Tools of the Trade

A Cowboy has his Lasso.

A Musician has his Guitar.

I have my Pencil.

The humble graphite pencil might seem like the simplest of drawing tools, and so it is – but with time and much practice, this creative tool can become a wonder to behold.  The next few posts will unveil the Tools of My Trade. Today – the Wood-Cased Pencils.

Usually cased in Cedar, these pencils possess a lightness much different than drafting pencils. Graphite Pencils have cores made from powdered graphite (not lead) fired with clay, varying in hardness. The type of graphite used in pencils is relatively soft and malleable, a little like lead, and was mistakenly thought to be a form of lead when first discovered. The misnomer stuck, and many people think that pencils once had lead cores, though they never did. Graphite leaves a small, smooth particle on the paper that has a slight sheen.

Pencils can vary widely in quality. Irregularities in substandard or poorly processed graphite can lead to unpredictable tonal range, and even worse, scratches in the paper. Uncentered cores tend to break on sharpening. High quality artist’s pencils deliver reliable, even tone at carefully graded hardnesses, and are less prone to breakage.

The familiar ‘graylead’ pencil has a graphite/clay core encased in cedar wood. These range in hardness from around 9b (very soft) up to 9H (very hard indeed) depending on the brand. Most artists starting out will find that a selection of 2H, HB, 2B, 4B and 6B is more than adequate to start with.

While some may argue of the inherent disadvantages of these pencils – such as a shortening when continued sharpening, as well as having a tendency to break internally, I prefer wood-cased pencils, because they are consistent, and can be utilized with a sharp point or a smooth edge, useful in shading.

 Turquoise Drafting Pencil

Hard Leads –

Prismacolor Turquoise Drawing Pencils are my preferred pencils for the hard leads. They are well fired and consistent, and have much

less wax in the makeup of their pencil than other brands. Harder pencils excel for their ability to hold sharp points, and are used for straight line and detail work. They come in the ranges of 9H – 2H.

 

Graphite Pencils

Graphite Pencils

 

Soft Leads

Staedtler Pencils used to be my favorite soft lead pencils (they come in dark blue). While I still use these pencils on occasion, I have recently discovered General’s “Kimberly” Pencils, (the green pencil) and now I am sold on these. These pencils are made of a non-porous Ceylon graphite cores, making them much more dense and durable.

The core is “Carbo-Welded” to withstand four times the normal point pressure, which lends themselves to strength throughout the life of the pencil.

Graphite Pencils

Graphite Pencils

Soft leads consist of 2B-9B.  Soft leads are best suited to sketching and blending, and delivering the darkest of tones.

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About Geri Dunn

Western Graphite Artist
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