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Which is not unduly obvious, as I am about to explain
Pencil quest
Last Christmas, my parents gave me an old mechanical pencil that had belonged to my grandfather. But I can't find more leads/graphite refills for it!

I'd like to appeal to the knowledge of my artist and architecture friends, and pyat (whom I understand either works with office supplies, or with documentation for office supplies).

The main problem is that I don't know what lead size I'm looking for. I don't even know how old the pencil is - the range could easily be from the 1930s to the 1960s. I know that 0.9 mm is too small. At an art store, I tried a fancy 1.3 mm lead, and that seemed too big. (Although in retrospect I could've tried it differently, so that's still an option.) I've been told there's 1.0 mm leads, or used to be, but I can't find anyplace in Winnipeg that supplies them. I checked both the local art supply and architecture/drafting supply places.

So I'd like to ask my friends for a favour!

If you've got a really well-stocked art supply store near you, could you give them a phone call and ask them if they've got mechanical pencil refills between 0.9 and 1.3 mm? (There's a chance this pencil is Imperial, of course, which would make the closest unit 3/64", or about 1.19 mm.)

Here's what the pencil looks like. It's metal; my parents told me it's silver, but I have no idea if that's the case. I've got just a little bit of the original lead left. As for the mechanics of it, the black thing at the end can be twisted.

The only thing that holds the lead in is the tip, which has a very fine split in it to be able to pinch the lead. The ruler in this photo is not of high quality, plus this was taken at a slight angle, so the perspective may distort what the width seems to be.

As to how it works, the inside is made of two parts. There's a thin metal stick with a flat bit at one end with grooved edges. This is free to slide back and forth within the other part, the part that twists.

The inner shaft of the pencil is corkscrewed.

So when you turn the end of the pencil, the grooved bit is made to move downwards, and the thin metal stick pushes the lead out. Neat little thing!

Current Mood: stumped

20 comments or Leave a comment
pyat From: pyat Date: February 22nd, 2006 06:52 pm (UTC) (Link)
Okay, let me put all those comments I made into one big one, because I'm being anal.

You have an antique twist pencil, sir. They were most common in the Victorian era, but yours could certainly be newer. My parents have a couple - a visiting university student used all their lead in the early 80s, writing an essay! The fiend!

Standard mechanical pencils are available with leads ranging from 0.8 to 2 mm, which you can order online if nowhere else. Or, you can try buying original leads, from here.

dronon From: dronon Date: February 22nd, 2006 07:03 pm (UTC) (Link)
You are a font of wisdom, my good man! I actually caught your original three posts, and now I have more keywords I can use in my online searches! My heart dropped for a moment when I saw "antique", but looking at that link you gave, their prices are quite reasonable. Pity the only 1.1 mm they have are in red. One of the art store people mentioned the Scheaffer brand too. Now I know how to spell it! I guess my next step is to find 1.0 and 1.1 mm sizes, see what works, and then buy a whole lot of them for perpetuity. Much thanks!
pyat From: pyat Date: February 22nd, 2006 07:14 pm (UTC) (Link)
Good luck!

And after all that, I forgot to use my Office Porn icon...
From: momentrabbit Date: February 22nd, 2006 07:14 pm (UTC) (Link)
One could simply purchase a rod of graphite and a lathe, and turn one's own leads.

And if one does, I beseech that one to lay a dropcloth on the wall behind, lightly sprayed with adhesive. The resultant flocking of graphitic dust blocked solely by your presence would be a piece most frame-worthy.

Advice - wear goggles and a respirator. :D
dronon From: dronon Date: February 22nd, 2006 07:17 pm (UTC) (Link)
You know, there's a good reason why I didn't appeal this message to my software engineering friends. ;-D
From: momentrabbit Date: February 22nd, 2006 07:28 pm (UTC) (Link)
... I'm afraid I can't see what reason that might be.

(I'm glad pyat found what you were looking for, however. ;)
From: cjthomas Date: February 22nd, 2006 09:23 pm (UTC) (Link)
I'm afraid I can't see what reason that might be.

It's that he's talking about me };>.

I thought about suggesting something along these lines, but it would be next to impossible to actually lathe rods that small without very specialized tools =^.^=.

