As summer ends and students return to school, it is appropriate to take a moment and reflect on one of the things that is as indispensable to studies as notebooks and backpacks: the pencil. This seemingly-simple writing utensil may seem uninspiring at first glance, but it holds enough history that it would take several pencils just to write it all. Let’s see how sharp you are about these pencil fun facts.
- The name “pencil” comes from the Latin penicillus, meaning “little tail.” This refers to the original device, consisting of an artist’s brush of fine camel hair.
- The pencil’s lead does not actually contain lead. The discovery of a large deposit of graphite in Cumbria, England was well suited for writing. Initially, people thought the substance was lead, thus giving it the name now used.
- The average pencil holds enough graphite to draw a line about 35 miles long or to write roughly 45,000 words.
- Before the invention of erasers, breadcrumbs were used to erase mistakes.
- The largest pencil measured 23.23 m (76 ft 2.75 in) and weighed 9,842 kg (21,700 lb) and was created by Ashrita Furman (USA) and members of the Sri Chinmoy Centre in New York, New York, USA, on 27 August 2007.
- The smallest pencil in the world is 17.5 mm short and about 3 mm thin. Count von Faber-Castell had this miniature pencil (a tenth as long as normal) specially made from North American spruce as an appropriate gift on the occasion of the unveiling of the world’s largest pencil. The pencils have real graphite lead 0.5 mm in diameter.
- Not to be outdone, engineers at the University of California at Santa Barbara have used an atomic force microscope as a kind of pencil to draw lines 50 nanometers (two-millionths of an inch) wide.
- Faber-Castell produced the Perfect Pencil to mark the company’s 240th anniversary. The magnum format cap in solid white gold (18 carats) is crowned with three fine-quality diamonds. The spring-loaded clip is also made of solid gold. One pencil sold for over $12,000 at auction, making it the world’s most expensive pencil.
- Roald Dahl, author of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, was so attached that he couldn’t begin writing until he had sharpened six No. 2 pencils.
- More than 14 billion pencils are produced in the world every year. If laid end-to-end, they would circle the globe 62 times.
- The average pencil can be sharpened 17 times.
- A typical tree contains enough wood to make about 300,000 pencils.
- March 30th is Pencil Day.
- On March 30th, 1858, an eraser was attached to the end of the pencil for the first time.
- Pencils started being made in their signature yellow color in 1890 by the art company Koh-I-Noor in Austria.
- The Derwent Pencil Museum in Keswick, United Kingdom, is home to the biggest coloring pencil in the world. The yellow pencil was completed on 28 May 2001, and is 7.91 meters (26 ft) long, and weighs 446.36 kilograms (984.1 lb).
- During World War II, the pencil factory in Cumbria created special pencils to assist soldiers in escaping if captured by the enemy. These pencils concealed a small map and a compass. They were created by Charles Fraser-Smith, who was said to be Ian Fleming’s inspiration for James Bond’s Q character.
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Read more fun facts about everyday things.