Welcome to Roger Russell's
Scripto Pencil History Page
Includes older pencils, parts display, lead ingredients and Skilcraft pencils

These pages are copyrighted
No portion of this site may be reproduced in whole or in part
without written permission of the author.

Pencils are for those who know they can make mistakes.
Erasers are the path to perfection.
Pens have written and must move on.

Pencils write when they are old and even when they are cold.
Pencils write high in the air and never leak, no matter where.

Pencils never dry out and write the first time and every time.

What's on these pages?

Introduction and History

Old Souvenir Set

Old Scripto Leads

The Classic

Earlier K780 Style

Scripto Wordmaster

Scripto Made in Mexico

Scripto K789 Mexico

The Later Classic K21

Lady Scripto

Scripto Gift Set

Mini Scripto

Leads and Erasers

CX-22 Mark Sense Leads

Scripto Crayon Marker

Inside a Crayon Marker

Marker Service Note

Listo Crayon Marker

Inside a Scripto Classic K780

Loading the K780

The Cassette Pencil

Inside a Scripto K21

Loading the K21

The Cushion Pencil

P Series Pencils

Lead grades and materials

Skilcraft Pencils

Autopoint Pencils

Scripto Erasable Pens

Wearever Pencils 

Introduction and History

Scripto was founded in Atlanta, GA in 1923 and was known as the M. A. Ferst Company. It was a major supplier of graphite leads. The following year the company name was changed to Scripto. This is Latin for "I write." In 1955, Scripto started selling refillable butane lighters called the "Vu-Lighter". In 1957 Scripto acquired Anja Engineering Corporation, an international company that supplied writing instruments. Tokai-Seiki of Japan partnered with Scripto in 1974 to sell disposable lighters. These were produced and marketed by Tokai with the Scripto name. Scripto continued to market new products such as the first erasable pen in 1980. In 1984 Tokai-Seiki became the Tokai Corporation and purchased Scripto. In 1988 the company name was changed to Scripto-Tokai Corporation with Corporate headquarters in California and manufacturing operations in Tijuana, Mexico. Tijuana is located just over the US-Mexican border.

In the February 26, 1990 issue of the San Diego Business Journal, Anne Middleton reported that Scripto-Tokai had opened its Tijuana plant with just 72 workers in January of 1989. But after closing two US facilities and moving its operations to Mexico, The reason was to cut costs. Wages in Southern California are about 8 times those paid in Tijuana. This strategy is called a maquiladora, also known as a twin plant, takes advantage of Mexico’s inexpensive labor by allowing US firms to send equipment and other supplies to Mexico for further assembly without paying import duties. The company hoped to increase its share of the US market that was currently 28 percent disposable lighters and 5 percent disposable writing instruments. Although the Tijuana plant was about 125,000 square feet and more space was needed, there were no specific plans to expand. In addition to making disposable lighters, ballpoint pens, mechanical pencils, other writing instruments and gas cartridges for curling irons, the company made lighters for barbecues and candles.

Some time after this, to the disappointment of many users, Scripto discontinued all pencil products including the well-remembered K780 twist (spiral) type of pencils and recently introduced automatic push-push version called the K21. In 2006, the company name was changed to Scripto USA. Today, although Scripto continues to market other items, all pencils and pencil products are discontinued.

 

Old Scripto Pencil

 

 

 

Old Souvenir Set

Here’s a souvenir set from 1941. It’s complete with a custom pencil, a box of 3 leads, and a box of 5 erasers.  The outside box includes a cream colored cover  that is 1/2” high, 6 3/8” wide and 2-1/8” deep. 

The pencil is 5-9/16” long and has a round barrel that is 3/8” in diameter. It weighs 17.8 grams or about 0.63 ounces. The .046" lead is advanced with a twist action. The lettering on the pencil says "Georgia Power Company A citizen Whom We Serve. Arkwright Banquet February 1941." The name Scripto is on the gold colored clip.

The lead box is 1/4” high, 4” wide and 9/16” deep. A wooden tray inside has three grooves that each hold one lead. On the back of the box it says “To refill Scripto pencils—REAR DRIVE PENCILS—turn eraser holder to right until pin comes through point. Next turn to left as far as possible without forcing. Insert at point. Turn to right until clutch inside touches lead. Then push lead into clutch. FRONT DRIVE PENCILS—hold point end and follow above directions for refilling.” On one side it says “Made by Scripto Mfg. Co. Atlanta, GA., U.S.A.” The other side says “Scripto Long Leads. Made in 10 degrees of black and 17 colors.”

