The common name “pencil lead” is due to an historic association with the stylus made of lead in ancient Roman times.
The ancient Romans used a writing device called a stylus. Instead, blocks of graphite were sawed into sticks to be used as writing implements.
Pencils acquired the name black lead because the earliest graphite to be discovered was black lead. The black core of pencilsnever contained the element lead.
Black core is still referred to as “lead” and many people have the misconception that the graphite in the pencil is lead.
Writing material in a pencil is actually a mixture of the mineral graphiteand clay combined with certain chemicals and wax. As you write, tiny bits of the soft lead are rubbed on the paper, creating words and pictures.
Colored pencilsare usually made of clay and wax mixed with coloring materials called pigments and dyes, rather than graphite. All pencils normally contain graphite, which is a form of carbon and it is considered non-poisonous.
Did you know that the average pencil has enough lead to draw a line at least 35 miles (56 kilometres) in length?
Content for this question contributed by Steve Benevides, resident of East Taunton, Massachusetts, USA