10 Little-Known Pencil Facts

I write a piece of trivia on my whiteboard at work every morning. It started as a way to lure visitors to my remote cubicle without bankrupting me the way a candy bowl would. Then I moved closer to the rest of my department, and everyone looks forward to the Daily Fun Fact. It’s a conversation starter, a way for us to bond via shared knowledge, and a convenient way to soak up useless tidbits of information to be whipped out during cocktail parties, quizzo nights, and awkward social interactions. In the spirit of bonding and educating our awesome community of readers, here are ten fun facts about pencils! PR_General_Semi_Hex_Sft_063_F

10 Little-Known Pencil Facts

1One theory is that the word pencil comes from the Latin word pencillus, which means “little tail.” Another is that it is derived from the French pincel, meaning “little paintbrush.”

2Before the invention of erasers, writers and artists used bread crumbs to erase mistakes.

3 Famous transcendentalist author Henry David Thoreau designed pencils at his father’s pencil factory before retreating to Walden.

4 Pencils can write in zero gravity, and were used on space missions by American and Russian astronauts.

5They can also write under water!

6 The first mechanical pencil factory was located in England. It was destroyed in a bombing during WWII.

7 Earnest Hemingway and John Steinbeck both used pencils to write their novels.

8 Faber-Castell is the world’s largest pencil manufacturer, and Ray Bradbury even named a character in Fahrenheit 451 after them!

9 Thomas Edison had pencils specially made so that they were thicker than regular pencils.

10 It is said that the average pencil can draw a line 35 miles long, although this has never been tested. Be the first to try it out and you could appear on our next Pencil Facts list!

Now that you’re armed with some awesome pencil knowledge, go out and impress your friends, coworkers, relatives, and strangers on the bus. If you have your own arsenal of pencil facts, please share them in the comments! I can always use more material for my Daily Fun Facts.

22 replies
  1. Sean
    Sean says:

    1)Most pencils have a core of graphite mixed with a clay binder which makes the graphite marks easy to erase.

    2) It costs $50 in labor and materials for a person to make a 10 cent pencil.

    3) A decent sized tree will make 300,000 pencils

    • Allan
      Allan says:

      That’s confusing. They would lose money so why even make the pencil in the first place?

      • Rich
        Rich says:

        I’m confused too. At that $50 per pencil cost, cost per pencil, the cost to convert that one “decent size tree” into pencils would be around fifteen million dollars. (I kind of doubt that.)

      • Ron Burton
        Ron Burton says:

        I don’t claim to know the cost to manufacture a pencil, but if the example is to be believed, economies of scale must come into play here. If it cost $50 to make a ten cent pencil, the next 1,000 pencils must be considered free.

  2. Doug Martin
    Doug Martin says:

    Eagle Pencil Company experimentally demonstrated some time around 1940 that an Eagle lead could draw a 35-mile long line. Later experiments produced a 70-mile line. This this doesn’t say that ALL pencils can do this, but at least the Eagle leads of that day could. Thank you for not also claiming (as many do) that a pencil can write 45,000 words. If the 35-mile statement is true (which I believe it is), then a pencil can write between 750,000 and 1,000,000 words. I have experimental proof of this.

    Incidentally, I have also tested the bread crumb theory – it is true.

  3. Brick Meathook
    Brick Meathook says:

    Pencils are in fact forbidden in space travel and have never been used.

    The pencil creates shavings (if wooden) or broken leads (if mechanical). The graphite leads are tiny and electrically conductive, and could potentially short-out instruments (or get in someone’s eye) if they were floating around.

    NASA used a pressurized ink-pen in space. Contrary to myth, they did not spend millions of $$$ developing it; it was an off-the-shelf pen that they paid regular price for. The Soviets, who also never used pencils in space, later began using this exact same pen on their space missions.

    Pencils are awesome, but not for space travel.

  4. randy boyette
    randy boyette says:

    hello….my name is randy I’m looking for what I was told as bullet pencils I rember them at tobacco warehouses when farmers sold their crops….had an eraser on one end…..the pencil was insi.de a “cap” at other end…u pulled it out …turned it around then u saw pencil….wrote with it when through u pulled it out turned it around and all u saw was the shinng end looked similar to a bullit

  5. Kaye
    Kaye says:

    why do some pencil leads break continually in sharpeners, even if they were never dropped?
    how do you properly sharpen a pencil?

    • Jimmy
      Jimmy says:

      It sounds like you need a better sharpener or a fresh blade for the sharpener. If your sharpener is not producing a single, continuous shaving… it needs to be replaced.

  6. Pam Batina
    Pam Batina says:

    I’m seeking a quote about the pencil being a type of technology that “will pass” like other fads. I heard this quote in the late 1990’s, but the quote is much older. I would appreciate help in locating this quote. Thank you!

  7. Danielle
    Danielle says:

    The “Now that you’re armed with some awesome pencil knowledge, go out and impress your friends, coworkers, relatives, and strangers on the bus” thing though


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