The eraser box is 5/16” high, 1-3/8” wide and 1/2” deep. It contains 5 erasers with metal clips. The erasers are 5/16” long and 1/4” in diameter. On the back it says “To replace eraser. Pull off eraser holder. On old models, push worn eraser through bottom—On new models, thru top. Insert new eraser same way.”

On one side it says “Made by Scripto Mfg. Co., Atlanta, GA. U.S.A.” The other side says “No Smudge.” On the ends it says “No 85.”

 

Old Scripto leads

Scripto products used to be identified by the large red dot. During the war, production of Scripto pencils and all other mechanical pencils were limited. Customers were encouraged to take good care to those they had or were to buy and, of course, refill them with Scripto leads.

Scripto pencil shown in a 1943 advertisement.

In 1943, Scripto was advertising ten different grades of black leads from 2B to 6H plus seventeen different colored leads. Lengths of 1-3/8” and 4” were both available. Packaging, of course, was in the regular wood tray that gave good protection for the leads.

The Classic

 

Here are a few Scripto pencils I saved from more than 50 years ago. They are sometimes referred to as the twist or spiral type. The smoke, yellow and red colored ones are 5-1/2" long and are 8-sided except at the lead end of the barrel where they are round. They are 5/16" in diameter at the widest part. Weight is 8.5 grams or 0.30 ounces. The yellow one came with a yellow eraser. The green one is 4-1/2" long and has an all round barrel 5/16" in diameter. Weight is 8 grams or 0.28 ounces. They all use 1.1mm leads.

Earlier K780 Style

 

I came across a group of 1.1mm pencils that may be from the late 1950s. The colors are still very nice. The barrel also has the name Scripto imprinted in white lettering. According to the seller, this pencil was used by children for standardized tests. The leads were extra black for electrographic marking in small spaces on the paper. According to the seller, purchasing Scripto mechanical pencils and electrographic leads separately was less costly than purchasing IBM electrographic, wood-clad lead pencils. The erasers, of course, were worn down and hard as a rock. I replaced them with new ones and with new leads the pencils are ready to be used again.

 

The clip is triangular and flares out at the end. Stamped into the metal is Scripto Atlanta USA

 

A few of the blue and red pencils have a large Scripto on the clip but also say USA 029 at the top of the clip.
The clip is less triangular and is not flared at the tip. The name Scripto is not imprinted on the barrel.

 

 

Scripto Wordmaster Pencil

 

 

 

Both of these pencils are Wordmasters.
The green one is 0.9mm. It says Wordmaster on the clip and Scripto
on the band. There is no eraser cover and it appears to be an economy version.
The clip, band and point are chromeplated.

The black one is 1.1mm and measures 5-7/16” long and 3/8” in diameter.
Weight is relatively heavy at 20.8 grams or about 3/4 of an ounce.
The clip, bands and point are gold plated. It sold for $1.00.

Here is an advertismentfrom the May 31, 1947 Saturday Evening Post magazine.

Scripto Made in Mexico

Note that several of the twist type pencils have USA stamped in very small letters at the top of the clip. This pencil has MEX stamped at the top. It also has Mexico stamped in small letters on the barrel next to the clip. The pencil is 5-1/2" long and the solid red barrel is round with a diameter of 5/16”. The lead is also red.

Reissue of the Classic

This Scripto Classic was reissued as the "Classic Combo". It consists of the pencil and a tube of six 4” leads. I have seen the transparent colors of green, clear, red, blue and smoke.

The pencil is 5-1/2" long. The barrel is 8-sided except at the tip end that is round. It is 5/16" in diameter at the widest part. The display cards for this pencil are dated 1997. They were discontinued in 1999 but some were available in stores for a while until the remaining stock was sold. Weight is 8.5 grams or 0.3 ounces. Six black 1.1-mm leads come with the combo package. They are 4" long and are in a plastic tube 5/16" in diameter. They sold for $1.29 in stores.

The display cards say “Pencil made in Mexico. Lead made in Japan.” Note that some erasers are white and some are gray. However, the card number 02319 is the same for all of them. To add to the confusion the pencils with the gray erasers say USA at the top of the clip and the ones with the white erasers are blank at the top of the clip. In addition, only the blue pencil has written in white on the barrel “Scripto Classic K780 Mexico.” Clearly, this would seem to indicate a transition between old stock from the USA and those made in Mexico. Nothing was to be wasted.

