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Natural graphite is a rare form of carbon, formed under great heat and pressure, from the decay of ancient forests. The first natural graphite deposits were discovered around 1500, at Borrowdale, in the English county of Cumberland.

It was there, in the town of Keswick, that the finest early pencils were manufactured. Until the 19th century, each wooden case was handmade by craftsmen, and strips of graphite were cut individually by hand.

The Cumberland Pencil Company dates from a factory established in 1832, in the town of Keswick, in northern England's picturesque Lake District. Although the company was established to work the Borrowdale graphite, it ultimately developed a reputation for every kind of fine art pencil. The complete Derwent line of pencils includes both graphite and colored pencils, watercolor pencils, and pastel pencils in every hardness, thickness, and grade.

If you happen to be in Keswick, Cumberland, England, visit the Cumberland Pencil Museum. Journey through the history of graphite mining and pencil making, from the earliest times. Art exhibitions and special events are held throughout the year.


  • Derwent Block Grippers
    Derwent Block Grippers

    Derwent blocks are great to work with, though you may find that your fingers can pick up the graphite or colored pigment. And no one wants accidental smudges on their artwork. The solution is Derwent Block Grippers! The Grippers are a soft rubber that slide onto the block which makes for comfortable handling and clean hands. The Grippers fit on all Derwent blocks including graphite, charcoal, pastel and Inktense.


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