Graphite pencils breakdown

approx. reading time: 2 mins

1. Breakdown of graphite pencils

Before we get to the actual breakdown of graphite pencils, it wouldn’t be out of place to learn a little about the company that first introduced this breakdown, namely HARDTMUTH.



It is one of the largest companies in its field, founded by Carl and Franz Hardtmuth. The factory in České Budějovice, from which the company is managed, has been operating since 1848. Although the original owners of the Hardtmuth family no longer own the company, KOH-I-NOOR HARDTMUTH remains a privately owned family business.

A number of important innovations in the field of writing instruments originated from the KOH-I-NOOR-HARDTMUTH factory. The most important of these would undoubtedly include the production of graphite ink from graphite and clay or the aforementioned gradation of graphite pencils according to the hardness of the ink, which was adopted by other manufacturers as a worldwide standard and which will be discussed in this article.

3. Marking of graphite pencils

A classic graphite pencil consists of graphite, clay and a wooden case, what are these things used for? The graphite provides the colour trace, the clay makes the ink harder and thus determines the hardness of the pencil and the wooden case makes the pencil comfortable to use. The more graphite a pencil contains, the softer it is and the easier it is to draw with, which is why it is especially sought after by artists. On the other hand, pencils with a higher percentage of clay are harder and are suitable for precise, sharp lines – for example, for scribbling.

In distinguishing the softness of the inks, we are helped by the previously mentioned marking (classification) from the company HARDTMUTH.

Numbers 1 to 9 together with the letters H, HB, F and B.

  • H = Hardtmuth / Hard (these are the hardest pencils, designed for scribbling)
  • F = Franz Hardtmuth / Firm (stands in the middle of the hardness)
  • HB = Hardtmuth Budweiss (standing in the centre of hardness)
  • B = Budweiss / Black (the softest pencils, especially suitable for artists)
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