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.

14 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. Thanks for these great reminiscences. I’ve had a couple of questions about a “music pencil”, and suspect that this may be the item being sought.

  6. 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.

  7. 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

  8. I still looking for one IBM pencil; i have lots of leads but not one pencil. If someone can help I would apreciate; I leave in Portugal and may be we can swap something related. Thanks for any help!

  9. Hi José,

    I see that you made the first post on this thread in 2008! Thank you for the lengthy period of readership!

    Do I understand that you have the IBM 1.18mm leads, and want a matching IBM mechanical pencil? If that understanding is correct, then eBay would probably be the best place to look. But as noted, other pencils can use this lead. I mentioned Yard-O-Led in 2008, but Autopoint, Wörther, and Retro 51 also use this lead today (probably others as well). Autopoint would be the cheapest by far for a new pencil. You could also look for many vintage pencils that use this lead diameter. Good luck with finding what you are looking for!

  10. Thank you very much for your reply.
    I have leads and mechanical pencils but what I need is a really IBM Pencil. I’m preparing a exibition themed “The pencils and theirs relative uses” . But the test score pencils here in Europe doesn’t exist at these times. I have seen something on ebay but I d’ont need a douzen… And the costs for shipping to Europe are now tremendous…. Anyway one of these days something can appear. Once more thanks for your kindly reply.

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