Scripto K789 Mexico

The display card for this pencil is dated 1989 and says No. K789. However, the silver writing on the body says “Scripto Classic K780 Mexico.” The card also says “Assembled in Mexico from parts made in the USA and Japan.” It is otherwise the same as the normal K780 twist type. If it were not for the card, it would not be known as the K789 except perhaps for the silver writing to distinguish it.

The later Classic

Here's the later Scripto Classic K21 1.1mm No. 2 pencil introduced in 1999. It's quite different from the earlier classic, although it still uses the same 4" 1.1 mm leads. This is a push type instead of a twist action. You push on the eraser and the lead advances about 1/32". The lead seems to be gripped very firmly in place. Perhaps because it has a larger surface area compared to 0.5-mm pencils.

The design is trendier and the colors are more brilliant, perhaps for appeal to the younger generation. I have seen blue, red and purple so far. The barrel is round and the surface is frosted so you can't see the lead or mechanism clearly. It's 5-3/4" long and about 5/16" in diameter. The metal clip is 3/16" wide. Weight is still 8.5 grams or 0.3 ounces. The same package of six leads is included as with the earlier K780. The pencil and leads are made in Japan. The package is dated 1999. These pencils are for sale on my Scripto sale page.

The Sanford "Spike" sold a couple of years ago is almost an exact copy of the Scripto K21 pencil but is now discontinued. It was also made in Japan.

 

Lady Scripto

 

Here are two unique Scripto products. The Propelling Pencil takes 1.1mm leads. The round barrel measures only 3/16” in diameter and is 3-3/4” long. Scripto is embossed in large letters on the barrel and Germany is in very small letters at the end of the barrel. Lead can be advanced or retracted by turning the small tip at the end of the pencil. A chain was found with it but may not have come with the original pencil. The pencil appears to be gold plated. Weight with the chain is only 4 grams. The hinged box cover folds back to close.

The octagonal barrel measures only 7/32” thick and is 4-5\16” long. Scripto is embossed in large letters on the barrel and Foreign is in very small letters at the end of the barrel. The ball point can be advanced or retracted by turning the small tip at the end of the pen. The pen appears to be gold plated. Weight is only 5.7 grams. The box cover folds back to close.

Scripto B324 Gift Set

This beautiful silver and gold colored pen and pencil set comes in a clear plastic case. Plastic clips hold the metal pen and pencil in place. The case measures 6-1/2” long, 1-7/8” wide and 7/8” high.

The pencil has a push-type clutch-action and has a covered eraser. It takes Scripto F350/F359 leads that are 0.5mm in diameter and 2-3/8” long. The erasers are Scripto J270. Leads and erasers are available on my main Scripto page. The pencil is 5-1/4” long and 9/32” in diameter. It weighs only 12.1 grams or 0.43 ounces.

The twist action ball point pen has a medium size point and blue ink. The pen measures 5-1/4” long and 9/32” in diameter. It weighs only 14.8 grams or 0.52 ounces.

“Taiwan” is written in small letters on the side of the clip for both pen and pencil.

This label is on the bottom of the presentation case.

Mini Scripto

 

This is the smallest Scripto pencil I have found. It is only 2-1/2” long and 5/16” in diameter. The 1.1mm lead can be advanced by turning the metal cap. It includes a handy keychain. In faint lettering on the metal cap it says Scripto Atlanta USA

Leads and Erasers

In 1947, a box of leads and erasers were advertised in the Saturday Evening Post for only 10 cents each.

Here's a different Scripto lead box. It is 1/4" thick, 4" long and 5/8" wide. A wooden tray inside has three grooves that each hold two leads. On one side it says "For all mechanical pencils using standard diameter (.046 inch) extra strong lead 4" long." On the other side it says "9-64 Scripto long leads made in 18 colors and 10 degrees of black by Scripto, Inc., Atlanta, GA, U.S.A." The numbers 9-64 may indicate a date of September 1964.

Many other boxes containing leads were made over the years

This later package is called the Classic Refill item number B459. It contains four erasers with metal holders and a tube of six 4" leads. The leads are the HB grade. These erasers and leads fit both K780 and K21 types.

In 2003, the packaging has changed with new colors and layout. It contains the same leads and erasers.

