Pencils are a fundamental writing instrument, that we’ve all used at some point or another. But who knew that these little carbon-filled wonders could be so interesting. Read on to learn 50 facts about Pencils.
Fact 1: The word ‘pencil’ is thought to have both a Latin and French origin.
- ‘Pencillus’ is the Latin version and ‘pincel’ is the French version.
Fact 2: A single standard size pencil can draw a line 35 miles long.
- That’s the equivalent of writing about 45,000 words, or half a novel!
Fact 3: The most common type of pencil is made from graphite and wood.
- When people say ‘lead pencils’ this is inaccurate as manufacturers no longer use actual lead. It’s just carbon these days.
Fact 4: Contrary to popular belief, it was never possible to get lead poisoning from a pencil.
- The modern pencil was never actually made from lead. It’s always been graphite.
Fact 5: Large proportions of graphite were found in Cumbria England in the 16th Century.
- This type of graphite is completely unique in the UK and makes fantastic pencils.
Fact 6: Graphite pencils, or pencils that are square-shaped, were made in a town called Keswick, England, in the 1860s.
- They still manufactured pencils there until 2007.
Fact 7: Bread crumbs were used as rubbers before erasers were invented.
- The French stumbled upon ‘caoutchouc’, a natural rubber, and decided to use it as the eraser that we use today.
Fact 8: An average size Cedar tree can make 300,000 pencils.
- Pines and spruces are also used to make pencils.
Fact 9: It has been noted that Thomas Edison used specially made pencils.
- These pencils were not different in shape but were different in terms of their thickness, and he preferred a 3-inch long pencil instead of the normal 7.5-inch size.
Fact 10: The Latin word ‘pencillus’ actually means ‘little tail’.
- Similarly, the French word ‘pincel’ means ‘little paintbrush’.
Fact 11: A pencil can be used in space!
- Astronauts have used pencils for many years in space as the zero gravity has no effect on the pencil’s ability to write words out on paper.
Fact 12: The world’s longest traditional pencil is 459.97 meters long and is made from WOPEX: A composite that’s largely made of wood.
- This pencil was made by STAEDTLER.
Fact 13: March 30th is Pencil Day.
- This event is celebrated in many countries and it focuses on the history of the pencil and is just about having fun with your pencils!
Fact 14: On March 30th, 1858, an eraser was attached to the end of the pencil for the first time.
- Hymen Lipman was responsible for this new and innovative movement.
Fact 15: Graphite is actually crystallised carbon.
- Its atoms form a hexagonal shape.
Fact 16: Pencils are traditionally yellow as this was perceived as better quality and exceptional craftsmanship many years ago.
- This perception was born in 1890, when the wealthy art company Koh-I-Noor, in Austria, decided to sell pencils in yellow – everyone believed that this was the only way to make a pencil and just copied them.
Fact 17: Roald Dahl only used 6 yellow pencils to write his books.
- He would write all he could with these pencils until they became unusable.
Fact 18: Authors like Hemingway and Steinbeck would only write their novels in pencil.
- Writing in pencil brought about an air of creativity it seems as many more creative writers followed this pattern.
Fact 19: Derwent Pencil Museum is one of the most well-known museums dedicated to pencils in the world.
- The museum is based in the Lake District and was opened in 1981.
Fact 20: There is colouring pencil somewhere in England that is 7.91 meters long and weighs an incredible 984.1lb.
- Its home is Derwent Pencil Museum in the Lake District.
Fact 21: The Derwent Pencil Museum, Keswick, is visited by more than 80,000 people every year.
- Visitors flock from far and wide to see the history of the pencil. Locals from Yorkshire often visit as pencil manufacturing played a significant role in their culture during the 1930s.
Fact 22: In 2007 the world’s heaviest pencil was made. It weighs a whopping 18,000lb and is more than 23.16 meters long.
- 18,000lb is equivalent to the weight of 1,900,000 standard pencils.
Fact 23: Storm Desmond hit the Pencil Museum in Keswick so hard that it wiped out entire collections, that were on display.
- The effects of the storm rocked the town itself and actually caused the museum to close, while it refurbished and salvaged its items – most of which are one-of-a-kinds.
Fact 24: The longest working pencil ever made worldwide is 1091.99 meters long and was created by BIC to celebrate the opening of their new factory in France.
- The pencil was made out of polystyrene so its bendy and has a graphite centre.
Fact 25: Tiny flakes of graphite stick to the fibers on paper to create a pencil mark.
- These tiny tiny flakes are less than a thousandth of an inch – you would never notice them with a human eye.
