“Said Hamlet to Ophelia,
I'll draw a sketch of thee.
What kind of pencil shall I use?
2B or not 2B?”
You're inadvertently moving the goal posts. A "straightforward pencil" isn't what that 1958 essay is about. It's talking about the modern manufactured pencils commonly used in schools.
It's very unlikely that a single person on Earth knows how to make such pencils from raw materials. The person who knows where to find graphite and how to mine for it will not be the same person who knows how to formulate the paint. Neither of them knows how to chop down raw trees and make small hexagon shaped tubes to hold the pencil lead. Then there's the steel or brass ring coupling the eraser to the the wood. There's also the chemistry and materials science to make the synthetic rubber for the eraser. No single person on the planet knows how to make that type of pencil.
A much harder thing woudl be to reproduce a modern quantum physics lab- I don't think any one person could master all the techniques required to do that from raw materials. Too much tech stack to walk u.
Sure, you can take a different view but that doesn't change the truth of the essay. Citing an experimental toaster is repeating the same mischaracterization in your previous comment. The essay is not about making "any usable pencil" or "any toaster".
It seems like you want the "I, Pencil" essay to be something other than what it is. You want a MacGyver themed essay but instead, got an unwanted essay about the cooperation required to make a simple manufactured object.
>I can learn [...] a well-educated person can learn [...]
The essay isn't about what a single person can _learn_. Instead, it highlights the counterintuitive point that no single person with the complete knowledge _exists_.
>A much harder thing woudl be to reproduce a modern quantum physics lab
Yes, things like silicon computer chips, communications satellites orbiting Earth, and particle accelerators are much harder but it misses the poetry of the essay. We already have intuitive sense that no single person knows how to build advanced technology projects. The author deliberately chose something that looked deceptively "simple" and dissected how much coordination in society it takes to make it. The "hidden" complexity is high enough to exceed the knowledge of a single person.
Take just the wood of the pencil. I'd have to chop trees. I don't even know how to make an ax tool to chop the tree. Sure, I guess I could learn how to make an ax -- which means I guess I could learn how to smelt steel... which means I have to learn... and so on. The groove channel in the wood to hold the lead?!? Another series of rabbit holes of learning to manufacture that cut. Glue? Again, the learning is not impossible (given enough time). It still doesn't change the fact that no single person knows it all. I suppose I could make _a_ thing that people might call a "a pencil" in a few days... but to replicate _that_ specific "Number 2 hexagon painted pencil with a synthetic rubber eraser"?!? That would take me a lifetime of learning. Most of the learning time is spent learning how to reinvent tools that make other tools that are several steps removed from the final assembly of the pencil.
I enjoy the How to Make Everything channel on Youtube for this reason. Here's what's probably their most popular video, the $1500 Sandwich: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=URvWSsAgtJE
Step 1: Find a graphite mine.
Making anything without the benefit of the market is staggeringly difficult. Knitting a sweater is easy. Raising your own sheep, shearing your own wool, washing, picking, carding, roving and spinning your own yarn is immensely difficult.
The author, Leonard E Read, is not an economist nor did he get an economics degree. He's a college dropout. He was a businessman but his extracurricular activities included writing. (E.g. the essay "I, Pencil").
We might call him a "social commentator".
Lighting is just as important, of course, but you can achieve some interesting effects just by giving light more time to enter a physically stable camera.
EDIT: I changed my mind. If you look at the photos carefully, you can see most of the effect is from a fill light behind the camera. If that light source doesn't exist, no amount of holding the shutter open will make it seem like it does.
Yeah, I was going to say what's really going on here is the photographer has a nice big soft box behind the camera (or maybe even just a diffuser on an on-camera flash). That way all of the flat surfaces facing the camera show pleasant highlights and then the dark areas define the edges of those.
A flash (any flash, even your camera’s built in one if it has manual power settings) and a few hours doing the first articles on Strobist will gove you the skills you need to light the pics in this article.
I always wondered what these were called.
The metal bit that holds paintbrush bristles to the handle holds the same name.