 

Leads from England

 

 

Dur-O-Lite CX-22 “Mark Sense” Leads

These extra soft leads have been around for many years. The original shipping box of 12 containers was sent to H&R Block, the income tax people. H&R Block has been around since 1955 and this may have been when these leads were made. Each container has a wooden tray to hold the leads much like the way the older Scripto leads were packaged. The tray contains seventy two 3-1/2” leads. The box is 5-5/8” wide, 1-1/8” deep and 7/16” thick, It weighs 23.7 grams or .84 ounces. I believe, because of the high graphite content and their dark marking ability that these leads were used for marking forms that were read by an electronic eye for processing. I find them very useful because the writing is very easy to see. CX-22 leads are for sale on my Scripto sale page.

Scripto Marker

This Scripto marker is 4-3/4” long and is 3/8” in diameter. Also shown are the leads that are .120” in diameter and 2-3/4” long. They came in the old style wooden tray that insured that the leads would not get broken. There are 4 pieces in a box. The knurled knob at the end advances the lead and will also retract it.

Inside a Scripto Crayon Marker

The top of the marker can be unscrewed leaving the clip in place. Then the slide channel can be pulled out including crayon.
The inside of the barrel is threaded.

Inside the channel are the plastic cam, the brass guide and the red plastic plunger.

The white protrusion on the cam will rotate in the brass guide to advance or retract the lead.
The three small protrusions at the right end fit into the threaded interior of the marker barrel.
Turning the knurled end of the marker will then move the guide, cam and crayon up or down the barrel.
The irregular tip prevents the crayon from twisting while writing.

When a new lead is inserted in the marker and is pressed into place, the end of the soft crayon is pushed into the protruding surface of the plunger. Some residual wax can be seen around the edges. The crayons are.120” in diameter and the brass guide is 130” to 140” in diameter.

Marker Service Note

I have found that some older crayons left in a pencil over the years have become brittle. When the crayon is removed and reinserted, it may not retract any more. The crayon may even slide out of the pencil. This is because the crayon cannot reattach to the plunger when pressed according to the above instructions. The plunger has a star or other shape protrusion that normally imbeds into the soft crayon material and that is sufficient to hold the crayon in place and retract it. Sometimes the crayon is no longer soft enough for this to work and prevents the plunger from attaching to the crayon material properly.

I have found a solution that will sometimes work. Clean out any remaining wax on the plunger. Slice a small section with a thin knife blade to make the end flat again. Dip the end of the crayon in hot candle wax. Only a little at the very end is needed. The new wax attaches to the crayon and is soft enough to attach properly to the plunger. After attaching according to the instruction sheet, I waited a couple of hours before pulling gently on the crayon and it stayed in place. It looks like adequate time is needed for the wax to set. So then older crayons will still work fine as markers for various surfaces as before.

Listo Marker

I bought this marker pencil and leads in the late 1940s. It is made by the Listo Pencil Corporation, Alameda, California. The pencil is 4-5/8” long and 7/16” at the widest part. The knurled knob at the end advances the lead but will not retract it. The leads are .162” in diameter and 1-3/8” long. There are 6 pieces in a box including one metal holder.

Autopoint Marker leads

These Autopoint marker leads are also .162” in diameter and 3-15/16” long There are 6 pieces to a box.

 

Inside a Scripto Classic K780

Have you ever wondered what makes up a complete Scripto Classic? There are 12 pieces altogether, including the lead and eraser. At the top is the clip that fits over the barrel. Then there is the silver colored cylinder that slides over the top part of the clip. It is chrome plated steel. The other end of the cylinder holds the eraser and its metal holder. The tip of the pencil is force-fitted onto the plastic barrel. It is non-magnetic and may be chrome plated brass.

The white plastic piece plays a key part in the operation of the pencil. In the larger portion, it has a curved protrusion on either side that follows the spiral groove on the inside of the green barrel. The thin portion fits into the hollow slotted part of the brass piece. The small brass piece is slotted on the left side so that it will expand slightly when the lead is pushed into it and then it holds the lead in place. After the lead is advanced all the way out, the white plastic piece extends further into the slotted area and pushes the lead out.

