Sunday, May 8, 2011

And Now For Pencils

Okay, so while I figure out what I need to do to get 256 MB of RAM (never mind the fact that that is exactly how much my computer has), and how much it's likely to run me, onwards. Quick, let's find something.

Pencils. Lots of pencils around. That's a subject. Good for writing things. Plenty of yellow and green metal bands and pink erasers and always, always #2. Why? Why are they always #2? Where's the #1 pencil?

That's a scale of hardness. #2 is the standard, as it falls in the middle of the hardness scale. #1 is a softer grade; the scale goes to #4 for harder grades. But, that's only the American way of grading pencil hardness- just like the metric system, America and Europe rate this differently.

The European system works using a series of H's and B's- H for hardness, B for blackness. The more of each (up to 9), the closer you get to each extreme of the scale. There's an F (fine point) in the middle, as well as HB, one grade softer than F. A #2 pencil generally (but not always) corresponds to HB. Softer leads are preferred by artists who can more easily get a range of greys; harder leads are preferred by engineers who are more concerned with the lead's shape not deforming and smudging a line.

Where the pencil falls depends on the ratio of graphite to clay. Contrary to what you probably just guessed, the clay makes the pencil harder, not softer.

Also, while we're on the subject of pencils, according to the Straight Dope, if you stab a guy with a pencil and some of the graphite gets stuck under his skin, you can totally give him a tattoo. (This information is supplied for educational purposes. The blogger assumes no responsibility for frothing masses of pencil-wielding mobs randomly stabbing people in the streets.)

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