I like wood-cased pencils.

I like the way they look, the way they feel, and the way the write. I like having to sharpen them. I like learning about who made them and the times in which they were made. And oddly enough, I like them because they don’t last—not if you use them, that is.

I have a handful of hard-to-find pencils that I do not intend to sharpen or otherwise use, which I guess technically means that I have a “pencil collection.” But I have never identified with pencil collecting per se—I’m neither looking for that perfect Thoreau specimen nor trying to complete a set of 1965 Microtomic pencils or something. In other words, just looking at pencils doesn’t really do it for me. Instead, I have developed an affinity for using a relatively narrow selection of well-made, high-quality pencils that are unfortunately either discontinued or impracticably expensive, or both. This means that the few I can manage are usually well-looked after, even though the very act of enjoying them means destroying them.

An 1854 article from Illustrated Magazine of Art titled “Pencil Making at Keswick” touches upon this notion—that to “use them is to lose them.” It also goes a bit further by extending the metaphor upward to the person holding the pencil. If nothing else though, this quotation—only a single sentence—is a paean to the comma:

And we might conclude by moralising on the fact, that as it is by the wear and tear and destruction of the agent that its worth is developed, so it often is that men, in striving and labouring for society and the world, are themselves exhausted and consumed, and the elements of their physical constitution pass away, to mingle with, and to be absorbed into, the universe at large.