The Life of a Pencil


Photo courtesy Pexels.

I learned this little really interesting lesson many years ago from my amazing friend, Spencer Heath MacCallum.

Every time you purchase a pencil, do you know how many people you are employing?  Start with the wood of the pencil. There have to be loggers who cut the wood, and then truckers who haul it to some factory.  Then there are the factory workers who form the wood for the pencil into its familiar shape.

Then there are those who paint the outsides of the pencils, and those who imprint it with the type of lead (the size, and perhaps the brand name, etc.).  Then there is the little metal piece that holds the rubber eraser.  OK, it is some kind of metal that (likely tin) that has to be mined and then processed, perhaps through many processes to make that holder.  Then it too goes via trucks or perhaps trains to a factory where it is shaped and formed into the piece that will hold the eraser onto the pencil.  And then there is the machinery that performs all those magical tasks, and the people who run those machines.  And of course there is the rubber.

It is growing in the forests in some country where it then is gathered as a liquid, and again, it is processed, and then dyed, as I think rubber in its natural state would not be pink (or other contemporary eraser colors), and it is formed and shaped into those little erasers.  Then there is the lead, and again, lead must be mined, carried to trucks or trains (as are all of these parts) where it is then taken to be processed for formed into the lead that becomes the innermost part of the pencil.

And then all of this must be assembled. Now a great part of the process might be to do these things automatically via machines, but then someone had to make the machines, and someone had to maintain them, and someone else has to run them.  And of course there are the quality control people.  And then the packaging people.  And then the people who take the orders and know where the pencils will go.  And then the pencils are loaded onto trucks and delivered to the places.  Of course, people have to build these trucks and they have to be maintained, and they have to have gas and oil.

Once delivered, the stocking people have to note them into the inventory, and then they get put onto the shelves, where the sales people might just help you to find them, and even if not, you will take them to the cash register to pay for them, so this is the end step that I can think of in the life of the pencil.

Doesn’t this make you feel good to know how many people you are helping to keep employed every time you buy that simple little pencil?  All of this for less than $1.00.