What You Didn't Know About the No. 2 Pencil

The Secrets in Your Hand

    The No. 2 Pencil can draw a straight line for 1,178 km and has an average mark thickness of only 143 atoms. It is a beloved and trusted tool. It's popular, cheap, and most importantly, reliable. With its iconic shade of yellow and signature hexagonal shape, it is used by amateurs and professionals alike in just about every category of work out there. It can get just about every writing job done from notes to novels, and is the gateway for many to become artists. But why is it the way it is? What's so special about that shape, why yellow of all colors, what does that No. 2 mean, and is it still useful today's digital age?


    The tip (a) is the part of the pencil that actually touches the writing surface. The point (b) is all that has been shaved off by the pencil sharpener resulting in that classic spear point. The collar top (c) is the border line between the graphite and the wood which is followed by the collar itself (d) which is the exposed wood after sharpening. The collar bottom (e) is when the point transitions into the shaft (f). The eraser (h) is secured to the shaft by the ferrule (g) which is generally made out a metal such as aluminum.


    Pencils were first mass produced out of Germany in 1662, and it was further expanded by the industrial revolution. The factories first gave it a hexagonal shape because hexagons fit very tightly together with out any waisted space as opposed to circles which have lots of waisted space between each one. This was wonderful because it saved factories money and materials. However, It soon became known that the traditional hegonal shape was brilliant for many other reasons as well. For one, it assisted in a more firm, secure, and comfortable grip generally anywhere on the pencil which is what an artist should look for an a pencil. For a second, it also meant that the pencil would be resistant to rolling off the top of a slanted surface. This helps because the artist or writer can keep their utensils organized. Thus, the shape stuck.

    For a time in the early 1800's, the best graphite in the world came from China and everyone wanted some for their pencils. America wanted it most of all. "In China, the color yellow is associated with royalty and respect. American pencil manufacturers began painting their pencils bright yellow to communicate this 'regal' feeling and association with China." The color quickly became a staple in the design of the pencil and it has lasted several lifetimes.


    The graphite inside of a pencil is actually a mixture of graphite, clay, and sometimes wax. The No. 2 on your trusted yellow writing stick can also be represented by HB. The number system is the preferred way in America while the letter system is more broadly used across the world. Where the pencil falls on the graphite scale indicates what the graphite to clay ratio is. The more graphite, the harder your pencil is. The hardness can typically be indicated by a number, "and the higher the number, the harder the writing core and the lighter the mark left on the paper."

    Is the pencil still a good tool today? Yes, it is. It is perfect for those wanting to start writing or drawing. It is fit for people of all ages. A pencil and a sketch book are much cheaper than a tablet for digital art, so it doesn't require as much of an initial investment. Not to mention, there's just nothing the beats the good old fashion feeling of pencil on paper. Even professionals use No. 2 pencils often for their versatility and their ease of use. There is no doubting it, a pencil and paper is one of the best ways to start drawing. That's wonderful because everyone great has a beginning.

Works Cited:

The Anatomy Of A No. 2 Pencil (IMAGES). (2017, December 07). Retrieved September 25, 2020, from https://www.huffpost.com/entry/no-2-pencil_n_3908502

The History of the Pencil. (n.d.). Retrieved September 25, 2020, from https://pencils.com/pages/the-history-of-the-pencil

Popova, M. (2018, January 21). The Surprising History of the Pencil. Retrieved September 25, 2020, from https://www.brainpickings.org/2013/06/24/history-of-the-pencil/

What is a No. 2 Pencil? (n.d.). Retrieved September 25, 2020, from https://pencils.com/pages/no-2-pencil

Why Are Pencils Yellow?: The Truth Behind Yellow Pencils. (n.d.). Retrieved September 25, 2020, from https://blog.pencils.com/why-are-pencils-yellow

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