When I use the term "propelling pencil", most readers will probably think of a mechanical pencil, a mechanized tube into which one puts leads of a specific diameter, often 0.5 mm or 0.7 mm and on which a button on the top or the side of the pencil is pushed to extend the lead. I first used pencils like this at university and I have never looked back since. They are wonderful writing and drawing implements in my opinion.
However, I first encountered the term "propelling pencil", and the object so identified, in primary school (grades 1 - 6). This is also a tube that holds leads, but the principle is different. In this case the lead is about the same diameter as in a regular wood-encased pencil, but is short, pre-sharpened, and held in a plastic jacket to form a cartridge. The tube is full of these cartridges. When the point of the cartridge is used up, the cartridge is taken out of the front of the pencil and pushed into the back of the pencil. This action pushes forward the next cartridge, which is then ready for use. The process is repeated until all the cartridges are used up, at which point another pencil is bought.
The first cartridge in this propelling pencil is used up. It is time to replace it with the next cartridge, which is behind it in the tube.
Old, worn out cartridge from propelling pencil. This will be pushed into the back to push the new cartridge out the front.
The old cartridge is going to be pushed into the back of the pencil in order to push the new cartridge out.
Propelling pencil with the old cartridge partially in the back. As a result, the new cartridge is partially out.
Propelling pencil after the old cartridge has been pushed in the back pushing the new cartridge fully out. The pencil is again ready for use
I tried to find information about this kind of pencil online, and I have found that the most prominent sites about pencils, including sites about mechanical pencils, do not mention this kind of pencil. I am writing this journal entry mainly to inform these sites about the existence of this kind of pencil, even if only in their trivia sections.
Unfortunately, I cannot put this information on Wikipedia, as it would violate their "no original research" guideline. They also do not accept sites selling the product as sources, so this site selling them
would probably also be unacceptable as a source. It is the first site I have seen that shows what I'm talking about here. It is described there as "non-sharpening pencil, plastic pencil, propelling pencil". What is not described there is the operation of the pencil, which I have described above.
I don't think I'll buy another after this one is finished, but it's been a nice bit of nostalgia. It also works rather well, as can be seen (roughly) in the sketch shown below:
All photos and drawings (c) the author.