My patreon is currently suspended as of 21st June 2024. Therefore access to advanced chapters is halted until further notice. If you’re one of the affected subscribers, please fill in this form https://forms.gle/W6yhU7Vy2epvidJQ7 and wait for an update. Also keep on a lookout on BT Discord for further update.

    Not long after the release and bidding of the ‘Automatic Loom’ ended, good news came from Area 51.

    The research institute and Area 51 had started research simultaneously with their establishment, but it was only after almost six years and a lot of budget that a product – commercially viable – was created.

    “It’s a success!”

    “Success, indeed!”

    “Wow!”

    Jeong-cho and Jeong Inji, along with the researchers and artisans of the institute, hugged each other without discrimination, shedding tears of joy.

    “Your Highness! It’s a joyous occasion!”

    “Indeed, Your Highness!”

    “To complete it in six years! Sob!”

    Hyang responded with a smile to the people who were crying with joy.

    “You all have truly worked hard.”

    While organizing a report to report to Sejong, Hyang grumbled softly.

    “It’s not just ‘only’ six years; it took as long as ‘six years’….”

    Hyang, in the 21st century, had made a model of a steam engine and a steam locomotive that actually boiled water and moved.

    Initially, when Hyang explained the concept of a steam engine with the model of ‘Heron’s steam device’, the researchers and artisans were clueless, not even able to shovel, so to speak.

    In the end, Hyang had to use himself as a cheat key.

    “I’ve been thinking….”

    Hyang started teaching the researchers and artisans with the blueprint of the early steam engine made by Savery and Newcomen.

    Even with Hyang’s intervention, it took a year and a half for the researchers and artisans to create a model of the steam engine made by James Watt.

    The real shoveling began only after making the model and confirming its proper movement. To make a proper, or rather, commercially valuable steam engine, there was an uncountable number of experiments and creations the researchers and artisans had to undertake.

    The first thing they made was measuring equipment.

    Measuring equipment to gauge the force generated by the steam engine, equipment to measure the steam pressure created in the boiler of the steam engine, and devices to measure quantities and temperatures – the researchers and artisans had to ‘headbutt the bare ground’, so to speak, tirelessly.

    In this process, an unexpected by-product was created.

    * * *

    The first was a pencil and a pencil sharpener.

    “Writing and calculating with a golden pen dipped in ink every time is annoying!”

    “We must find a solution!”

    The eyes of those seeking an alternative landed on graphite.

    A craftsman, examining graphite powder that had started to be used as a lubricant for machines that pressed armor, after being used for coating various gunpowders, created something of his own.

    The craftsman, who mixed graphite with clay and kneaded it with water before drying and wrapping it in paper for writing, tilted his head in thought.

    “It writes, but it’s too soft, isn’t it? It breaks easily too….”

    The craftsman, who tried various experiments in his spare time, eventually sought Hyang when he couldn’t find the answer.

    “What’s the matter?”

    “Oh, it’s nothing.”

    At that time, Hyang was about 10 years old. Seeing Hyang’s face still full of youthful innocence, the artisan waved his hands and stepped back. Hyang, intrigued by the artisan’s suspicious behavior, asked,

    “If you came looking for me, there must be a problem, right? Speak up.”

    Though young, the artisan, overawed by the powerful background of ‘the Crown Prince’, soon shared his concerns.

    Listening to the artisan’s worries, Hyang’s eyes sparkled menacingly.

    ‘It’s a pencil! I always said I’d make one, and here it is!’

    “That’s interesting. If done well, it could turn out to be a good product. Let’s research it together.”

    Hyang then joined the artisan in research. Or rather, he pretended to participate while giving advice.

    “Instead of just drying it, let’s try baking it.”

    “Bake it, you say?”

    The artisan, pondering Hyang’s suggestion, nodded.

    “Right. While simply dried clay breaks easily, properly baked ceramics are more durable.”

    Thus, the experiment began. They mixed quality clay and graphite evenly, shaped it into thin rods, and then baked them in a smelting furnace.

    Hyang, after wrapping the baked graphite rod in paper, tried writing on a blank sheet.

    After examining the result, Hyang turned to the artisan.

    “It’s decent, but let’s experiment a bit more.”

    Through experiments with different ratios of clay to graphite and varying furnace temperatures, they created graphite rods with useful strengths.

    “These three types of strength seem to be quite versatile.”

    “Yes, they do.”

    With the graphite rods completed, Hyang began to really play his tricks.

    And so, the world’s first pencil was created.

    They put a mixture of clay and graphite into a noodle maker, pulled it out like noodles, and then baked it in a furnace. The resulting lead was placed between two grooved wooden planks, which were then glued together with adhesive.

    Even after further post-processing steps, the pencils soon became favorites among the researchers and artisans of the institute.

    Seeing this, Hyang, along with the artisan who initially suggested the idea, registered a patent and immediately prepared for commercial sale.

    Seeing Hyang’s elated demeanor, Jeong-cho commented with a slightly troubled face.

    “This might not sell well….”

    “Huh? Why?”

    “Firstly, the inconvenience of having to sharpen it.”

    “That’s also true for ink….”

    “Ink can be ground thoughtlessly, but with a pencil, you might end up bleeding if you’re not careful.”

    “I see….”

    Jeong-cho then pointed out the next problem.

    “Secondly, it has a significantly shorter lifespan compared to a gold pen or a brush. People might say it’s not worth the money.”

    “That problem can be solved with mass production….”