My serious suggestion would be to find someone with a micrometer/microcalipers/whatever and get accurate measurements of the bit of lead he has left, to ensure that what he buys will work with the pencil.

From: momentrabbit Date: February 22nd, 2006 10:27 pm (UTC) (Link)
Your serious suggestion has great merit. :)
pyat From: pyat Date: February 22nd, 2006 07:17 pm (UTC) (Link)
No, you fool!

Graphite is precious! World supplies have been exhausted to the point that pencil leads barely contain the stuff anymore. Which makes the appellation "lead" even more disconnected from reality.

Still, I applaud your concept...
From: momentrabbit Date: February 22nd, 2006 07:26 pm (UTC) (Link)
Nonsense, man! I have a jar of it sitting atop my planar enscribing platform, which I keep obtuse to the wall and acute to the plane of the floorboards in the way of the Ancient Illuminators, even as I speak! It sits, all soft and lusciously greyish-black, pre-powdered for my dusting pleasure. It barely cost me a..

..hmm. Come to think of it, it was a mite dear, and that was some time ago.. perhaps this intra-not may shed light on this matter...

Ah, see! The very jar of which I speak, and it.. ZOUNDS! Backordered, you say?! They are clearly hiding a total depletion of the Earth's graphite mines!!!

Why.. I.. I might be rich! I have inadvertently cornered the world's supply of graphite! Soon I alone shall have the ability to moderate nu-clear reactions and leave dusky fingerprints all about!

BOW! BOW DOWN BEFORE THE HOLDER OF THE GRAPHITE!!! MAUAHHAHA! Oh, oh my. I must sit for a time, and rest. And ponder the fate.. of THE WORLD!
branwyn From: branwyn Date: February 22nd, 2006 07:40 pm (UTC) (Link)
You have entertained me. Bravo! You may live.


niall_ From: niall_ Date: February 22nd, 2006 07:57 pm (UTC) (Link)
It's a jar of.. General Graphite!

"Sir! General Graphite Sir! The uranium is heating up, sir!"

"Attention, all you Privates! This is your hour of duty! We'll go in deep and intercept as many protons as we can! Assume Rod formation and hit them Hard!"

"Ooo, General, I love it when you talk dirty..."

"You can call me Powdered, doll. And I always leave them dirty."

(...and I don't even have sleep dep to blame anymore...)
From: cjthomas Date: February 22nd, 2006 09:24 pm (UTC) (Link)

Now I have the Invader Zim Santa Song stuck in my head again, darn you...

pyat From: pyat Date: February 23rd, 2006 12:09 am (UTC) (Link)
plonq From: plonq Date: February 22nd, 2006 08:03 pm (UTC) (Link)
So pencils aren't dead yet, but clearly the writing is on the wall?
pyat From: pyat Date: February 23rd, 2006 12:10 am (UTC) (Link)
porsupah From: porsupah Date: February 24th, 2006 05:23 am (UTC) (Link)
Whatever our host's orchestral aspirations beforehand, he'd surely make an excellent conductor afterwards. ^_^
branwyn From: branwyn Date: February 22nd, 2006 07:41 pm (UTC) (Link)
Cool freakin' pencil!

I dig old engineering.

From: (Anonymous) Date: February 23rd, 2006 06:11 am (UTC) (Link)

Pencil Lead

Theres a good chance this is a 1.18mm lead. Do a search on Yard-O-Led and you will bring up lots of web retailers who sell Yard-O-Led pencils and pens, and the refills. Best thing would be to actually measure the existing lead though!
From: (Anonymous) Date: February 23rd, 2006 06:17 pm (UTC) (Link)

pencil lead

Hi, nice to see my blog got read.
Unfortunately I'm no expert on antique pencils, but I don't think this one is YOL. I believe all Yard-O-Led would have the makers mark and hallmarking assay stamps clearly visible on them. I see there is some marking on the top of the pocket clip - what does it say? Any other markings? If its silver then it will tarnish - does it? If it is silver then I think the makers were usually proud to display their name on their pencils. Is the turning knob on top metal, plastic?
YOL do 1.18mm leads - I would recommend swisherpens.com to you. Faber-Castell do 1.0mm leads which any major store should be able to get in for you. Other than that I think you are in some difficulty.
You can email me direct at davespencilsATxtra.co.nz
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