Staedtler Mars Lumograph EE update

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Staedtler Mars Lumograph 100 in grade EE

With thanks to Staedtler staff in Canada, Germany, and Thailand, there is further news on the EE grade pencil.

After the EB and EE grades were withdrawn, Staedtler Malaysia continued making those versions for their market, with graphite cores supplied from Germany. This production ended in 2005.

Staedtler Mars Lumograph 100 in grade EE

At present, some of the 8B pencils made in Germany are stamped EE for the Asian market. Staedtler still makes the EE grade pencil!

The photos show a box of the former EE from Staedtler Malaysia.

Related posts:

Soft Lead Pencils

The hunt for the EE grade pencil

The hunt for the EE grade pencil

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EE grade pencil

While I thought the letter pencil grades (“HB”, etc.) were standard, I came across this lament about the end of the barely known EE grade.

The web’s best site for researching issues like this is the always entertaining and informative Leadholder.com, which has many vintage drafting equipment catalogs online.

It seems that in the 1930s, Staedtler’s line ended in 3B, ExB, ExExB.

By the 1950s, the line had extended to 3B, 4B, 5B, 6B, ExB, ExExB.

It is as if these grades had relative meanings. I take the “Ex” to be “Extra”.

In the 1970s or eighties, the grades had become EB and EE. I know of a store that still has an old Staedtler display which shows these grades.

And finally, sometime between that time and the present, EB and EE disappeared, with 7B and 8B appearing.

The trail would appear to run cold – except that Staedtler is a huge global corporation. After my posts on the pencils of New Zealand and Australia, I found myself checking Staedtler’s many national sites, and noticed that they aren’t all just translations or localizations of the same content.

And there it was on the site of Staedtler Thailand – the Staedtler Mars Lumograph 100, still produced in grade EE.

So if you’re looking for this pencil, it’s not yet extinct – though it is on the endangered pencil list. Quickly testing it out, I can find no difference between it and the 8B. Something might be revealed by longer term use. It also doesn’t say where it’s made – most likely it’s origin is in Thailand.

Soft lead pencils

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Soft lead pencils

Using pencils for writing, note taking, flowcharts, and diagrams, I’ve rarely explored their softest grades, those beyond 4B.

Though pencil making details are trade secrets, it is known that graphite and clay are the main ingredients in a pencil’s lead. There are also waxes and binding agents in pencils. At least one pencil has used rendered bovine fat! The ratio of the graphite and clay is what determines the pencil’s darkness and softness, with more graphite meaning darker and softer.

I thought I’d take a look at the softer Staedtler Mars Lumograph 100 pencils, specifically the 5B, 6B, 7B, and 8B.

Soft lead pencils

The first observation is that the pencil cores get progressively larger. I’m not sure where in the line this starts (possibly 3B or 4B), but the 8B has a core of about 4mm in diameter, double that of a regular pencil core. This does result in heavier pencils, and a scale confirms this.

The second observation is also about the lead’s appearance. As well as being black, graphite has a shiny luminescence. And the 5B and 6B are indeed very shiny – but the 7B and 8B have only a slight shine, and border on being matte.

For writing and drawing, my expectation was that pencils get progressively softer in this range, with the softness and sharpening requirements being the tradeoff required for the rich lines drawn. This expectation was wrong – the pencils reach maximum softness at 6B, with 7B and 8B being much scratchier.

The finish of the lines is consistent with the appearance of the pencils – the 5B and 6B lay down shiny lines, while the 7B and 8B leave matte lines.

Soft lead pencils

One expectation is correct – each pencil grade increment does create a darker line.

My conclusion is that the Staedtler 7B and 8B pencils have significantly different formulations – and not just incremental variations in their graphite-to-clay ratios.