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Everything begins with a Pencil . . . . (PART II)

By Harshad Raveshia

Worldwide pencil Industry at a Glance

Pencils are believed to be the basic tool for the development of entire Engineering & Science all over the world!! Believe it or not, pencils have played an important role in uplifting every nation!! Somewhere pencil was used as a revolutionary achievement and somewhere it was considered as basic source to awaken the nationality!!

Europe was ruling as the global source of pencils in 18th & 19th Century. Those other upcoming countries who depended on Europe were America, Mexico, India, Brazil, Argentina and some small Asian Countries. First of all, pencil established its own strong hold and influence in British Colonies!!

The way France faced the conflict with England & Germany in 16th Century, America faced in 17th & 18th Century!! This promoted Americans a new opportunity to explore the Manufacturing Industry of pencils!! During the American Revolution, European pencils were thrown or burnt and this forced New American Government to promote pencil Industry in BIG way!

A cabinet maker named William Munroe in concord, Massachusetts, started the first pencil factory in America. The process of pencil making adopted by William Munroe was very old and full of pain and hardship. Meantime in nearby town a Saw Mill owner Mr. Ebenezer Wood started an automatic & sophisticate (of old days) pencil Plant in Acton. This was far advance plant, imported from Germany and produced good amount of Round & Hexagonal pencils.  But he never patented his technology & product and soon was copied all over the America for making similar pencil Plants. One of them was Eberhard Faber whose name is still ruling the pencil Market all over the World. A Mining Company owner Mr. Joseph Dixon promoted Dixon Ticonderoga pencil & Art Supplies Company in 1870 and till this date this company is in largest production in America. (In 2009, FILA of Italy have taken over this company and my company is now directly associated with FILA).

In early 1800, the wood mainly used for making pencils was Red Cedar. This was replaced by Incense Cedar in 1900 and today this wood is regarded as the BEST wood for making pencil!!

Slowly the pencil manufacturing in USA was becoming expensive due to requirement of huge labor force, few Companies like Dixon & Faber adopted new technology, high efficiency machines with faster productivity. Many closed down their operation or started marketing pencils that were imported from other countries. Similar situation was there in Europe, all major companies moved to other countries where labor was cheap and natural resource like wood & graphite were available.

Now all the giants of pencil industry have their own plants at original location to develop new machines and technology and have major manufacturing plants in other developing countries. The growing demand of pencils, huge work force of highest world population China entered in pencil industry in 1950 in BIG way. In early days China was producing pencils for own use and today China feed pencils to the entire Global market as biggest pencil producer!! Some European Countries came to Asia with a vision of using Asian wood for making pencils, Malaysia & Indonesia were their base plants. In 30 years of time those companies deserted entire forest lands of these 2 countries and closed their plants!!

Today, Malaysia import pencils from China, Indonesia have small pencil unit, Thailand, Taiwan, Korea and Japan have small units which can’t cater their own need!!

Pencil Making.jpg

Modern Pencil Making

·         pencil length Wood Block

·         Raw Slat cut from Block

·         Treated & Seasoned Slat

·         Grooved Slat

·         Grooved Slat with Lead & Adhesive (6)

·         Lead between 2 Grooved Slats (Sandwich)

·         Half pencil Shaped sandwich

·         Raw pencil

·         pencil with Body Color

·         Ready pencil with Eraser Tip.

Pencil Industry in India

The pencil Industry in India is not much old, it dates back to 1946 only. The very first pencil Unit was set at Lahore using Deodar wood from Kashmir. In India, manufacturing of pencil is not like American or European Countries. A major player has to be equipped with own capacity of manufacturing all allied components of pencil!! One has to be ready with own Wooden pencil Slat Manufacturing Facility, it’s Treatment and Seasoning Facility, All kinds of pencil Lead (Black lead, Drawing Degree Lead and all kinds of Color, Cosmetic and Glass Marking Lead), All kinds of pencil Lacquer & Resins Manufacturing Facility. Beside this equipped with High speed pencil Manufacturing Wood working Machines and Coloring Machines.

In other countries, a pencil Manufacturer have only Wood working and Coloring Machines installed and rest all components comes ready for them from other suppliers!! As on today, only bigger player can survive and most of all small manufacturers have closed their operation!!

How is a pencil made?

The Major Stages can be described as under:

1.    Saw Milling

2.    pencil Slat Manufacturing

3.    pencil Slat Treatment & Seasoning

4.    All kinds of Graphite Lead Manufacturing

5.    All kinds of Color Lead Manufacturing

6.    pencil Body Lacquer (Paint) Manufacturing

7.    Wood Working Department

8.    Coloring Department

9.    Finishing Department

10. Packing Department

11. Dispatch Department

12. Marketing & Export Department.


Saw Milling

Suitable species of ‘SOFT’ wood is sawn to size of 3” thick & 6” wide ‘Slipper’, dried to perfect Moisture Content of 10%

Slat Manufacturing

Those 3” Thick Slippers are cut in to uniform length of 187 MM called pencil Blocks. Such Blocks are passed through ‘Automatic’ Slat Making Machines where it is sliced in to 5.00 MM Thickness, 75.00 MM Width & 185 MM Length. (7,00,00,000 Slats every day)

Pencil Slats Treatment & Seasoning

Those Slats are processed in Pressure Vessel with Softening Solution, Food Grade Color Die & Non-Toxic Preservative by 8 Stage Process which last up to 6 to 10 hours depending upon type of wood. Those Treated Slats contains nearly 150% Extra water so it has to be dried.

