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Mechanical Pencil Day

Mechanical pencils are celebrated and promoted today, on Mechanical Pencil Day, a holiday created by Cult Pens, a purveyor of pens and pencils. They started it after they noticed there was a Fountain Pen Day but not a day for mechanical pencils, and they set it on July 5th, a date written as 7/5 or 5/7 depending on which part of the world one lives in. These numbers are significant because the most common mechanical pencil lead sizes are 0.5 mm and 0.7 mm.

Although the pigment core of mechanical pencils is called lead, it isn't made of lead, and instead is usually made of graphite. The lead is replaceable and the pencils can either be designed to hold it in position or to propel it forward mechanically. Lead can range in size, hardness, and pigment. Mechanical pencils provide a consistent width of lines without any need for sharpening, being useful in technical and fine-art drawing, and also being popular with students.

The first mechanical pencil patent was applied for and granted to John Isaac Hawkins and Sampson Mordan of Britain, in 1822, for their "ever-pointed" pencil. But records of mechanical pencils predate this. For example, one was found aboard the HMS Pandora, which sank in 1791. Eleven years after Britain's "ever-pointed" pencil, the "forever pointed" pencil was patented in the United States by James Bogardus.

The most significant moment in the development of the mechanical pencil came in 1879 when Joseph Hoffman applied for a patent for the first pencil with a pushbutton clutch. The patent was used in the Eagle Automatic, a pencil manufactured by the Eagle Pencil Company. This can be viewed as the first true mechanical pencil. Improvements were made to this design with pencils like the Ever-Ready Sharp Pencil, made by Tokuji Hayakawa in Japan in 1915 (which would lead to the Sharp Corporation); with a pencil designed by Charles R. Keeran in the United States around the same time, which became the Eversharp; and with Carl Schmid's 1929 patent, which became the Caran d'Ache Fixpencil.

These early mechanical pencils had metal and wood casings, while most now have plastic casings. Erasers are now also generally included. But drafting pencils usually are still made of metal and don't have erasers. Regardless of their style, all mechanical pencils are celebrated and promoted today!

How to Observe Mechanical Pencil Day

Celebrate by using a mechanical pencil to write notes or a letter or to do some drawing. It's a great day to get yourself a few new mechanical pencils as well. You could even get them from Cult Pens, the creators of Mechanical Pencil Day. During past celebrations, Cult Pens has sponsored mechanical pencil contests and giveaways, so make sure to check for any taking place. If you want to learn more about the different types of mechanical pencils, you could read Jonathan Veley's The Catalogue of American Mechanical Pencils. Perhaps most importantly, post on social media about why you love mechanical pencils, and include the hashtag #MechanicalPencilDay.

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