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The Average Pencil Can Be Sharpened 17 Times

Each year, on March 30th National Pencil Day honors the writing utensil that has done more than just teach millions the alphabet and draw straight lines. It’s also helped win wars and enabled amazing art.

  • Hymen Lipman received the first patent for attaching an eraser to the end of a pencil on this day in 1858.
  • Before that time, pencils and erasers existed separately. Lipman combined the two making the two tools much more convenient to use.
  • The intuitive businessman also manufactured envelopes for his stationery shop and was the first to add adhesive to the flap of envelopes.
  • During World War II, Cumberland Pencil Company out of Kenswick, England produced pencils that were designed to function. However, the pencils were hollow with graphite on either end. Between the graphite, the makers had stowed maps to aid captured military personnel in their escape to freedom.
  • Charles Fraser Smith designed them in 1942 and at night, when the factory closed, workers would assemble them under secrecy. The miniature maps detailed escape routes from the prisoner of war camps and also included a miniature compass. Throughout the war, these small tools were issued to members of the Royal Airforce and sent to POW camps.
  • In the United States, most pencils are painted yellow. It is believed this tradition began in 1890 when the L & C Hardtmuth Company of Austria-Hungary introduced their Koh-I-Noor brand, named after the famous diamond. They intended the pencil to be the world’s best and most expensive pencil. However, other companies began to copy the yellow color so that their pencils would be associated with the high-quality brand.
  • Thomas Edison had pencils specially made by Eagle Pencil. His pencils were three inches long, thicker than standard pencils, and had softer graphite than typically available.
  • Vladimir Nabokov rewrote everything he ever published, usually several times, by pencil.
  • John Steinbeck was an obsessive pencil user and is said to have used as many as 60 a day. His novel East of Eden took more than 300 pencils to write.
  • Vincent van Gogh used only Faber pencils as they were “superior to Carpenters pencils, a capital black and most agreeable.”
  • Johnny Carson regularly played with pencils at his Tonight Show desk. These pencils were specially made with erasers at both ends to avoid on-set accidents.
  • Roald Dahl used only pencils with yellow casings to write his books. He began each day with six sharpened pencils and only when all six became unusable did he resharpen them.
  • Before erasers, writers removed pencil markings using bread crumbs.
  • It is speculated that the word pencil comes from the Latin word pencillus, which means “little tail.” Another theory is that it is derived from the French pincel, meaning “little paintbrush.”
  • Pencils can write underwater and in zero gravity.
  • The pencil was invented more than 455 years ago, in 1565.
  • 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!
  • 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.
  • The biggest collection of black pencils in the world contains 16,260 pencils.  The collection belongs to Emilio Arenas from Uruguay, who has traveled the world to get the most unique black pencils.
  • The first sharpener was invented in 1828. It was invented by Bernard Lassimone.
  • The largest collection of pencil sharpeners contains 8,514 sharpeners. These sharpeners are all different and the collection is owned by Demetra Koutsouridou.
  • 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.
  • An average of 15 billion pencils is made every year.  If you lined these up you could circle the world 62 times!
  • 2 billion pencils are used by individuals in the USA each year.
  • 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.
  • Emilio Arenas from Uruguay has the largest collection of black pencils in the world. He has 16,260 pencils from all over the world and holds a Guinness Record.
  • Oldest surviving pencil dates from 17th century. It was found in the roof of an old German house while it was renovated and given to Faber-Castell.
  • In 2004, factories in China made over 10 billion pencils, enough to circle the earth more than 40 times.
  • Originally, pencils were only manufactured to be round. People found this to be quite frustrating since round pencils would often roll off of surfaces. For this reason, the popular hexagonal pencil shape was introduced.
  • The average pencil can be sharpened 17 times.


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