Fact 26: Keswick England has had its fair share of Hollywood glory, but the Pencil Museum has also played its role in films.
- The Pencil museum’s most notable debut was in Sightseers in 2012.
Fact 27: The biggest collection of black pencils in the world contains 16,260 pencils.
- The collection belongs to Emilio Arenas from Uruguay, who has travelled the world to get the most unique black pencils.
Fact 28: Faber-Castell is home to the oldest pencil, the pencil was made in the 17th Century.
- It was found after someone moved out of an ancient house.
Fact 29: The largest collection of pencil sharpeners contains 8,514 sharpeners.
- These sharpeners are all different and the collection is owned by Demetra Koutsouridou.
Fact 30: Eberhard Faber was responsible for the mass-production of pencils in America.
- In 1861 he built a huge factory that made pencils in New York city.
Fact 31: The first sharpener was invented in 1828.
- It was invented by Bernard Lassimone.
Fact 32: An average of 15 billion pencils are made every year.
- If you lined these up you could circle the world 62 times!
Fact 33: 2 billion pencils are used by individuals in the USA each year.
- Excluding the Cedar tree, a standard tree can produce 170,000 pencils, which means the USA uses 82,000 trees a year just for pencils!
Fact 34: Mechanical pencils are generally the better option over traditional wooden pencils.
- You can refill a mechanical pencil with ‘lead’ over and over. This leads to less wood usage which in turn leads to less deforestation.
Fact 35: The most desired pencil in the world will cost you $12,800.
- This expensive little pencil is crafted by Graf von Faber-Castell and is created by shaping 240-year-old Olivewood and combining it with 18-carat white gold.
Fact 36: Details have emerged in recent years that suggest that Greek poets spoke about pencil-like instruments in their works and documents.
- Notably, poet Philip of Thessaloniki talked about an instrument similar to a pencil in the first century B.C.
Fact 37: The majority of the pencils sold in the USA come with rubber tips to rub out errors.
- The same cannot be said in Europe.
Fact 38: Soldiers would carry pencils with them when at war.
- This was to write home to loved ones, to use as a weapon and to leave messages for their fellow soldiers.
Fact 39: During WW2 the pencil factory in Cumbria created pencils for POW’s to use to escape their camps. They were nicknamed ‘spy pencils’.
- The pencils were created with a small map concealed inside as well as a compass under the rubber.
Fact 40: Charles Fraser-Smith, the creator of the secret spy pencils used in WW2, was said to be the inspiration for James Bond’s Q character.
- Q is the famous gadgets creator in the James Bond films.
Fact 41: A ‘spy pencil’ was seen on the Antiques Roadshow in the UK, in 2018 and was valued at £400.
- These creations from 1942 are incredibly rare and were part of a Top Secret Government Operation at the time.
Fact 42: The ‘Spy pencil’ was such a Top Secret Government operation that the pencils were all created in the night when all of the workers were home in bed.
- Only a small number of people knew of the existence of the pencil, as the British didn’t want any information falling into the enemy’s hands.
Fact 43: In the 16th century England, graphite was so expensive and sought-after that guards had to watch over mine workers.
- Graphite was really easy to use to mark sheep and it could be sold for a good price in towns.
Fact 44: It was Henry David Thoreau who started running ‘lead’ through the whole wooden pencil.
- Pencils used to be manufactured in two halves. These two halves would be glued together to make a long pencil.
Fact 45: Pencil numbers refer to the amount of graphite the pencil contains and the shade of colour it’ll produce.
- In Europe, the letter ‘H’ and ‘B’ are used to distinguish the differences, but in the USA they use a numerical scale to determine these factors.
Fact 46: The original pencil sharpener was a knife.
- This highly dangerous method was not conducive and practical, hence the more practical and safer sharpener was created in 1828.
Fact 47: Mechanical pencils date back to 1636, where a bit of lead was attached to a spring.
- Nowadays, mechanical pencils have become extremely popular because of their convenience.
Fact 48: There is such a thing as an electric rubber!
- They were originally invented in 1932 by Arthur Dremel. Yes, the same man that brought us Dremel branded power craft tools.
Fact 49: Pencil centres are made from clay, graphite, and water.
- Years ago, before the advent of machines, people would grind these contents by hand before placing the mixture in a kiln to cure.
Fact 50: The creator behind the mass-producing pencil machines is John Dixon.
- In 1870, he used his lithography knowledge to create a machine that would output pencils at high speed, this machine could also cut out shapes ready for graphite to be set in the middle.