Another batch of vintage drafting leads won at an Ebay auction arrived earlier today. It was made up by a few tubes of A. W. Faber Castell 9030 Drawing Retouching refill lead (marked H, 2H, and 4B)and 3 boxes of Staedtler Mars Lumograph No. 1904 2B, 4B, and 5B drawing leads.
The bottom of all the vintage tubes was translucent presumably to check on the remaining stock of each tube.
Really like the wooden trays with the paperboard shells featuring the iconic Staedtler logo from the 1940s and 1950s. The 4B and 5B leads measured actually 2.6 mm in diameter, so they would not fit in a modern standard 2 mm Staedtler Mars Technico 780 leadholder. Yet they should work just fine in a 3 mm leadholder after removing or snipping their retention rings off.
Bit of green corrosion residue could be observed on the metal retention rings on the ends of some of the Staedtler leads.
The Faber Castell 9030 4B leads were covered with this white residue. So this might have been the first time that some cleaning was required before using the contents from a vintage tube.
Tried cleaning the white reside from the lead by rubbing it while holding it under running water. While it worked well enough after a few minutes, it would have wasted too much water to clean the whole lot with this approach. Thus tried wiping other leads with a facial paper tissue and then with a Clorox sanitizing wipe. The latter was the fastest and more effective lead cleaning method given the strength and weaved pattern of the wipe material. Yet it was so effective, that the lead brand and degree markings were also removed completely in some of them when I was not paying enough attention.
The resulting cleaned 4B lead was rather brittle, and the sharpened tip snapped off repeatedly during this doodling test. I was able to adjust for this nuance of its handling properties and completed the face drawing. Yet this would suggest that the white residue might indeed have been part of their original formulation (perhaps as a binder or lubricant agent), so its migration to the lead surface probably weakened the lead structure.
Sample marks drawn with a 2B Eagle Turquoise lead that was found in one of the mixed lead tubes.
Decided to clean the contents of one tube with a sanitizing wipe, and left the other with the leads in their current state.
This quick doodle test proved that even the white residue-covered lead could still be sharpened
and effectively used.
In one of the tubes of mixed leads, this deep blue lead stood out with markings that read: "Mars Lumochrom No. 22 DRP Germany". Expect to find some different grades and brands mixed in open vintage tubes of leads, for I suspect that most leadholder users tend to mix them up in the course of a regular drafting or sketching session intentionally and by accident. Considering that the average price for a modern tube with a dozen leads can range between $7-$15 and that drafting leads are for all intents and purposes impervious to the passage of time, it might be worth it to check the going rates and availability of vintage drafting leads in online auctions. Savings can be significant and their unique packaging design might further spark your creativity by providing a common link and a glimpse of the not so distant past life of the artists and draftmen before you.
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