I read this article by Kostya Kennedy the other day in the US Airways inflight Magazine and thought I would share it with you. It's a beautifully written ode to a tool we have had around for centuries: the pencil.
"The metaphorical punch of a pencil comes not so much from its familiar yellow shaft — seven inches long and six-sided for an easy grip — but rather from the half-inch of pink or green rubber at its end. The eraser assumes that when we write a word, or sketch a ﬁgure, or draw a line above a child’s head on the kitchen wall, we will inevitably mismark, misspell, or somehow fail to convey what we intended. 'My pencils,' said the writer Vladimir Nabokov, 'outlast my erasers.'
There are artists’ pencils and carpenters’ pencils, and even some a diver can use beneath the waves, but there is scarcely a schoolroom or home in America that doesn’t have in it the classic No. 2 HB — an implement that endures some 450 years after the British began producing pencils, and more than 150 years since Henry David Thoreau worked at his father’s thriving pencil factory in Concord, Massachusetts. Thoreau, of course, was a man of simple wants, but to be without a pencil would have been unimaginable for him. It enabled him to put down his thoughts, just as the eraser, added to the pencil’s end in the mid-1800s, enables all of us to change our minds."
Here's an interesting fact: In the late 1800s, the best graphite came from China, where the color yellow signified royalty. US pencil makers, wanting to show the graphite's high origins, painted their pencils yellow.