IBM Electrographic lead

IBM Electrographic lead

Along with the IBM Electrographic pencil, IBM also manufactured lead for mechanical pencils.

The box is inscribed on the side:

“For Electrical Mark Sensing
For Marking IBM Test Scoring Machine Answer Sheets and IBM Mark Sensed Cards”

The bottom contains these instructions:
IBM Electrographic lead

“To Make Electrically Conductive Pencil Marks

Mark with firm pressure on a sharp point. Keep the point sharp by turning the pencil after each mark. This will produce dense black marks, in which the particles of graphite deposited by the lead are so firmly packed that electricity can pass from one end of the mark to the other.”

The box itself has a wooden frame, and appears quite sturdy. I’m lucky enough to now have a few 0.9mm mechanical pencils, but these leads are 1.18mm, and my sole pencil that can take this diameter is a Yard-O-Led.

IBM Electrographic lead

Unfortunately, the Yard-O-Led requires a Master’s degree in pencilology to change the lead. (And some people complain about the inconvenience of sharpening woodcase pencils!) Still, past practice likely helped, and I succeeded in the challenge.

I don’t know what results a few decades spent in the box might have had, but just like the woodcase pencil’s lead, the line drawn is remarkably rich, smooth, and black. Not just a darker grade, as in 4B vs. HB, but more luminescent as well.

The combination is nice, and the thick lead and dark line just might cause me to start using the Yard-O-Led pencil on a regular basis.

A very nice historical item.

9 Replies to “IBM Electrographic lead”

  1. It’s amaizing. Just two weeks ago I have bought on a older retailer here in Portugal a box similar to this one. Trying to find information about the product I found your page. As I told on another comment your page is very interesting for someone who like me is a recent pencil and related items collector.With a picture of the box it will be possible to have a clearly idea of the date of the box?

  2. Nice find, José. I am sure many of us are envious.

    While someone will probably have an idea – precisely dating these products is usually a challenge.

  3. The leads are for IBM Mechanical Pencils. As a musician they were very popular in the late 70s and early 80s for their easy and smooth writing.

    I have two boxes of the pencils. Black mechanical twist action and about ten boxes of the leads. I bought them to make sure I had enough for a number of years but so far I am still using the first two I opened.

    The Pencils are stamped IBM as well.

    Interesting that they seem to have died out as they are a fantastic writing instrument.

  4. Greg is correct, these leads were a musicians’ favorite in L.A. in the late seventies and early eighties because they made very reasonably thick, dark marks that copied great but erased cleanly. I still have a dwindling supply of the 1mm IBM leads that fit great into the old twisting Scripto colored mechanical pencils. I recall the clerk at Alpheus Music in Hollywood commenting on the time that I was purchasing a lifetime supply. I guess I’ve outlived his expectations!

  5. I’m a musician and still have a box of these remarkable leads. Unfortunately, I can’t seem to find a pencil in today’s market that will fit them. So there they sit in my desk drawer. If you have a solution for my dilemma, please contact me. Thanks.

  6. Greg,
    Is it possible that you would like to get rid of a couple of your pens. If you can help me out please let me know

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