“Microtomic” is a word commonly seen with vintage Eberhard Faber pencils, but what does it mean? Is it a pencil lead? A family of pencils?
Here is the information you are looking for if you want to learn about the “Microtomic” pencils of yesteryear.
What Is Microtomic?
The term Microtomic was initially introduced as a type of lead in the Van Dyke family of pencils. “Microtomic” referred the special lead used in these pencils, with the similarity to the word “atomic” being common in the mid-1900s, where the world was fascinated with all things atomic. At the time World War II had ended, partially through the use of atomic technology, and the Atomic Age was ongoing, with the US and Russia competing for nuclear power, atomic arsenal, and similar strategies. Programs like the US’ Operation Plowshare were forming or were soon be formed, and it’s safe to say that the world was fascinated with the potential of all things atomic.
The Microtomic lead was said to be highly uniform, which lead to superior smoothness relative to a standard graphite.
One of the easiest to find Microtomic pencils is the Microtomic 600 drawing pencil. This was sold in a full range of hardness grades, but today only the hardest models (4H, 5H, and 6H are common).
These are hexagonal pencils with a dark green body and a metal ferrule on the top, but no eraser.
This pencil is highly desirable and quite rare because of its closeness to the Blackwing 602. Not only is the Eberhard Faber model number adjacent to the 602 of the Blackwing, but this pencil has the extendable clamp eraser that (in part) makes the Blackwing distinctive. Collectors who were unable to find reasonably priced Blackwing pencils seem to have bought up all the Microtomic 603s available.
The 603 has a silver ferrule and a dark green body, like the 600.