The core of a pencil is made of graphite, clay, and water. During the 17th century, the graphite and clay were grounded down by hand, put into a cylindrical mold, and fired in a kiln. Today, pencils are mass-produced by machines that cut down the wood, insert the lead, and stamp or print a design.

We couldn’t complete a crossword puzzle, sketch a masterpiece, or write the next great Indian novel without a good pencil. While it may seem like these writing instruments simply grow on trees, they require expert craftsmanship and engineering to be produced.

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