I must have used up hundreds of pencils in all this time, from when I was two or three, when my parents or grandparents first gave me pencils and paper to play with. Yet I have no recollection of ever throwing away a pencil stub. I can remember one instance of struggling to sharpen a little stub, because I had foolishly forgotten to bring to class a much-needed replacement pencil. So there I was, at the age of perhaps seven, struggling to put a point on a little bit of pencil that was hardly an inch long. Yet not a single instance of disposing of a useless pencil stub will come to me. So as I gradually sharpen away this mustard-yellow Koh-I-Noor Hardtmuth 1500 (8B) that I am using to underline the books I am reading, I am keeping my eye on it, watching as my sharpening reduces it bit by bit. There is some way to go, as I started using it only recently, and it is still a decent length, at perhaps five and a half inches. I am sharpening it with a new penknife that I acquired just a day or two ago, a knife I chose online looking at the pictures and carefully reading the descriptions, selected especially for this single function. From one end folds out the larger clip point blade and the smallest spey blade. These I will reserve for special tasks that may not be pencil-related at all, such as opening packages, or turning plastic bottles into useful pots (you can use the opposite end to make a funnel). From the other end of the knife folds out a single, medium-sized sheepsfoot blade, whose straight edge is ideal for sharpening pencils. Trial runs have proved most satisfactory. For the first time ever, I am determined to remain conscious of my throwing away – perhaps in a couple of weeks – the stub of this Koh-I-Noor pencil.
Perhaps the excitement of starting a new pencil has always been so strong that my memories of having just thrown away a stub could not survive the thrill. I have a 7B ready for the forthcoming event.