Student View

STANDARDS

CCSS: 6.RP.A.2, 6.RP.A.3.B, MP1, MP3, MP6

TEKS: 7.4.B, 6.4.B, 6.4.D, 6.5A

The Write Stuff

A Scholastic writer goes behind the scenes to see how pencils are made

© Christopher Payne/Esto

Flashpop/Getty Images

Think about how many times in your life you’ve used a No. 2 pencil. It’s a trusty standby for filling out tests, graphing data, or taking notes in class. But it’s likely that you’ve never thought much about how pencils are made. I hadn’t either, until I visited America’s oldest pencil factory last year.

Founded in 1889, General Pencil Company has been manufacturing pencils for more than 100 years at its factory in Jersey City, New Jersey. It’s one of the last remaining pencil factories in the U.S. Nearly all other pencil manufacturers have either gone out of business or relocated their factories to other countries.

How often do you use a No. 2 pencil? It’s a trusty tool for doing your math homework or taking notes in class. But you’ve probably never thought much about how pencils are made. I hadn’t either, until I visited America’s oldest pencil factory last year.

General Pencil Company was founded in 1889. Its factory in Jersey City, New Jersey, has been producing pencils for more than 100 years. It’s one of the last remaining pencil factories in the U.S. Nearly all other pencil makers have either gone out of business or moved their factories to other countries.

The sights, smells, and sounds of the factory make it an exciting place to be. During my tour, I learned all about the pencil-making process.

First, machines make the graphite cores—the part of the pencil that marks the paper. They mix clay, water, and carbon to make graphite. After compressing and baking the graphite, it’s cut it into small rods, which become the pencil cores.

The sights, smells, and sounds of the factory make it an exciting place to visit. I learned all about the pencil-making process during my tour.

First, machines make the graphite cores—the part of the pencil that marks the paper. They mix clay, water, and carbon to make graphite. The machines compress and bake the graphite. Then it’s cut it into small rods, which become the pencil cores.

© Christopher Payne/Esto

GRAPHITE: Graphite pencil cores (left)—including those for No. 2 pencils—are made from mixing carbon, clay, and water together. Individual pencils (right) are cut from completed pencil sandwiches.

Meanwhile, workers load flat pieces of wood into another machine. The factory uses cedar because it doesn’t splinter like other woods do. The machine carves grooves into the wood to fit the graphite cores. Another piece of wood is attached on top to make what’s called a pencil sandwich.

Meanwhile, workers load flat pieces of wood into another machine. The factory uses cedar because it doesn’t splinter like many other woods do. The machine carves grooves into the wood, then the graphite cores go in the grooves. Another piece of wood is attached on top. This makes what’s called a pencil sandwich.

Nadiia Korol/Shutterstock.com

COLORED PENCILS: Both graphite and colored pencils are made the same way. Here a worker places green cores between two cedar planks to make a pencil sandwich.

Finally, machines cut the pencil sandwich into individual pencils. Each is painted and then topped with a metal band and an eraser. Then they’re packed and shipped across the country.

“We love making pencils,” says Katie Weissenborn Vanoncini, president of General Pencil.

In the final step, machines cut the pencil sandwich into individual pencils. Each one is painted and topped with a metal band and an eraser. Then they’re packed and shipped across the country.

Katie Weissenborn Vanoncini is the president of General Pencil. “We love making pencils,” she says.

Learn more about how pencils are made in the following questions. Record your work and answers on our answer sheet.

Learn more about how pencils are made in the following questions. Record your work and answers on our answer sheet.

Pencil cores are glued between slabs of cedar to make a pencil sandwich. A total of 52,500 pencil sandwiches are made over 5 days. How many pencil sandwiches are made per day?

Pencil cores are glued between slabs of cedar to make a pencil sandwich. A total of 52,500 pencil sandwiches are made over 5 days. How many pencil sandwiches are made per day?

A conveyer belt can add a coat of paint to 2,100 pencils in 15 minutes. How many can it paint per minute?

A conveyer belt can add a coat of paint to 2,100 pencils in 15 minutes. How many can it paint per minute?

A machine adds metal bands called ferrules and erasers to one end of a pencil. It takes the machine 2.5 hours to add ferrules and erasers to 4,200 pencils. How many pencils does this machine process per minute?

A machine adds metal bands called ferrules and erasers to one end of a pencil. It takes the machine 2.5 hours to add ferrules and erasers to 4,200 pencils. How many pencils does this machine process per minute?

General Pencil sell pencils in packs of 12. It makes about 480,000 pencils over 4 weeks. How many 12-packs can it make per week?

General Pencil sell pencils in packs of 12. It makes about 480,000 pencils over 4 weeks. How many 12-packs can it make per week?

The pencil factory can make 24,000 pencils per day. It sells the pencils in 12-packs and 4-packs. How many of each type of pack could can it make in a day?

The pencil factory can make 24,000 pencils per day. It sells the pencils in 12-packs and 4-packs. How many of each type of pack could can it make in a day?

Google Quiz

Click the Google Quiz button below to share an interactive version of the questions with your class. Click Download PDF for the non-interactive blank answer sheet.

Download PDF
Back to top
videos (1)
Skills Sheets (5)
Skills Sheets (5)
Skills Sheets (5)
Skills Sheets (5)
Skills Sheets (5)
Lesson Plan (2)
Lesson Plan (2)