Just because a bunch of people haven't heard the word before doesn't mean it isn't a real word with an established meaning. So everywhere you see a ferrule used, it'll not surprisingly be called : a ferrule!
The screwed-into-a-tabletop ones we used to have at school in the 80’s and 90’s were great, with the crank and rotating blades. Was easy to make razor-sharp pencil points.
At home, with my kids, we only have those common cheapo sharpeners with a single angled razor blade. They sort-of work, poorly.
With those it’s too easy for the pencil point to break off, often the planed curl of wood will snap at the boundary between the two wooden halves of the pencil. It’s not smooth, and very hard to get a nice sharp point with them.
Then get one of those?
X-ACTO KS Manual Pencil Sharpener: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00006IEDY/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_apa_zPGw...
I adore mine. It lives in a pretty cut crystal candy bowl in a nest of colored pencil shavings.
Good pencils help too. I tend to prefer German and Japanese brands like Staedtler, Stabilo, Mitsu-Bishi, and Tombow.
As I posted elsewhere in the thread, author of the NYTimes article is the sometimes comedy partner of the artisanal pencil sharpener, who also wrote the definitive book on the subject.
In this case, "the consistency of sand" functions as an adjective, just like "soft". So in the same way you can say "packing graphite, which is soft", you can also say "packing graphite, which is the consistency of sand".
But at the same time, "the consistency of sand" works as an attribute too, like "black exterior". So in the same way you can say "packing graphite, which has a black exterior", you can also say "packing graphite, which has the consistency of sand".
Comparatives are always tricky in English, but consider:
“Ball bearings, which have the smoothness of plate glass, ...”
You would not put “are” for “have” in the above. You can generate a lot of similar examples.
One example where almost all authors go with "is": there are thousands of recipes saying to heat butter until it "is" a particular consistency, versus only a handful saying to heat it until it "has" a particular consistency. Compare https://www.google.com/search?q=%22until+the+butter+is+the+c... vs. https://www.google.com/search?q=%22until+the+butter+has+the+....
You'll also hear people say things like "it's the same difficulty as ___" instead of "it has the same difficulty as ___".
For example, many people will "graduated college" instead of "graduated from college". Reading comprehension is abysmal as well. I actually read instructions to stuff, but that is culturally-demonized - that probably doesn't help.
At least it makes it easier for the people that care to have a better chance at succeeding. When others lower their standards, it doesn't take much effort to rise to the top.
There’s nothing wrong with ascribing properties to a noun in either manner. Language is flexible enough to deal with whatever feels appropriate for a given noun-property pair, and this is hardly an egregious error.
Regarding graduation, bear in mind that until the 1960s it was more common for the school to do the graduating, rather than the student; a hypothetical student was graduated from college, they did not graduate from college. Of course, that now seems quite archaic. But the simplification continues, and perhaps in the near future the “unnecessary” from will sound equally unusual.
The point is that language is astonishingly flexible, and generally trying to take the road of prescriptivism is doomed to everlasting sadness and disappointment :)
Same to you.
Some people will even verbs from their sentences. But comprehension > grammatical "correctness" always. In time, grammar will adapt.
That said, "has" definitely doesn't sound wrong, and has the bonus of being more logical. So if you're looking for usage advice, go with "has" in this situation. But know that "is" is acceptable to at least some of us.
I was born in the early 90s, so both wooden pencils and mechanical pencils meant a lot to me. I still have two pencil lead left in my right palm because I accidentally stabbed my hands when I was a kid - pretty sure most of us who have used pencils regularly back then had experienced this.
Eraser was also a big deal to me and my classmates. I owned regular plain erasers, fruit-flavor erasers, and animal-shape erasers before. But I preferred the slightly expensive Japanese brand called "Sakurafoam eraser" .
I am not sure when our future generations will stop writing by hand completely, but eventually pen and pencil will see the fate as scribe and Chinese brush pen which are uncommon now.
You can still get them, for example the Lil Juicies:
Quality, specialization and marketing.
