Unsuspected revolution

My love/hate affair with a technical pencil

I bought it in 2006, and I haven't really used it that much, because the lead was making funny things, such as getting back into the pencil, no matter how much did I push its top in order to make it show its tiny little tip back into the outside world. But I just remembered that it came with a nice box of spare leads, so I went to my box of art supplies and here it was, just where I left it the last time I packed for moving.

I study the spares box, and finally find how to open it. It seems to have two modes--one will kindly allow only a fraction of the cover to open, in order to graciously slide a spare lead out when you skew the box with the proper angle and speed. The other "mode" is just totally open, where you can see how many leads are still left and even try to count them. The label said there were 12 units. I count 15, and all of them seem to be intact, which is quite a feat considering they have gone through two moves already. But I'm digressing...

Now my second aim is to find a way to remove the faulty lead from the pencil. It should be pretty easy, right? I just push it a little bit using the pencil's mechanism, then pull the meagre 0.2 mm it will dare to show out. So I end up with a fragment of lead which is 1.5 cm. Great! Phase "removing old lead" is complete!

I just have to place a new lead in and that will be all. Right? Yes--but how do I access its innards? Remember I have never done this before on this pencil since I bought it six years ago. Maybe it has mutated meanwhile! Maybe there are even new lifeforms inside it. An strange hybrid bred developed in between the UK and Spain, with some hints of German ancestry (as it's a Faber Castell 'Made in Germany' pencil) . I don't even want to imagine how it could look, but I dare to be brave and unscrew the top...

... only to end up with a little piece of cylindric plastic which acts as rubber mount/protection generally. After looking a bit silly for a while, I sort of remember that back when I went to school I had one of these, although it wasn't as fancy, and didn't even have a brand. Oh it also broke down at the end of my final exams but it was OK because it was easy to refill just by --I remembered now!-- pulling the rubber piece out! Aha! That was it!

I took the rubber out. It was long and thin, and had a 0.3 mm piece of lead stuck to the part that was inside the pencil. My mind wandered back to the part where I speculated with some strange hybrid race monster developing inside the pencil--maybe these are the remains of its birth; a violent irruption into an even more violent and dirty world; this unknown monster has born to kill...! Oh, and I'm digressing again!

OK! Back to the innards of this pencil. I look through the little opening that the rubber revealed, but I can't see light at the end of the 'tunnel'. Maybe there's something else blocking it? Either the monster, or more lead. Broken lead? I don't know. I decide to push down, and another little 0.3mm piece of lead shows up, oh so shy. "Ah, that was it!", I think. I pull it out, mercilessly, since it's so young and fragile it won't stand my furious scratching over the paper.

Do I see light at the end? Is everything clear for a new, entire lead to be placed in its proper place?

No, I don't! No, it isn't! But can anything else be left there?

I decide to take another approach: I unscrew the tip of the pencil. Maybe I can find out what's going on here. I remember if you kept the top button pressed and place the pencil vertically it just sort of flushes everything out, right? (or at least my cheap pencil did that). I do that.

Nothing happens.

So I turn it the other way, and all sorts of things fall out:

  • four pieces between 0.3 and 0.6 mm of lead
  • a longer piece, 2 cm
  • an even longer piece, probably 3/4 of an entire lead
  • a complete lead which is even longer than the one I had taken from the spare leads box

I'm confused. I don't recall having done any of this. So many leads inside the pencil! And why are there more leads in the spares box than there ought to be? Have they reproduced, all these years?

And the most important question of all: what was that that I wanted to draw with this pencil when the funny lead dance started?