The long silver colored steel tube is also slotted. It fits through a central hole in the larger part of the white plastic piece and the slot engages a protrusion inside the plastic. When the tube is twisted, the plastic piece turns and follows the spiral of the pencil barrel, which drives the lead forward or back. The slot allows it to travel the length of the barrel. This tube is driven by turning the eraser holder cylinder that has a tight fit to the copper colored piece and small brass clip that is connected to the slotted tube.

All together, the pencil, like many other designs, is very clever, but it certainly is not as simple as a regular wood pencil.

Loading the K780 Pencil

Hold the barrel of the K780 pencil in one hand and twist the eraser holder clockwise with the other. Continue until the shuttle is all the way forward and the old lead, if any, is pushed out. Then return the shuttle as far back as it will go by turning the eraser holder counter clockwise. Insert the new lead at the pencil tip and then advance it until about 1/8” of the lead sticks out. Press the lead against a hard surface and the lead should move in about 1/16”. It is then locked in place and you are ready to write.

The Scripto Cassette Pencild

This unique pencil may be the forerunner to the K21 because it has a separate cassette insert to hold the leads and eraser. New cassette refills could be purchased when the leads and eraser were used up. The cassette pencil was available as P1150C/P1159C in 0.5mm, P1170C/P1179C in 0.7mm and possibly other sizes. The P1159C and P1179C terms indicate that the pencil was also sold carded. That is, with the pencil attached to a card, which could be hung on a display rack. The cassette refills F1150C/F1159C and F1170C/F1179C follow in a similar fashion. The pencil is 5-3/4” long and 5/16” in diameter. Weight with cassette is 10.3 grams or about .36 ounces.

The pencil comes with only 6 leads that are 2-3/8” long. A replacement cassette contains 12 leads of the same length plus one eraser. The cassette is 4” long and 3/16” for the smaller diameter. Weight is only 2.1 grams. The red cap at the left has a small hole in the center that allows only one lead to be selected when the next lead is needed. The old cassette can be easily pulled out of the barrel.

The P1270C cassette pencil is shown above and is 0.7mm. It is very similar to the P1170C/P1179C but has an all plastic barrel, top and clip. It uses the same F1170C/F1179C refill that is used in the P1170C/P1179C pencil.

The black cap at the left end of the refill has a small hole in the center that allows only one lead to be selected when the next lead is needed. The old cassette can be easily pulled out of the barrel.

Inside a New Scripto K21

If you were curious about how the K780 is made then you might like to see the K21 as well. There is a total of 12 pieces including the lead and eraser. The picture below shows the outside barrel of the pencil and the smaller tube that fits inside. The eraser fits into the right end of the tube. Unlike the cassette pencil, the inner tube was not meant to be removed by the customer and leads and erasers were to be purchased and inserted separately.

The left portion of the tube has a small fin on either side that fits into two matching grooves near the point on the inside of the barrel. This arrangement prevents the tube from rotating. Extra leads can be stored inside the tube.

The tube can be removed but not easily. The white plastic piece in the picture below has a tab on either side. The tabs are shaped so that when the tube is inserted into the barrel, the tabs are forced together. When the tube is all the way in, the tabs expand back out into two tiny slots in the barrel. Once they are locked in place, the tube cannot be withdrawn. However, small tools can be inserted into the slots on either side of the outer barrel at the same time and the tube can be withdrawn. To reassemble, place the tube in the barrel and push fairly hard against the eraser and the tube assembly will snap into place.

The white plastic piece is the heart of the push-push action, shown in the left picture above. It holds a strong steel spring and grip mechanism inside. The end of the brass clutch can be seen at the left end and is force fitted into the blue inner tube. In the right picture, the spring, brass ring and brass grip piece can be seen. A piece of 1.1 mm lead is shown at the left side for size comparison. The left end of the clutch is cut into three sections as shown in the picture below. The brass ring fits over the clutch and the spring forces the ring against the tapered portion of the clutch. This forces the three sections of the clutch together and they hold the lead in place. The white piece is held in place by two tabs that lock into the pencil barrel. When the eraser is pushed, the inner blue tube pushes the clutch away from the spring allowing the clutch to open and the lead to be advanced by a fixed distance that is controlled by the white piece.


The chrome plated tip is force fitted onto the end of the pencil barrel. Inside the metal tip is a rubber grommet that has a hole in the center for the lead. It fits inside the tip and can be seen in the center photo above. This presents a cushion for the clutch when it is pressed forward to advance the lead.