Such Wet Slats are ‘Stacked’ with uniform Air Gap on Seasoning Pallet and such Pallets are loaded in Seasoning Chambers for “Soft Drying” Process which takes nearly 6 to 10 days depending upon the Climatic Condition. Treated Dried Slats are transferred to Sizing Department where they are polished to uniform thickness, width & Length.

All Kinds of Graphite Lead manufacturing

Superior Quality Fine Mash size Graphite is mixed with Superior Clay, Resin & Water and Solid Mass of material are prepared. (More Graphite & Less Clay makes pencil Lead Darker & Less Graphite & More Clay makes it lighter)

This ‘mass’ of mixture is passed through T. R. Mill where it is ground to finest particle size removing extra water. This mass is passed on ‘Hammer Mill’ where on 3-4 pass, a Hard and Solid Mass of Solid Bar of mixture is made.

This Solid Mass is taken to Hydraulic Press, where with 10 ton Pressure Lead of desired diameter is extruded. Those extruded Lead contain nearly 50% extra water content so are packed in to ‘perforated’ canister container and passed through ‘Rotary Oven’.

After 6 hours, Container comes out and lead inside it is transferred to Crucibles. Those Crucibles are passed through Furnace having 850` C and backed for 30 minutes. Backed lead from furnace is allowed to cool and then packed in Container for transferring to other Department.

All Kinds of Color Lead manufacturing

Similar to Graphite Black lead, Graphite is replaced by various Pigments of desired Colors.

Rest of process remains same as Black lead only Backing Process in Furnace is not done.

After drying from ‘Rotary Oven’ Color Lead is passed through ‘Hot Wax’ Bath for smooth gliding and Coloring property.

Pencil Body Lacquer (Paint) Manufacturing

Pencils in India, comes with beautiful Colors and exterior finish. Pencil Paint known as Lacquer is manufactured using various solvents, resins, pigments & N. C. Cotton. Every day we consume nearly 10000 KG of Lacquer.

Wood Working Department

Wood Working is a sort of assembling wood & pencil Lead.

Pencil Slats are loaded on Groover Machine where every slat is formed with 9 grooves of desired pencil Lead diameter.

Grooved Slat move to Gluing & Lead Laying Machine where ‘adhesive’ is applied on every slat and on one Grooved slat, pencil Lead are inserted while other slat covers the lead to make sandwich! (Lead between 2 Slats)

This Sandwich moves to ‘Rotary Drying Press’ where the adhesive dry perfectly in nearly 24 hours’ time.

Those sandwiches comes to pencil forming machine where both sides are cleaned and high speed cutters give shape of 9 pencils.

This combine process needs great accuracy and speed. In 12 hour time this entire process cycle produce 200000 pencils. (We have such 18 lines.)

Coloring Department

Depending upon the quality of pencil every pencil is passed through automatic Coloring machine. This way each and every pencils are passed nearly 8 to 10 time to achieve desired finish and design. A pencil is applied 3 coats of Primer Lacquer + 4 coats of Color Lacquer + Finishing Lacquer.

Finishing Department

While Coloring, the end of pencil also get covered with Color, such Color is removed on End Cutting Machine. Pencils arrived from Coloring Department are embossed or printed with its name, grade. On next station pencils are either tipped with Eraser & Ferrule or Tipped to cover the other end. (We manufacture 2 million pencils with End Tipping & 0.5 million with Eraser Tips). Some of pencils (mainly Color pencil) are supplied with Sharpened Points, such pencils are sharpened on Sharpening Machines. (We sharpen every day 0.5 million pencils)

Each and every pencil Pass through Screening Machine and a pencil with smallest defect is removed.

Packing Department

In today’s world, buyer emphasize on Good quality Lead, Easily Sharpenable wood, Good BOND of Lead & Wood, Beautiful appearance and excellent Packing! Pencils are packed in Inner Carton as per their quality. And branding in 10 or 12 count. Such 10 or 12 Cartons are packed in outer Carton or Shrink Wrap and such units are packed in Master Case with all details of Product, unit packing  

Dispatch Department

All packed cases are moved to dispatch department where they are labeled as per its destination and shipped to transport.

Marketing & Export Department

Marketing Department has their Sales Representatives all over India depending upon the size of state. Every state have sales depot where sufficient quantity of pencils are stored. Depot > Super Stockiest > Stockiest > Retailer. This chain remains active to keep the market flowing with pencils.

Export Department look after ‘over seas’ business and handle all shipments time to time. (Our 50% pencils are sold in Oversea Market and 50% in Domestic Market)

Both of the departments keeps follow up of inbound payments and keeps on transferring time to time.

I am sure, all of you will remember one important thing; a small piece of pencil is as good as a small ‘sapling’ of Tree which you all plant as ‘Tree Plantation Project’ and after clicking some photographs and reporting you forget that ‘sapling’!! Please remember every ‘sapling’ you plant, let it grow into a BIG Tree; otherwise I may remain only in Museum by the end of this century!! And, I want to remain your confidential friend forever!!

So think, imagine, put it in words, sentence, use me more and keep secrets of your life safe!!




  • Harshad Raveshia is a member of Rotary eClub One
  • The opinions expressed by the authors of each Make-up Article do not necessarily represent the opinions of Rotary eClub One and its editorial staff.

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