Let's Celebrate National Pencil Day: Saturday 30th March 2024

National Pencil Day - 30 March

Oh yes, there’s a national day for just about everything, but how could we let this one pass without a little commotion? National Pencil Day is celebrated on 30th March as that was the date in 1858 that stationer Hymen Lipman registered the patent for the “modern pencil”, i.e. a wooden graphite pencil with an eraser on the end. It’s wild to think that they’ve been around for over 166 years!

Even Nikki was surprised to learn that we stock a whopping 20 different types of pencil here at Nikki’s Supply Store! If you’re spoilt for choice and not sure which to go for, read on…

Pencil Lead and HB Scale: Explained

While we refer to a pencil’s core as the “lead”, it’s not actually made of lead and despite the playground rumours you can’t give someone lead poisoning by jabbing them with a pencil! A pencil’s core is a mixture of graphite and clay, and the HB scale (or # numbered scale in the US) denotes the hardness of the graphite. The more graphite there is, the softer the lead, whereas adding clay produces a harder lead. With that said, there’s no “industry standard” and HB pencils from two differently manufacturers can vary!

But what do those letters on pencils actually mean?

  • H = hard
  • B = soft black
  • HB = hard black

H and B pencils can also have a numerical ranking, indicating exactly how soft or hard they are. A 2B pencil is quite soft, with a 6B being very soft, and a 2H pencil is quite hard with 6H being very hard. HB nestles in the middle of the scale, which is why this is often the “standard” pencil, and is roughly equivalent to a US #2 pencil.

The majority of the pencils we stock at Nikki’s Supply Store have an HB rating, and are great all-purpose pencils for drawing and writing:

Softer pencils, such as the Blackwing Pearl, Blackwing Pearl Pink (both equivalent to a 3B) and Blackwing Matte (equivalent to a 4B) produce a darker mark and are better for sketching and shading. They’re also easier to erase, so they’re handy for sketching before penning, or planning BuJo spreads. Harder pencils produce a fainter mark and are better for technical drawing. The hardest pencils we stock are the Blackwing Natural, Tombow 2558 and Tombow 8900 which are all rated “H”.

It’s all well and good explaining it, but the best way to work out which pencil is right for you is to try them out! We sell all of our pencils individually, so you can choose a handful to have a play with, or pick up one of our bundle packs. Our Pencil Super Sample Pack contains six pencils with H, HB and B ratings, and our Blackwing Sample Pack contains four Blackwing pencils with H, 3B and 4B ratings.

Let us know in the comments below if you have a favourite pencil!

Our Favourite Pencils

In case you were wondering, Nikki’s favourite pencil is the the Blackwing Pearl as they’re soft and dark enough for sketching, but firm enough for making lists and notes. She’s had the same one for a whopping five years, and just keeps replacing the eraser as needed! Given that the average pencil can draw a line that’s 35 miles long, that’s pretty impressive! You can see her clever hack for making the most out of a Blackwing eraser here.

My favourite is the Pentel Sharplet Mechanical Pencil in 0.9mm because quite frankly, I can never be bothered to locate or use a pencil sharpener! I love the retro vibes and satisfying clicky top and it serves me well for planning out BuJo spreads and sketching.

90s Pencil Nostalgia

If you follow Nikki’s Supply Store on Instagram, you’ve probably noticed that both Nikki and I have a huge fondness for Yikes! pencils, which were popular in the 1990s. They were made of compressed particle board (rather than cedar wood) which allowed them to be coloured all the way through, not just on the outside. My favourites were the one with the ones with the striped ridged barrels, despite the fact they incredibly uncomfortable to hold!

Nikki has been desperately searching for an un-used stash of them, or even a supplier. Tragically, she’s had no luck yet, but we live in hope!

The Iconic Yellow Pencil Aesthetic

The classic yellow pencil seems to have become something of a cultural icon, doesn’t it? Yellow became the default colour for pencils in the 1800s, because the best graphite came from China where the colour yellow was synonymous with luxury and quality. These days, yellow pencils appear on everything from socks to £135 Anya Hindmarsh reed diffusers! Of course, we’ve got a few iconic yellow pencil supplies ourselves:

Pipsticks Mini Golden Pencils Journal Stickers

Ohto Japanese Pencil Ball Pen: A pen that looks like a pencil!

Chunky Pencil-Shaped Pencil Case (designed by Nikki!)

…and coming soon to Nikki’s Supply Store: Pencil Bow Ties by Xoelle. Nikki bought one of these on her travels to the US and just had to get a stash for Nikki’s Supply Store! They’re handmade in San Diego from pieced cotton, linen and vintage velvet or corduroy. Make sure you’re signed up to the newsletter and following us on Instagram if you’d like to know when they’re available!

Giant Pencils

Who remembers these giant cardboard photo props that Nikki and her creative pal Kitiya Palaskas made for Adobe’s Alt Summit last year, including an enormous turquoise pencil? While the designs were planned in advance, they only had one and half days to actually build all six giant pieces! You can see more about their collaborative process in Kit’s blog post here.

Speaking of giant pencils, we couldn’t resist giving a shout-out to this incredible 1.75m to-scale replica of the Dixon Ticonderoga World’s Best Pencil, made by Third Drawer Down.

How to Celebrate National Pencil Day

Feeling the pencil love but not sure how to celebrate National Pencil Day? Here’s a few suggestions to get your started:

  • Challenge yourself to only write/draw in pencil for the entire day
  • Play Pictionary with your friends or family
  • Bake pencil-shaped cookies
  • Treat yourself to some new pencils
  • Sharpen and organise all of your pencils
  • Make a giant pencil from paper and cardboard
  • Make a flat lay collage with pencils
  • Buy and wear a pencil-themed accessory
  • Fascinate your colleagues with pencil-based facts: You could use the ones in this blog!

I hope you’ve enjoyed this celebration of National Pencil Day! If you’ve been inspired by any of the ideas in this blog post or you’ve bought any new pencils to try, we’d love to see! You can tag @nikkissupplystore and #NikkisSupplyStore on Instagram, where you can find heaps more journaling and stationery inspo. You can also follow me, @joy.margot, for more craft content, monthly reading round-ups and photos of my cat, Juniper.

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