The pocket clip in the picture at the right is force fitted into two grooves at the eraser end of the pencil. You can see some serrations that help to keep it from pulling back out. The eraser is shown with the metal insert that holds it. The whole pencil is so cleverly put together that this sample had to be partly destroyed in order to take it apart for the pictures. It also means that some repairs are not possible.

Loading the K21 Pencil

The K21 pencil comes with a spare lead inside. After the first lead is used, just point the pencil down and
 make several clicks by pushing the eraser. The short remainder of the old lead will fall out, if it has not already, and the spare lead will then appear at the point.
After the spare is used, you can add up to 4 extra leads by removing the eraser and placing them in the back. Replace the eraser and proceed to advance the new lead as before.

The “Cushion Point” Pencils

This is another unique Scripto pencil. Both pencils shown are 0.7mm but there may be other sizes as well. Perhaps this pencil was an admission that thinner leads tend to break easily and this pencil would solve the problem. The barrels and tops are all plastic. When the lead is pressed harder than normal, a fairly strong spring allows the lead to retract into the thin metal tube at the tip that supports it. This is shown in the left picture below. This arrangement does work very well as long as the lead extends no longer than 1/16” beyond the metal tube. When the lead extends to 1/8” or more, heavy pressure can cause the lead to break before it can retract into the tube..

 

The upper pencil is P670. It measures 5-5/8” long and 11/32” in diameter. The P679 pencil is the same as the P670 pencil but it is on a card. It has a metal clip. The plastic point can be unscrewed to reveal the metal clutch mechanism in the above picture at the right. The clutch and ring are very similar to the ones used in the K21 pencil described earlier. To clean the pencil, retract the lead, pull out the eraser mechanism. Unscrew the point and insert cleaning needle into pencil point to remove any lead fragments. The cleaning needle is attached to the plastic eraser holder mechanism.

The lower pencil is P570 and is longer and has no clip. It is 6-3/8” long and 9/32” in diameter. It weighs 5.6 grams or about 0.2 ounces. The plastic tip can also be unscrewed.

Scripto Drafting Type Pencils

These 900 series pencils were available for lead size 0.3, 0.5, 0.7 and 0.9mm. Colors were black, blue and maroon. In my opinion, these were the best of the smaller size lead pencils. I used the 0.5mm version for over 20 years and it worked faithfully all of that time. These pencils do have the “cushion” feature but the 0.3 and 0.5mm versions could break the leads more easily if pushed too hard when the lead was out more than 1/16”.

The metal cap can be easily pulled off to access a small eraser. When the eraser is removed, more 2-3/8” leads can be inserted. This is also a clutch action pencil and the lead can be advanced by pushing the metal cap. The pencil is 5-1/2” long and 5/16” in diameter. It weighs 8.9 grams or about 0.31 ounces.

Scripto P350

Here is a very unusual pencil. It is made of stainless steel. It is very similar to the other P series pencils and has the “cushion” point feature. It has a waffle type rubber grip and takes 0.5mm leads. The pencil is made in Japan. The metal cap can be easily pulled off to access a small eraser. When the eraser is removed, more 2-3/8” leads can be inserted. This is also a clutch action pencil and the lead can be advanced by pushing the metal cap. The pencil is 5-1/4” long and 5/16” in diameter. It weighs 9 grams or about 0.32 ounces.

The writing is just above the rubber grip and is normally hard to see.

Lead Grades and Materials

Pencil leads range from the softest 4B to the hardest or firmest 4H. The letter H indicates the hardness of the lead. The letter B indicates the blackness made by the lead. The letter F indicates that the lead sharpens to a fine point. Leads were graded only by numbers many years ago. Wood cased pencils may be graded by number and/or words. The choice of words may vary from manufacturer to manufacturer. The chart below is an approximate comparison between the grading systems.

New Grading

4B

3B

2B

B

HB

F

H

2H

3H

4H

Older Grading

 

 

 

#1

#2

#2-1/2

#3

#4

 

 

Wood Cased
Pencils

 

 

 

soft

med
soft

med
firm

firm

extra
firm

 

 

Only a few years ago I was able to find 0.5, 0.7 and 0.9 mm leads in the softer grades like B and 2B. Today, I notice that the stores I have visited carry only the HB grade, which is apparently the best seller or that it is no longer economical to manufacture or stock a line of different grades of leads. I don’t see any .046” (1.1 mm) leads either.

