Please share some of your recent creations with the rest of us :)

View chrisstef's profile


17988 posts in 3573 days

#8 posted 11-29-2011 02:43 AM

well im glad to hear theres no lead in them, ive still got a piece in my thigh from 8th grade history class when my buddy decided to jab a pencil into my leg lol. All though it may explain some slight memory loss and random brain farts.

-- Its not a crack, its a casting imperfection.

View muleskinner's profile


941 posts in 3003 days

#9 posted 11-29-2011 04:14 PM

Dennis, I used to use a sharpening service but the five day turn around was making for too much shop down time. I finally invested in a Tormek P2000 sharpening system. At first I thought $400 was a little steep. But the 200 page instruction manual and dvd that comes with the unit will have you up to speed in no time. And the satisfaction of filling that old coffee mug with scary sharp Ticonderogas in just a couple of hours can’t be over estimated.

-- Visualize whirled peas

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