Jun 3, 2008 - ..Children, Anything & Everything, Science & Technology    4 Comments    7,797 views

What is pencil lead made of?

Kids ASK! about Science & Technology

The traditional pencil can be fondly described as the writing instrument encased in a cylindrical wooden casing. The supposedly pencil ‘lead’ was actually made up of graphite mixed with clay and water.

As you know, there are varying blackness when we use different types of pencils, e.g 2B, 2H etc. The blackness of the pencil is dependant on the mixture of the ingredients.

Then you must be asking: “Why is it called lead when the metal, lead, is not part of the ingredient?”

Well, the Romans did write with metallic lead but in 1400, a soft material rock was discovered which led to people to believe it was metallic lead. Pencils were then manufactured from this discovered material. This was finally proved wrong in 1779 when the material was actually discovered to be microcrystalline carbon. This form of carbon was then christened graphite.

Source: Chipman, R. A. (2008). Pencil. Encyclopedia Americana. Retrieved May 26, 2008, from Grolier Online http://ea.grolier.com/cgi-bin/article?assetid=0306920-00

For more amazing facts, here are some recommended library books on minerals and crystals:

Rocks and minerals by Kelly Milner Halls
Publisher: Oxford : Heinemann Library, 2007
Call No.: Y 552 HAL

Minerals by Sally M. Walker
Publisher: Minneapolis, Minn. : Lerner Publications Co., c2007
Call No.: J 549 WAL

Crystals by Connor Dayton
Publisher: New York, N.Y. : PowerKids Press, c2007
Call No.: J 548 DAY

Minerals : from apatite to zinc by Darlene R. Stille
Publisher: Minneapolis, Minn. : Compass Point Books, c2005
Summary: “Explains what minerals are, the elements in minerals, properties of minerals, where minerals are found, and how minerals are used.”
Call No.: J 549 STI

All websites were last accessed on 2 June 2008. Please check the websites’ homepages for the terms and conditions of use. All book summaries were taken from the book descriptions. All images were extracted from www.amazon.com and www.bn.com.

For the availability of the above book titles, please check the library catalogue.

zul.jpgOriginally answered by Mr Zulkifli Bin Amin
Children’s Librarian
Children’s Services

Posted by Ms Elizabeth Lee
Children’s Librarian
Children’s Services

Found this post interesting? What do you think? Post your comments.

If you have a different question, please email to ask@nlb.gov.sg instead of sending a comment.


  • if u r studying science (@ sec lvl perhaps), pencil lead shd remind u of hw molecular forces change e physical properties of e sme element Carbon (C-12). tink of graphite vs diamond vs fullerene

  • you need mor information.

  • Good and …well,not so good.The good thing is that you recommended interesting books to read up on, and sort of provides the history of pencils or pencil leads,whatever. but maybe you should give more information on if it is a good heat/electricity conductor,and why.i felt quite lucky when i found this website,anyway,’cause it provided me with lots of extra information for my group project! F.Y.I,i’m a P5.

    • Hi keyou,

      Im glad that our website has been of help to your project!
      You can email us at ask@nlb.gov.sg in future if you require more help for your projects. =)

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