Of course, we know that the "leads" are really made with graphite, a form of carbon. You can't get lead poisoning from a "lead" pencil. Real lead hasn't been used in pencils since the days of the Romans but the word remains. The leads consist of a mixture of graphite and clay. The proportion of graphite to clay can be adjusted to vary the hardness of the lead. More clay makes a harder lead, uses less graphite and makes a lighter line. More graphite makes a softer lead, uses less clay and makes a darker line.

Much of the clay has come from the state of Mississippi where it has been taken from the ground usually from an open pit mine. The clay is refined and ground for use in making the leads. There are grades of fine and coarse. The graphite comes from areas where coal is mined. After the blend is mixed, it is run through and extruder that determines the size of the lead. Then the leads are exposed to a furnace set at 1800 degrees to stiffen them.

Polymer leads have become very popular in the past few years. They are different because they contain a plastic compound instead of clay. According to Pentel, “The composition if Hi-Polymer lead is synthetic resin and graphite which give a very strong and flexible lead. Conventional clay-bonded leads tend to be too brittle when reduced to the diameter required for fine lead pencils.”

Despite this “breakthrough” in lead design, I find that the thinner polymer leads break far too easily compared to thicker leads, polymer or clay. It seems I’m not the only person who has experienced this frustrating lesson.

About Graphite

Graphite is nothing more than carbon, a basic chemical element. It is the same element as in diamonds or in charcoal or coal but with a different arrangement of the atomic structure. Carbon also conducts electricity but not as well as metals like copper and silver. Carbon crystals can even be found in some meteorites.

Pyrolytic graphite is a synthetic material, made by a process called chemical vapor deposition. To make pyrolytic graphite, methane gas at low pressure is heated to about 2000 degrees Celcius. Very slowly, (one thousandth of and inch per hour) a layer of graphite grows. The graphite made this way  is very highly ordered, and the layers of carbon atoms form hexagonal crystals in plate-like sheets which build up like sheets of mica.

Pyrolytic graphite exhibits diamagnetic properties. When pyrolytic carbon is placed in a strong external magnetic field, the magnetic moments produced by the tiny current loops caused by the orbital motion of electrons, tend to align themselves in such a way as to oppose the applied magnetic field. The result is that when a small sheet of this carbon material is placed in the center above a strong magnetic field it will float above it and will gently sway back and forth in the magnetic “well” created by the field.

Carbon:

Atomic weight 14
Atomic number 6

Skilcraft Pencils
(not for sale)

This 1.1 mm pencil is identical to the normal twist type Classic Scripto K780 pencil but has “U. S. Government” stamped on it in white and the clip says Skilcraft. It comes with a black lead. The pencils come in a box of 12. Lettering on the front of the box says “San Antonio Lighthouse, 2305 Roosevelt Ave., San Antonio , Texas 78210.” On the back is a bar code plus 7520-00-164-8950, Pencil, Mechanical, SS-P-186E, Type 1a, Black, 1 Doz.

The Lighthouse workshop for the blind uses the name Skilcraft for their products. Federal procurement required a single source not too long ago. In addition, a directive required the use of certain sources if they provided something needed and this included the Lighthouse workshop. It appears that the San Antonio Lighthouse and perhaps others contracted with Scripto to make the pencils with “Skilcraft” and “U. S. Government” packaged in boxes of one dozen. This could also have avoided the government favoring Scripto with a free endorsement of their products.

A red 1.1mm version, also identical to the Scripto K780, has been found. It comes with a red lead. The pencils come in a box of 12. Lettering on the front of the box says “San Antonio Lighthouse, 2305 Roosevelt Ave., San Antonio , Texas 78210.” On the back is a bar code plus 7520-00-286-9916, Pencil, Mechanical, SS-P-186E, Type 1a, Red, 1 Doz.

US Government Electrographic by Scripto

This older, clear twist type pencil is also identical to the Scripto K780. It comes with a special electrographic marking lead that is extra dark. The leads are also known as “Mark Sense” CX-22. The pencils come in a box of 12. Lettering on the front of the box says “San Antonio Ass’n F/T Blind, 2305 Roosevelt Ave., San Antonio , Texas 78210.” On the back is 7520-00-724-5606, Pencil, Mechanical, Type 1a, Electrographic, 1 Dz.

U.S. Government Electrographic by Autopoint

This older, black 1.1mm pencil is similar to the Scripto K780 twist type but not identical. It is actually made by Autopoint for Skilcraft and is very much like the Autopoint #600-1 All-American pencil shown in the next section.

