Why Are Pencils Yellow?

Last Updated Jul 22, 2010 5:52 PM EDT

Why are pencils yellow?
With the SAT and ACT testing season about to kick into high gear, I poked around on the Internet to find about more about pencils. Here are 10 facts about pencils that you probably didn't know.

1. Yellow pencils originally were supposed to connote luxury. The tradition of yellow pencils began 120 years ago when a Hungarian company started manufacturing high quality yellow pencils that were named after a famous yellow diamond called Koh-I-Noor. The yellow pencils were intended to be the best and most expensive in the world. Copycat pencil makers ended up embracing the yellow color too.

2. Not all countries use yellow pencils. In Germany and Brazil, most pencils are green. In Australia, pencils are red with black bands. In Southern European countries, pencils are often dark red or black with yellow stripes.

3. Lead pencils contain no lead. Pencils use graphite. On the written page, graphite is resistant to moisture, ultraviolet radiation and aging.

4. Henry David Thoreau is best known for being an author, but he was also a pencil manufacturer.

5, Johnny Carson liked to play with pencils during his show, but to prevent accidents, his pencils had erasers on both ends.

6. John Steinback started each day with 24 newly sharpened pencils. The author reportedly used 60 pencils a day when writing the Grapes of Wrath.

7. Thomas Edison special ordered his pencils. His pencils were thicker than normal pencils and he used softer graphite.

8. Pencils are numbered to indicate how hard the graphite is. The higher the number, the harder the graphite.

9. The No. 2 pencil is most popular because it uses a medium-grade graphite which makes it best for writing.

10. A No. 1 pencil has a softer graphite, which smudges easier. Engineers and drafters like to use No. 3 pencils which have harder graphite.

Lynn O'Shaughnessy is the author of The College Solution, an Amazon bestseller, and she also writes for TheCollegeSolutionBlog. Follow her on Twitter.
Yellow pencil image by las-initially. CC 2.0.

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