Inside the Factory

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Series 4 - Episode 8 Pencils



Gregg Wallace’s world is rocked when he finds out that pencils are made from graphite. You can almost hear the cogs of his brain wheezing to a halt as he’s forced to mentally erase all the “lead in your pencil” puns he was going to make. And the surprises keep coming: “Haitch B – haitch means hard and B means black?!” A warning now – he says “haitch” instead of “aitch”. A lot. So be prepared if that grinds your gears.

But keep watching because there are interesting topics up for discussion. For instance: is there any value in graphology? (None, according to a professor from Goldsmiths.) And how can handwriting survive in an age of laptops, smartphones and tablets?


Gregg Wallace visits a German pencil factory, learning that the main material in a pencil is not lead but graphite. Cherry Healey examines the properties of graphite, discovering that if a single layer is stripped of atoms from its surface, a new material known as graphene is made. Thin and virtually invisible, embedding this in phone screens might mean that in future they can be rolled up. Historian Ruth Goodman finds documents that show the death of handwriting has been prematurely announced on many occasions, dating right back to the invention of the printing press.

Cast & Crew

Presenter Gregg Wallace
Presenter Cherry Healey
Contributor Ruth Goodman
Executive Producer Jenny Midl
Executive Producer Sanjay Singhal
Producer Phillip Smith
Producer Sam Bailey
Series Director Michael Rees
Series Producer Amanda Lyon
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Documentary Education