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  Fading: pencil vs. pen astronaut autographs

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Author Topic:   Fading: pencil vs. pen astronaut autographs

Posts: 1789
From: Worcestershire, England, UK.
Registered: Apr 2008

posted 09-03-2010 08:09 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Tykeanaut   Click Here to Email Tykeanaut     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I see in the latest Regency Superior catalogue that there are some items signed by astronauts in pencil. Would this not fade as quickly as pen if subjected to light? I'm thinking that pencil would last longer but I'm no expert.


Posts: 45
From: France
Registered: Apr 2010

posted 09-03-2010 08:39 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Guillaume   Click Here to Email Guillaume     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
This is only anecdotal evidence but I own a document with pencil writings from the late 1910' or early 1920' that has been left unshielded for decades. As you can see in this picture, even though the paper is in pretty rough shape, the writings are still very strong.


Posts: 3295
From: Houston, TX
Registered: May 2001

posted 09-03-2010 09:47 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Scott   Click Here to Email Scott     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I agree with Guillaume. The following example has been subjected to some light but not a great deal. I have a gradeschool textbook used by my grandfather when he was a teenager. One part of it has a pencil drawing made c. 1910 of a man beaten up badly with an accompanying notation: "Jim Jeffries after Jack Johnson got through with him". Haha. It looks like it was drawn and written yesterday.

Regarding graphite pencil examples exposed to light for long periods (for example, pencil signatures on displayed limited edition signed lithographs), I am not personally aware of them fading noticeably due to light exposure.


Posts: 338
From: San Antonio TX, USA
Registered: Apr 2004

posted 09-03-2010 02:58 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for SpaceSteve   Click Here to Email SpaceSteve     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Pencil writing should not fade at all. In fact, this is one reason why fine-art lithographs are always signed in pencil. Take a look at any Leroy Nieman print, or I'm sure the signed Alan Bean prints, and you'll see that they are signed in pencil.


Posts: 2139
From: Belfast, United Kingdom
Registered: Feb 2002

posted 09-03-2010 03:27 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Blackarrow     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The journals written in pencil by Captain Robert Falcon Scott in Antarctica in 1912 are still clearly legible. In 2000 the final journal, open at the last entry, was on display at the National Maritime Museum in London. Even through the glass of the display case, the words were clearly legible:
We shall stick it out to the end, but we are getting weaker, of course, and the end cannot be far.

It seems a pity, but I do not think I can write more.

R. Scott.
Last entry.
For God's sake look after our people.

Pencil definitely stands the test of time, even in the harshest conditions.


Posts: 3622
From: Midwest, USA
Registered: Jul 2005

posted 09-03-2010 03:59 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for mjanovec   Click Here to Email mjanovec     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I also agree that pencil has very little chance of fading over time. The paper would likely deteriorate faster than the pencil markings will.

However, one concern with pencil is the possibility of smearing the lead/graphite if anything brushes across the surface of the paper. Still, that can be controlled if the item is properly cared for.


Posts: 1017
From: Lincolnshire IL USA
Registered: Aug 2000

posted 09-03-2010 07:04 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for DChudwin   Click Here to Email DChudwin     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Pencil is best, but it is important to mat the print when framing it so that the pencil does not rub against the glass.

My personal project for Spacefest 2 in San Diego in 2009 was to get my copy of the print "First Step" by Paul Calle signed by the six Moonwalkers, one from each landing mission, who were present.

After some research, for this purpose I bought Faber-Castell #2 art pencils. The autographs should not fade, as might Sharpie signatures over time.

After I completed my mission, I had the print professionally matted and framed using acid-free materials and UV resistant glass. The result should last for many decades.


Posts: 3127
From: London, UK
Registered: Feb 2002

posted 09-04-2010 03:47 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for gliderpilotuk   Click Here to Email gliderpilotuk     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I agree - pencil is best, then ballpoint, then sharpie and more liquid inks.

I bought a badly mouldy Calle Armstrong print that I professionally "cleaned". It came up like mint including the pencil signature.

On flown items in particular I make a habit of using ballpoint as it is more "subtle" and will last better like two of my '62-63 Gagarins that have perfectly preserved ballpoint signatures.

For what it's worth, blue sharpie is my pet hate!

Russ Still

Posts: 526
From: Atlanta, GA USA
Registered: Nov 1999

posted 09-05-2010 05:17 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Russ Still   Click Here to Email Russ Still     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Be careful with ballpoint. Their ability to withstand light varies wildly. Many are highly susceptible to fading. I've had such bad luck with ballpoint signed items I pretty much stay away from them.


Posts: 941
From: South Bend, IN United States of America
Registered: Apr 2002

posted 09-05-2010 06:08 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for spaceman1953   Click Here to Email spaceman1953     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Originally posted by Russ Still:
Be careful with ballpoint.
Ditto that! Ballpoint is POISON no matter WHAT paper you put it on! Use "real ink," but most people aren't used to writing with it, so they would have a tough time signing with such a pen.


Posts: 1030
From: New Jersey, USA
Registered: Mar 2010

posted 09-05-2010 06:51 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Fezman92   Click Here to Email Fezman92     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
What do you mean by 'real ink'? Like a fountain pen?


Posts: 3127
From: London, UK
Registered: Feb 2002

posted 09-06-2010 04:22 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for gliderpilotuk   Click Here to Email gliderpilotuk     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Maybe Russian ballpoint is more durable than US?

Just goes to show how personal the choice is: I've seen so many smudged/faded "real ink" M7 pieces I've lost count!

Of course, the acidity, absorbency, relectivity etc of the paper will no doubt contribute.


Posts: 86
From: Ridgefield, CT USA
Registered: Jan 2009

posted 09-14-2010 04:15 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for ChrisCalle   Click Here to Email ChrisCalle     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Many of my fathers early sketches for NASA during Project Mercury were done in India Ink and have not faded. Some sketches done in ballpoint blue pen have faded a bit while other ballpoint pen drawings are fine.

He used two different types of "fountain pens" while he was sketching the Suiting Up of the Apollo 11 crew and some have faded considerably while others look like they were drawn yesterday. Here is a pristine sketch and one that has faded, turning from black to brownish in color.

A few Apollo 11 Suiting Up sketches loaned by NASA to the Seattle Museum of Flight last year showed considerable fading especially one of Mike Collins.

I guess it depends on the ink.

All times are CT (US)

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