Pencils can be quickly swapped for different hardness. Swapping the lead grade in a holder is much more involved. Some artists may even find subtle differences between brands of pencils and may prefer to quickly swap.
Leadholders are almost invariably quite thick. The feel in hand is very different from the slim woodcase pencil.
Whenever I write by hand, I tend to prefer a fountain pen, a mechanical or a woodcase pencil. Writing with a Mitsubishi Hi-Uni or Tombow Mono 100 pencil, for those who can appreciate it, is a cheap luxury. Pencils are higly versatile writing instruments. I'm left handed and heavy handed and prefer H or 2H pencils to prevent smudging. Writers like Vladimir Nabokov praised the Eberhard Faber Blackwing (about 2B on a typical modern pencil scale, although these aren't standardized) for its smooth, almost pen-like glide.
American manufacturers can't compete in lowest price, but they might in best quality. The Germans and Japanese already do.
But surely you could just between multiple holders with different leads in them, which would be equivalent to swapping pencils?
I have a Mitsubishi Hi-Uni 10B woodcase pencil, which is the only 10B rated pencil I could find. As you said, pencil hardness isn't standardized, but it's a very soft pencil, and it does feel smooth compared to other woodcase pencils. But it does not feel as smooth as a 0.5mm mechanical pencil with Pilot Neox 4B lead, which is the smoothest mechanical pencil lead I could find. The Mitsubishi does however write a little darker.
There are competitors which sell twelve-packs of № 2 of similar quality for about the same price, if Amazon is anything to go by.
Pencils are also still basically indispensable in schools.
With this, it is more issue of price, availability, personal preference and practicality. Some folks will seek out such a thing, but most wont.
I found one from Faber-Castell (generally available brand of art pens/pencils).  The hardness isn't marked on the outside of the pencil (good for looks, bad for pencil changes) Though it comes with 14 different hardnesses of lead, refills only come in 11 (You don't need such a wide variety most times though). Oh, and they are $11.50 each.
I'd use at least 3-4 different graphite hardnesses in one picture, usually a few more. $45-$60 with hard to find replacement leads for a small benefit that doesn't seem to improve things the way a good paintbrush does. After all, you can just buy Faber-Castell wood pencils (a set for around the price of one) and get the same quality lead.
Now, more to the point, the concerns I would have switching as an artist: some mechanical pencil lead isn't quite the same substance as the pencils, and it is obvious when one erases and blends. Not only that, but I'm pretty sure that even though you can use the side of lead, the shape of the tip is different sort of support than the wood against the pencil. I can see how folks would prefer one sort over an other, so it might not work out.
I can say that lead extracted from a Dixon Ticonderoga produced considerably less smoke than an 0.9mm Pentel-branded mechanical pencil lead when I drove five amps at 30VDC through both of them in turn, as a test of whether a newly arrived bench supply, cheaply bought from a no-name manufacturer, would live up to its rating. Both leads eventually glowed cherry red, as would be expected of any small-diameter carbon resistor dissipating 150W, but I wasn't equipped to measure such temperatures any more accurately than by eyeballing the emission color, which suggests a temperature in the rough neighborhood of 800-1000°F. On the way there, both leads cooked off everything that wasn't carbon, the Ticonderoga lead producing a faint ribbon of smoke that ceased after a few seconds, while the mechanical lead, despite its smaller diameter, released such a robust and prolonged emission that I wondered whether it might burst into flame. Once they'd cooled back to ambient, I handled both leads, and found the Ticonderoga about as sturdy as it had initially been, while the mechanical lead became extremely fragile with the loss of whatever waxes had burned off; I wasn't even able to remove it from the test jig without breaking it several times, and when I carefully loaded the largest piece into a pencil and tried to feed it for a writing test, it was too weak even to stand up to the clutch.
I haven't tried it with leadholder leads, not having enough use for such tools to own any, but I'd expect a result closer to the mechanical lead than the wood-pencil one.
It blows my mind that they do this manually... I wonder how often, if at all, they update their production line.