Prompt of the month: Show us your pencil stash! Have you reached SABLE yet? Not sure what that is? Read on.
When I first started working for CW and began diving deep into the world of wood and graphite, there were a lot of terms I didn't know. "Point retention," "ferrule," and the definitions for the HB scale were quickly learned, while other terms came much later after delving into the wonderfully nerdy Erasable Podcast Pencil Community. This group is populated solely by passionate pencil enthusiasts, each eager to ask questions and share knowledge about their favorite writing utensils. From these lovely people I learned my favorite term: SABLE. It stands for "Stash Acquired Beyond Life Expectancy," and it just delightfully describes what many of us do with our pencils: We hoard them.
I, for one, have an ever-growing collection of pencils at home in mugs, jars, Dudeks, and clear Rubbermaid bins, stashed all over my apartment. I'm constantly adding to it (how could I not? Do you know where I work?!), and I think I'm already well past SABLE.
Which of course made me wonder - just how many pencils would last a lifetime (or, in case of SABLE, beyond)? Let's crunch some numbers.
There is much dubious information on the internet regarding just how many words a pencil can write. There's one Discovery listicle that states a pencil can write 45,000 words, yet also claims no one has ever tested this factoid (but still, this factoid is cited all over the internet! Where did it come from? Who made it up? Where is Mr. Owl to help us get to the center of this Tootsie pop?).
Eberhard Faber Mongol ads from the 1950s offer a wildly different claim, which the company says they tested. A Mongol 482 #2 could write 16,230 words, according to these ads. So a high-quality #2 from the golden age of pencils could write two-thirds less than whatever modern pencil someone used to make up the 45,000 words? Something doesn't add up.
And yet, I stumbled across this fascinating piece of literature which goes even deeper in to the question. Using the post-apocalyptic world of the video game The Last of Us as inspiration, the writer imagined a future need to hand-copy the entirety of Wikipedia using only pencils (which, seriously, will last longer than pens in the apocalypse. There's one reason to start a stash!). It's a really good article even if you're not a pencil or video game nerd!
This led to discovering the project To Write a Mockingbird (TWAM), in which a group of adults used one 2007-era Dixon Ticonderoga #2 (which were likely better than 2017-era Ticonderogas) to copy the entirety of To Kill a Mockingbird. For the record, if I had a time machine, I would go back in time and introduce them to the idea of a pencil extender because that tape and toothpick combo they came up with, while innovative, breaks my graphite covered heart.
Anyway! Back to the numbers. The TWAM group proved that a pencil has a lot more longevity in it than one might think! It took the TWAM group of 26 adults 36 continuous hours to write roughly 100,388 words with one pencil.
The average adult can write 13.6 words per minute by hand (that's going off the of handwriting average of 68 letters per minute, combined with average word length in the English language being about 5 letters long). Let's assume that the average adult doesn't spend the kind of time and focus that the TWAM group did and make a wild guess that the average avid adult pencil user spends 1 hour each day actually writing with a pencil (not counting staring into space, waiting for ideas to sink in, and yes, totally disregarding things like point retention and pencil hardness because I'm a pencil lady, not a scientist Jim!). Ready, MATH!*
- 1 adult can write 816 words per hour (13.6 words per minute x 60 minutes per hour)
- 1 pencil can write for approximately 122.6 hours (100,000(ish) words per pencil / 816 words per hour =122.6 hours)
- 1 hour a day for 365 days a year, divided by 122.6 hours per pencil = 2.97 pencils a year (woah, totally thought it would be more!)
Alyx went even deeper for me:
So my SABLE is 120 pencils (yeah, definitely surpassed that)! Honestly speaking, I think I go through about one whole pencil every two weeks, and I'd consider myself a fairly heavy pencil user. My SABLE is probably more like... 24 pencils a year, times 40 years, plus extra pencils during Letter Writing Month, plus... Okay. It's a lot! So I guess.... That means I can buy more pencils, right??
How does that apply to your stash? Have you reached SABLE yet? Here's a couple people that have surpassed SABLE and entered into the beyond:
Here's the prompt of the month: Show us your stash! Pull 'em out, admire them in their wonderfully hoarded glory, and show us the goods! Share it with us using #PencilSABLE - we'd love to see!
Now for the hard question - what are you going to do with all these babies? I'm thinking I might reach My Precious status with some of my Mongol collection someday...
*Seriously, we're not mathematicians. Forgive us if the equations aren't totally sound!