It is best to avoid writing on original records, but sometimes it must be done; for example, when numbering an unbound text block. If it is imperative that labeling or numbering must occur then a pencil should be used. The writing should be executed with a light hand and in a relatively small size, best applied in the lower margin or on the back of the record. Labeling should only occur on paper and never on records made of other materials, such as polyester, cellulose-based polymers, linen, or photographic emulsion.
Types of Pencil Leads Available
There are many types of pencils available, from 10B to 10H. Pencils labeled ‘B’, which stands for blackness, have a higher amount of graphite. They are softer making them more likely to smudge and embed into the fibres of the paper. This is problematic because it will be more difficult to erase the labels and notations in the future. Pencils labeled ‘H’, which stands for hardness, have a higher amount of clay and less graphite. They are harder making them less likely to smudge but more likely to indent the paper. Pencils labeled ‘F’ mean they can be sharpened to a fine point.
A simple test was performed using the lead range of 8B – 6H, and F to see how much they smudged and how well they erased.
Control: Staedtler Mars Lumograph Pencil Set, on unbuffered 100% cotton blotting paper, no sizing agent*.
With visual analysis, it was found that 2H, 3H and F had the best balance of smudge resistance, ability to erase, and less likely to indent the paper. If writing with a light hand, it is possible to avoid indenting the paper with marks made by H pencils. If writing on paper that has been created with sizing agents*, it is easier to erase the marks made by B pencils.
*Size or sizing agent: Sizing agents are solutions that are applied to paper during or after the papermaking process to impart useful characteristics to the paper. They can make the paper more water resistant, increase its flexibility and smoothness, decrease the susceptibility for creasing, and inhibit the feathering of the ink from writing instruments.