Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Wunderkammer: 1. The Pencil

Wunderkammer: a series celebrating the almost lost…

Did you hear the one about the pencil?
Nah, it’s pointless.

These days lead pencils seem to be used mainly by school children and artists. Most writing by adults is done on computers, with a pen occasionally dragged out of the top drawer to sign the bottom of the page or make quick corrections before typing again.

But there’s a lot to be said for the humble pencil. Let’s stop to celebrate this small piece of basic technology:

-- Lead pencils aren’t actually made from lead, and haven’t been since the 16th century. They’re made from graphite.

-- The first mass-produced pencils were made in Nuremberg in Germany in 1662.

-- A pencil mark is archivally stable, and will last longer than the paper it is on.

-- A pencil can write in zero gravity, upside down and under water.

-- Your average pencil can write 45,000 words, or draw a line about 56 kms long.

-- You don’t need an instruction manual to use one.

Cheap, light, portable and easy to use… who could ask for more?

[Cross-posted at Sarsaparilla]

Postscript: Since posting this at Sars, I've been told of the most wonderful pencil sites: Pencil Revolution, Dave's Mechanical Pencils and Leadholder: The Drafting Pencil Museum. Worth visiting from time to time!

PPS: Yes, took the photo myself. Didn't want to sharpen it first because I like the smoothness of the virgin wood :)

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