Surprising Tidbits About Pencils

I’m always learning new, cool facts about office supplies. Pencils have such a long, interesting history and I’ve never really made it through the whole thing. I really like this 20 Things You Didn’t Know About Pencils from Discover Magazine because it pulls out little tidbits that make you want to know more and more about pencils! Here are 5 of my favorites – (got to the article to read the rest)

1 – There is no risk of lead poisoning if you stab yourself (or someone else) with a pencil because it contains no lead—just a mixture of clay and graphite. Still, pencil wounds carry a risk of infection for the stabees, lawsuits for stabbers. (I can speak from experience here. I stepped on a pencil when I was younger. They got the piece of lead out not so much for the lead poisoning but more because it’s not good to have some foreign object floating around in your foot)

10 – Most pencils sold in America today have eraser tips, while those sold in Europe usually have none. (I had never thought about this! Is it true??)

11 – Henry David Thoreau—American, but a confident scribbler all the same—used pencils to write Walden. And he probably got them free. His father owned a pencil-making business near Boston, where Henry allegedly designed his own pencils before becoming a semi-recluse. (I learned this from visiting the gift shop at Walden Pond a few months ago!)

13 – Pencils were among the basic equipment issued to Union soldiers during the Civil War.

17 – Pencils can write in zero gravity and so were used on early American and Russian space missions—even though NASA engineers worried about the flammability of wood pencils in a pure-oxygen atmosphere, not to mention the menace of floating bits of graphite.