Did you know that one tree can make 300,000 pencils? When making pencils, cedar wood is the most common. The best trees for pencils are typically 14 or so years old and are mature enough for cutting.

If you’re Googling “pencils near me,” then you’re probably wondering about the pencil manufacturing process.

This article explains the pencil-making process, from start to finish. Keep reading so you can fully appreciate your writing apparatus the next time you use a pencil.

Pre Cut the Wood

Sawmills pre-cut cedar wood into “pencil squares” or “pencil stock.” Unfortunately, due to climate change, habit loss, and over-harvesting, cedar trees face the risk of extinction. This is why we need to properly care for cedar trees and the environment.

These slats go in a kiln, where they’re dried and later shipped to a factory. Each piece of wood has a uniform size and shape, along with a specific moisture content needed during the pencil assembly process.

Wood Grooves

At the factory, the pencil stock goes on an assembly line and is sent to production. First, each square of wood is treated with stains and waxes.

Next, the pencil squares go underneath a huge cutting wheel, and grooves are carved all along the edges. These grooves hold the graphite in place.

Add Glue

Elastic glue fills the pencil grooves and serves as the graphite’s cushion. This glue is essential to keep the graphite from breaking before the pencil is complete.

Make the Graphite

Powdered clay and water mix with ground graphite, making a thick paste. From here, this paste is placed in a kiln and fired till a produces a strong lead core that’s smooth, hard to break, and ideal for writing.

The pencil factory has an automated arm it uses to insert the graphite into the pencil’s wood slat along with the glue. The arm flips the wood over, stacking another piece of wood on top of it, creating a sandwich.

Apply Pressure

Next, a mechanized plunger squeezes the contents of this pencil sandwich together, applying more than 2,000 pounds of pressure. As the plunger squeezes the slats together, the glue dries.

The glue takes roughly an hour to completely dry. Once it’s dry, the pencil sandwiches are cut into pencils. This requires the use of a fast-spinning cutter which shapes the pencils into a hexagonal design. The factory throws away defective pencils.

Add the Lacquer

Lacquer then sprays the pencils. Each pencil receives at least four to 10 coats of lacquer. This depends on the color, sheen, and quality of the pencils.

Erasers

Next, the pencils receive ferrules and erasers. The metal ferrules keep the erasers from falling off.

Print

The majority of pencils boast some type of print or text. This helps to grade the graphite, which is important for students taking hand-written standardized tests. During this process, custom images and text go on the pencils.

Packaging the Pencils

After the pencils receive custom text and images, they’re packaged and prepared for shipment. They’re sent to pencil shops, office supply stores, schools, and more.

Pencils also ship to schools, and teachers work to find the best pencil size for developing hands. You can learn more about pencil grasp development here.

Pencils Near Me

Now that you understand the pencil manufacturing process, you’ll have a deeper appreciation for these critical writing tools the next time you Google “pencils near me.” While pencils don’t literally grow on trees, they are made from cedar wood. And contrary to popular belief, their core is no longer lead, but graphite.

If you enjoyed reading about pencils, be sure to check out the rest of our website for more great information!