The Pencil
by A.T. '09

The pencil is the most widely used writing and drawing instrument in the world. Pencils can be used to write words, numbers, music, poetry, maps, pictures, diagrams, and more. There are different kinds of pencils for school, for art, for writing, and for other activities. There are colored pencils, mechanical pencils, and regular cased wooden pencils. There are special pencils to write underwater, and can be used in outer space because the graphite is not affected by gravity. About 10 billion pencils are produced annually. But who invented this significant invention, and how was it made and created? Here are the answers. Information from: "Pencil." World Book Online Reference Center. 2003 ed.

Conrad Gesner first invented the pencil in Zurich, Switzerland. A German-Swiss naturalist, he was the first person to identify graphite as a distinct material. He was also the first to think of using this soft, slippery form of carbon for writing. In 1565, Gesner had the idea of placing it in a wooden holder to form a writing instrument. When the pencil first came out, it wasn"t the kind we have today, with the lead "glued" into place (which came out in 1812). Information from: Bridgman, Roger. 1000 Inventions and Discoveries. New York: Dorling Kindersley, 2002.

Today, the wooden pencil has a complicated process when being made. First the "lead", which is actually graphite and soft clay, is finely ground and mixed, then fired and put in an oven to produce a strong fused stick. The wood is usually California incense cedar wood, which is sawn into small slats, about half of the width of a regular pencil. The slats are run through a grooving machine, which carves out parallel grooves to hold the stick. Then, two slats are sandwiched together with a special binding glue with the lead inside to form the pencil. It is then layered with many coatings of lacquer to produce the pencil we use today. Information from: Paper:Mate, . "The Manufacture of Wooden Pencils." CC Consulting . 11 Dec. 2003

I hope I have provided you with information on the pencil. Though a small object, the pencil is a significant invention that has a big impact on history.

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