There is no lead in a “lead pencil.” The core is instead made of a mixture of graphite and wax or oil. The hardest graphite available is 9H, while the softest is 9B. Most eraser-tipped pencils fall between 2H and 4B. There is no standardized graphite grading scale, so graphite hardness, smoothness and overall quality varies from manufacturer to manufacturer. In general, a #2 pencil is the same as an HB pencil.
Hexagonal pencils are great for everyday use, while round and triangular pencils are good for learning. In general, premium pencils take on a hexagonal shape. Pencil diameter varies slightly from manufacturer to manufacturer, and there are mini-jumbo and jumbo pencil profiles for those who prefer larger pencils.
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN
Pencils come from a variety of places. The countries most widely recognized for quality pencil making are Japan, the United Kingdom, Switzerland and Germany. It is still possible to find a nice quality pencil made in the United States, though pencil manufacturing has dwindled in America.
The number of lacquer coats on a pencil can vary from three coats in most entry-level pencils, to seven or more coats in premium pencils like the Blackwing 602. Even then, the quality of the lacquer varies greatly from manufacturer to manufacturer. Most pencils are imprinted using the foil stamping method. In order to get a crisp, clean imprint, quality pencils are imprinted slowly using finely tuned machinery. The use of low quality woods and rushing the imprint process can result in crushing and uneven imprints.
The ferrule is the small metal piece that attaches the eraser to the pencil. Most ferrules are round, but some ferrules take on other shapes. Most ferrules are crimped on, leaving small indentations in the ferrule. Some premium pencils have glued ferrules, giving the finished pencil a sturdier build and cleaner look.