In fact, USA appears at the bottom of the clip.

The pencil is 5-5/8” long. It has eight flat sides except for the last 1-5/16” near the tip and that is round tapering down from 1-5/16” in diameter. It weighs 10 grams or about .35 ounces. Like other Autopoint pencils, it takes 1-3/8” long leads. The pencil comes with a special electrographic marking lead that is extra dark. These 1.1mm leads are also known as “Mark Sense” CX-22. The eraser can be pulled off to access storage for extra leads. The “Grip–Tite” metal tip of the pencil is split on either side going back 1/4”. The opening at the tip is less than the lead diameter and provides a tight fit so that the lead does not fall out. See loading instructions for Autopoint pencils below.

Autopoint 1.1mm pencils

This is a 1.1mm twist type pencil. It is 5-5/8” long. It has eight flat sides except for the last 1-5/16” near the tip and that is round tapering down from 1-5/16” in diameter. It weighs 10 grams or about .35 ounces. Like other Autopoint pencils, it takes only 1-3/8” long leads. The eraser can be pulled off to access storage for extra leads.

The “Grip–Tite” metal tip of the pencil is split on either side going back 1/4”. The opening at the tip is less than the lead diameter and provides a tight fit so that the lead does not fall out. Here you can see the width of the split expand where the lead has forced it wider. The drawback is that twisting the end of the pencil will not retract the lead. Instead, the lead can be pushed back in by pushing the lead against a hard surface but only after twisting it in reverse for an adequate amount. See loading instructions for Autopoint pencils below.

Autopoint Loading Instructions

 

Skilcraft Double-Ender

Although this pencil is sold under the name of Skilcraft, it was made by Autopoint. It is a 1.1mm twist action pencil with a blue lead at one end and a red at the other end. The lead can be advanced by twisting the colored end. However, the lead will not retract by itself when twisted in reverse and must be pushed back against a firm surface AFTER it is twisted in reverse. The pencil weighs 10.7 grams. It is 5-7/8” long. It has 10 sides and is 5/32” across. Lettering on the box says “San Antonio Lighthouse, 2305 Roosevelt Ave., San Antonio , Texas 78210.” On the end are codes NSN 7520-00-285-5826 and Pencil Mechanical A-A-2801, 1 dozen. Takes leads Blue: NSN 7510-00285-5856 and red: NSN 7510-00-285-5853.

 

0.9 mm Skilcraft
(not for sale)

Apparently, Skilcraft later offered 0.9 mm pencils that had more features than the older style Scripto Classics. Although this pencil is advertised as a blind-made product, I'm not certain that it was actually made by them. Also, it is not known if this pencil was supplied to the US Government.

I have 0.9mm (0.036") leads available. They are 2-3/4" long black leads in the medium grade. The minimum order is 20 leads for $5.00 plus $1.00 for shipping. rogerr4@earthlink.net

 

Scripto Erasable Pens
(not for sale)

Scripto also made an erasable pen. Several different ones were made over the years. The violet one measures 5-7/8" long including the eraser in the cap. The barrel is round and 5/16" in diameter for the main portion. Weight is 6.4 grams or about 0.23 ounces. Writing on the side says "Scripto erasable pen med pt. Mexico." It is not refillable.

The red one measures 6-1/4" long including the eraser The barrel is hexagonal measuring 5/16" across two parallel sides. Weight is 7 grams or about 0.25 ounces. Writing on the side says "Scripto Erasable pen T580 Mexico." It is not refillable.

The blue one measures 5-3/8" long including the eraser. The barrel is round and 1/2" in diameter. Weight is 10.7 grams or about 0.38 ounces. Writing on the clip says "Scripto Erasable." A button on the clip can be pushed forward to advance the pen and back to retract it. The barrel can be twisted to come apart at the center to put in a refill.

Wearever pencils
(not for sale)

A company by the name of Wearever made a pencil that was almost an exact copy of the Scripto. The main difference is the black plastic just below the eraser. The coloring is more translucent compared to the Scriptos. They are 8-sided except at the lead end of the barrel where they are round. They are 5-3/4" long and about 5/16" in diameter. Weight is 9 grams or 0.31 ounces. 

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More text and pictures about Scripto will be added as my research continues. Any comments, corrections, or additions are welcome.

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Created by Roger Russell
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