    “But how many people in this Joseon land write enough to use pencils in bulk, other than those at the research institute and Area 51?”

    “Why not sell them to Ming?”

    At Hyang’s counter-question, Jeong-cho promptly responded.

    “That brings us to the third problem. Sharpening pencils produces a lot of wood shavings and graphite dust. Disposing of that is a task in itself. It can mess up the prepared paper. Scholars who value neatness before calligraphy will dislike it as it lacks elegance.”

    Thinking Jeong-cho’s point made sense, Hyang murmured with a face full of disappointment.

    “I see.”

    Seeing Hyang’s disappointed face, Jeong Inji hurriedly interjected.

    “Certainly, there are such problems, but if we solve the first and third issues, there could be some marketability!”

    “Is that so?”

    “Yes!”

    Hyang, reminded of his 21st-century memories, thought.

    ‘I’ll have to make a pencil sharpener too!’

    Determined, Hyang looked back at Jeong-cho and Jeong Inji.

    “For now, let’s just use the pencils ourselves. We find them more convenient than gold pens.”

    “Yes.”

    Thus, the ‘commercialization of pencils’ was submerged below the surface.

    However, it took a long time for pencils to resurface.

    It was because of the pencil sharpener.

    Being a blade, it required high-quality steel, and that too in large quantities.

    The next issue was the size.

    When the overseers saw the prototype of the pencil sharpener, resembling a miniaturized plane, they all sighed in unison.

    “If we have to individually refine those tiny blades….”

    Hyang knew what the unspoken words meant.

    “It would be more trouble than it’s worth.”

    Back in his office, Hyang summarized the problems and muttered.

    “To make it cost-effective, the blades must be mass-produced. But manually there are issues. To produce them with machines…. a steam engine is needed…. Again with the steam engine? This isn’t like 21st-century politicians blaming others for everything….”

    Grumbling, Hyang earnestly searched for solutions. However, it took longer than expected for pencils to become a commercial product.

    * * *

    Although it was concluded that pencils would only be used internally, there were various issues with creating measuring equipment and a practically sized steam engine.

    Eventually, Jeong-cho gathered Hyang and other key officials to explain what the problems were.

    “The first issue is the standardization of measurements. There are several units for simply measuring length, starting with Hwangjong Cheok (黃鍾尺), followed by Jucheok (周尺), Yeongjo Cheok (營造尺), and Jorye Gi Cheok (造禮器尺). We need unification in this area.”

    [TL/N: They’re all standards of measurements]

    Upon hearing Jeong-cho’s statement, Choi Hae-San and Lee Cheon immediately agreed.

    “Even when making various new weapons, including the matchlock cannons, we faced the same issue. As we unified to Hwangjong Cheok at that time, it seems appropriate to standardize to Hwangjong Cheok this time as well.”

    Hearing the opinions, Hyang nodded.

    “That makes sense. Let’s standardize to Hwangjong Cheok.”

    Once the issue of measurement standards was settled, Jeong-cho brought up the next problem.

    “The next issue is with the measuring equipment. The institute’s researchers have completed calculations, design, and measurement units, but practical verification is not proceeding properly.”

    At this, Hyang clicked his tongue softly.

    ‘Tsk! I don’t have much to say about this part… I used to buy and install ready-made products for this….’

    Having nothing to say on this matter, Hyang could only give a general answer.

    “I think we have no choice but to learn through actual experimentation.”

    Jeong-cho showed a slight expression of disappointment at Hyang’s response.

    ‘Does even His Royal Highness the Crown Prince not have an answer for this? I was expecting some clear solution.’

    Expecting a solution from Hyang and ending up disappointed, Jeong-cho soon composed himself.

    ‘I should reflect! His Royal Highness is just entering 11 years old! Even if he is extraordinary, would it be humanly possible to know all this at the age of 11?’

    Recomposed, Jeong-cho nodded.

    “I also believe that only experiential learning is the answer in this case.”

    Thus, it was decided that the researchers would embark on grueling repeated experiments.

    * * *

    Amidst these exhausting repetitive experiments, Jeong-cho, having discovered a problem, approached Hyang again.

    “This is what I consider the last problem. It may be the last, but I evaluate it as the most important issue. The final problem is the issue of materials.”

    Hyang immediately grasped the meaning of Jeong-cho’s words.

    “Materials? Are you talking about iron? For now, let’s try making it with brass.”

    Jeong-cho shook his head at Hyang’s suggestion.

    “We thought the same and experimented with brass. However, we encountered issues with accuracy.”

    At this response, Hyang’s face grew serious.

    “Why is that?”

    In response to Hyang’s question, Jeong-cho explained the cause.

    “The problem with brass is that the ratio of copper to other elements varies depending on the artisan.”

    “So then…”

    “Yes, we are experimenting to find the optimal alloy ratio. However, the biggest issue is that it again consumes time. Budget is also a concern.”

    Hearing Jeong-cho’s words, Hyang unconsciously placed a hand on his forehead. But after a moment, Hyang responded with a resolute face.

    “I will do my best to work on the budget. Please, Your Excellency Jeong, research ways to reduce the time required.”

    “Yes, I understand.”

    After finishing the conversation with Jeong-cho, Hyang went to see Sejong.

    However, before Hyang could finish speaking, Sejong scolded him.

    “No budget! You, get out!”

    But Hyang persisted and did not back down, eventually securing the necessary budget.

    Watching Hyang leave, delighted after obtaining the budget, Sejong grumbled.

    “That child… can’t even confine him to the records office….”

    Email Subscription