Thursday, April 4, 2013

Mystery pencil

For collectors of pens and pencils, there's always something new. In this case, that something is a bit of a mystery. Vulcanite and Goodyear's patent are all clear enough, but what on Earth is a "percussion pencil"?!

The leads seem conventional enough (no, they don't explode). Any suggestions?


Anonymous said...

A bit of alliteration to help marketing? Percussion Pencil just sort of rolls off the tongue. :)

George Kovalenko said...

I may have found a possible explanation in a quote from 1856. It talks about Vulcanite being as hard as iron, and being able to resist a heavy blow from a hammer without leaving the slightest mark. Its application to all sorts of handles of workmen's tools is also mentioned, but then it goes on to say, "The peculiar nature of the Vulcanite to resist percussion is manifested very convincingly in these handles of tools, as they may be struck either by a hammer or mallet without injury". Take a look at the longer explanation on L&P.

George Kovalenko.

David said...

Very interesting, and most probably on the right track. I would still like to see a contemporary use of "percussion" as an adjective, applied either to a pencil or to any other article made of hard rubber.

George Kovalenko said...

That might be hard to find, because it may be a proprietary use, and even a hapax legomenon, or a nonce word.

Jon Veley said...

Are the leads a conventional graphite/clay mixture or are they made of some other .material? "Percussion" seems to me to describe either the way the pencil worked or how it was used. If these leads don't write on ordinary paper maybe they were fitted into an engraving "pencil" like a tattoo pen and used to mark some other surface?

I did a blog article on a Goodyear's patent pencil awhile back and postulated it might have been made by Eagle. This lead box also strongly resembles early Eagle lead boxes.

Still pondering. Will try to add more later

Jon Veley

David said...

The leads appear entirely conventional. I wouldn't look to Eagle here, as the design of the box derives directly from those used for early Mordan refills (and note that the packaging here is English).

When did Eagle first offer a mechanical pencil? I would think that most of the pencils bearing the Goodyear patent imprints are earlier.

Jon Veley said...

Eagle was founded in 1856, just 5 years after Goodyear's patent was issued, and the pencil I have strongly resembles an Eagle Pointer. I can't prove it's an Eagle, though.

Eagle's Stop Gauge was patented in 1879. The Stop Gauge operated by pressing a button on the end to drop the lead out or in... I suppose you could tap it on a table with the end up and the "percussion" would retract the lead. Even though an 1851 patent would have expired by then, it would still have been a "patented" pencil (the absence of a patent date might support this idea).

Another thought . . . if the leads are very hard, they may have been suitable for carbon copies -- "percussion" through several layers of paper.

And Charles Walpuski's "copying lead" worked by writing with the pencil, then you could take a moist sheet of paper, press it on what you wrote (which would dissolve ink imbedded in the lead) and then transfer the writing to multiple copies by pressing it onto another page -- "percussion" of one page onto another page??

Just theories off-the-cuff.

Jon Veley said...

P.S.: look at my Eagle lead containers at this article:

The article also covers Eagle's use of the "SUN" trademark since 1869.

George Kovalenko said...

Jon, the leads are still short, as required by the early pencil cases. The Goodyear boxe looks more like the Mordan boxes in this photo.