How a Pencil is Made
We take pride in handcrafting quality pencils and artist materials using traditional methods passed down for six generations. Our history dates back to 1860 when Edward Weissenborn founded the American Lead Pencil Co. in Hoboken, NJ. He was an inventor and machinist and acquired 28 patents for improved machinery and processes in making 360 different kinds of pencils. He sold the company to The Reckford family in 1885. Edward then established The Pencil Exchange in Jersey City, New Jersey with his son Oscar, in 1889. Which was later renamed The General Pencil Company.
Chunks of graphite (a soft, dark mineral) and clay are placed inside a huge rotating drum. Large rocks inside the drum crush the graphite and clay into a fine powder. Then water is added, and the mixture is blended in the drum for up to three days
Huge wheels grind the dried sludge into another fine powder, and water is blended in again to make a soft paste.
After drying, the pencil leads are put into an oven heated to 1,800 degrees Fahrenheit The intense heat makes the leads smooth and hard, which makes for good writing points.
A thin coat of glue is applied to the slats, and one pencil lead is placed into each of the eight grooves. Within seconds, another wide grooved slat is glued on top, sandwiching the leads
The same machine cuts apart each slat into eight separate pencils.
A heated metal stamp presses the name of the company and a number - such as the number 2 - on the pencil in foil or paint. The number indicates how hard the pencil lead is.
A machine squeezes all the water out of the mixture leaving behind a grey sludge. Here, a worker puts the sludge in a cabinet where it air dries and hardens for four days.
The paste is pushed through a metal tube and comes out in the shape of thin rods. The rods are cut into pencil-length pieces, called leads, and sent along a conveyor belt to dry.
In another part of the factory, the wood is prepared. Machines cut blocks of Incense Cedar Wood, a renewable resource, into wide slats. Eight shallow grooves are sawed lengthwise into each slat.
When the glue dries, the slats are fed through a cutting machine. Fast revolving steel blades trim the wood into round or hexagonal shapes, one side at a time.
The pencils are sanded, and each one receives from five to eight coates of paint.
A metal band, called a ferrule, is wrapped tightly around one end of the pencil. It holds the eraser, which is being added here. The pencils are then ready to be sharpened, packaged, and used.