March 30th is National Pencil Day. I don’t usually give pencils much thought; I’m more of a pen fanatic. But as soon as I found out that a day was set aside to honor the lowly pencil, I did a little digging into pencil trivia. And here’s what I learned: The average pencil can be sharpened 17 times, draw a line 50 kilometers long and can write roughly 45,000 words. To put that word length to the test, a group of volunteers at the Hollidaysburg Public Library in Pennsylvania came together to copy To Kill a Mockingbird word-for-word with one pencil. They started May 4th 2007 and finished on June 6th of the same year.
An average-sized tree can make 300,000 pencils.
Although the content of a pencil is referred to as lead, pencils actually don’t contain lead. They contain a mix of graphite and clay.
Before the eraser was invented, people used balls of moistened bread or breadcrumbs to remove their mistakes.
Originally, pencils were only manufactured to be round, but people were frustrated by the fact that the pencils often rolled off surfaces. So, the popular hexagon shape was introduced.
More than 14 billion pencils are produced in the world annually. That’s enough to circle the globe 62 times.
Do you know why most pencils are yellow? In the 19th century, the best graphite came from China, and in China, the color yellow is associated with royalty and respect. So, to give off a luxurious, high-quality vibe, American manufacturers started painting their pencils yellow.
And finally, I was surprised to learn how many authors have favored pencils over pens, including William Faulkner, Toni Morrison, John Steinbeck, Mary Norris, Henry David Thoreau and Earnest Hemmingway to mention only a few. that’s probably because pencils don’t bleed, burst, run dry or freeze like ink pens do. For that reason, Margaret Atwood sites pencil-carrying during travel as one of her number one rules for writers.
“Take a pencil to write with on airplanes,” she writes. “Pens leak. But if the pencil breaks, you can’t sharpen it on the planes because you can’t take knives with you. Therefore, take two pencils.”
I’m going to try a pencil. Maybe it will make my points clearer!