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Graphite & Charcoal
Contrary to popular belief, pencils have never contained lead; their inner cores are composed of graphite. Graphite is a form of carbon first discovered by modern society in the 16th century. Before that time, most writers and artists used a stylus to produce light marks on paper. However, even in the the 4th millenium B.C., graphite paint was used by neolithic cultures to decorate ceramic pottery. That first modern discovery though, in England around 1500, was a pure, soft form of graphite that was guarded dearly by the Crown to improve the smoothness of cannonballs.
This rare deposit was so soft it could easily be sawn into sticks and produced a dark rich smudge; something so valuable locals began to smuggle graphite from the mine to mark their sheep. As the graphite sticks became more widely known, writers and artists began to seek out graphite for writing on paper or vellum.
Graphite, however, was extremely soft, requiring some sort of casing to prevent crumbling. As a result, the first pencils were simply wooden cases with graphite sticks glued or tied inside. It was not until 1759, when Nicholas Conté created a mixture of graphite and clay baked into a wooden core that modern mass-produced pencils were made available to artists. Conte's method allowed pencils to be made to any hardness or softness, which helped pencil-wielding artists and draftsmen. This ability to grade the softness of a pencil is now standardized across Europe and the United States and all manufacturers will label pencils according to this scale.
Graphite pencils have the purest forms of graphite available in the industry. Although a relatively high-cost pencil, Caran d'Ache is one of the few companies that owns its own graphite mines, monitoring the purity and softness of their graphite to produce consistent texture and depth with each pencil, decade after decade.
Graphite pencils use a finely milled combination of graphite and clay resulting in pencils and crayons that are smooth and never scratchy.
Premium Graphite Kimberly drawing pencils are extra smooth artist quality hex shaped drawing pencils. Available in degrees of hardness and proudly constructed in the USA.
Lumograph pencils are a top choice for engineers and drafters who prefer sharp points that produce smooth lines. Produced with a secret formula, Staedtler graphite is break-resistant and encased in select cedar wood.
Inktense Pencils bring a whole new side to color fills. Similar to watercolor pencils, Derwent Inktense pencils are firmer, brighter and more saturated than a traditional watercolor pencil. Simply apply color, or layer colors, and brush on water to blend into a smooth fill. Inktense pencils can also be used like traditional watercolor pencils and are a popular choice for silk prints.
Sam Flax stocks a variety of charcoals for strong bold lines or subtle, pale fills. We offer stick, pencil and loose charcoal available to suit every artist's style and application.
Pitt Charcoal, natural, pressed, pencils are available in black with a richness and depth artists have come to expect from the Faber-Castell line. Available in tan barrels which are pressed charcoal pencils and black barrels, a natural charcoal. Pressed charcoal sticks and natural charcoal sticks from Faber-Castell's premium graphite are also available.
Natural Vine Charcoal is a naturally produced charcoal created from carbonized vine twigs. Sold in sets of 3 and 6, this natural vine charcoal is available in extra soft, soft, medium and hard. Sticks are 6" in length.
Chunky Charcoal comes in 12 colors, the largest variety of charcoal colors offered by Sam Flax. Each stick is 5/8" thick and 3 3/8" long compressed, tinted charcoal. The unique size of these charcoal sticks fit comfortable in the artist's hand and can be used with large scale drawing and art pieces for wide swaths of color. Available individually or as a set, Cretacolor chunky charcoal creates strong, vivid lines of bold color that easily blends to produce exceptional depth and tonality.
Original charcoal pencils and loose charcoal produce smooth, rich, intense blacks. Available in various weights, soft, medium, hard, General's charcoals are created from a family formula dating back to 1889. All General's products are proudly made in the USA.
Made from a blend of natural pigments and clay, Conté Crayons have been used by many great artist through history including Picasso, Lautrec and Degas. Available in sticks and pencil sets, conté crayons blend easily like pastels, but are harder and more oily. We offer conté crayons in black, white, and sanguine with pencil sets that include green and gray.