June 14, 2013

It's been a while since the Laird has held forth on this subject

So as a public service I would like to bring to your attention this chart, which helped clear up some confusion I have long had regarding pencil graphite grading scales:

fig. 1: The scales

The accompanying article is worth a look, too, but I suggest you calibrate your expectations according to this excerpt from the concluding paragraph:
In reality however, there is no specific industry standard for the darkness of the mark to be left within the HB or any other hardness grade scale. Thus, a #2 or HB pencil from one brand will not necessarily leave the same mark as a #2 or HB pencil from another brand. Most pencil manufacturers set their own internal standards for graphite hardness grades and overall quality of the core, some differences are regional.
Another  bombshell follows, but I'll not give away the ending.


Blogger Laird of Madrona said...

Those high-end Palomino pencils tend towards darker. My "HBs" are more like 2Bs.

June 14, 2013 at 10:10 AM  
Blogger The Other Front said...

Agreed, but the level of variation depends on the type - the Palomino Blackwing 602 seems not quite as dark to my eye as the original Blackwing.

I have a case of the Pearls, and I was going to say they seem a bit darker than the 602s, then checked myself for reckless speculation, then discovered this on the website:

It features ... a balanced and smooth graphite core that is softer than the graphite found in the Palomino Blackwing 602, but firmer than the graphite found in the Palomino Blackwing.


June 14, 2013 at 12:18 PM  
Blogger First Sea Lord said...

Note that chart is not even remotely close to the actual range and appearance of graphite. Anything much above 4H can be very tough to photograph at all.

As a side note, we've now done some extensive testing with the 602 in figure classes, and it has met with very high, almost instantaneous praise from many artists. One of the subtleties missed in the chart is the pressure/sensitivity RANGE of blackness- in other words, the Blackwing is smoothly sensitive to pressure: you can get it very dark and very light, and with great control, making for superb gradients, which is why it is so esteemed among illustrators.

It would be misleading to characterize it as a 3B or 4B for example, which is a near equivalent, because the effect of drawing with it is most similar to having a greater variety of more narrowly, ahem, drawn, pencils. It is like a car with a continuously variable transmission. They are right to reject such confining and supercilious categories for such a magnificent tool.

However, and this cannot be overstated, the greatest pencil in the world cannot of its own nature raise a mean and unskilled artist into a state of valorous grace, while the basest cast-off charcoal from a brush fire, handled by a master, may sweetly and gently brush the cheek of the angels.

June 14, 2013 at 12:35 PM  
Blogger Undersecretary to the Deputy Commissariat said...

I can't design a decent deck without my 2B!

June 14, 2013 at 3:37 PM  
Blogger The Sum of All Monkeys said...

I'm sorry, but until there's an equally detailed study on "which graphite hardness is best for stabbing a co-worker in the jugular" I'm still on the fence about what's right for me.

June 14, 2013 at 7:27 PM  
Blogger The Other Front said...

It's always a tough call, but for stabbing I'd give serious consideration to the Faber-Castell TK 9400 clutch pencil, preferably with a razor-sharp 9B lead. The TK 9400 has a ridged gripping surface that I think would give you extra confidence for both underhand and overhand stabbing.

But there is real leeway for people of goodwill to disagree here.

June 14, 2013 at 7:39 PM  
Blogger First Sea Lord said...

I fear the Front is entirely mistaken, on thoroughly objective grounds. For any stabbing purpose, the harder the graphite the better. A 9H is what you want, a pencil so hard it really needs to be sharpened only once; as someone who has stabbed myself badly with a pencil, I can attest this to this. A 9B is likely to merely darken and pleasantly massage your victim.

June 14, 2013 at 10:41 PM  
Blogger The Other Front said...

That's why you want advice from a true professional, not an amateur, however gifted.

I have no idea why this has only just now occurred to me.

This fellow seems to have gotten good results, but due to incompetent reporting, we do not learn which pencils gave the best results.

June 15, 2013 at 8:28 PM  

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