The familiar No. 2 pencil is a seemingly simple object, but it's actually an exceedingly complex thing to make. It involves parts from around the world, and precision machinery to combine the parts into a smooth writing instrument. To understand how pencils are made, check out this five-minute video shot inside a German pencil factory, showing all the mechanical steps (but leaving out the non-factory bits like harvesting the cedar, mining the clay and graphite, etc.):
My favorite part: "All the steps to this point have culminated in what is effectively a lead sandwich." Mmm, leadwich.
For more pencil-related coverage: Pencils Down: Scantron Inventor Michael Sokolski Has Died; How to Sharpen Pencils; and What Makes #2 Pencils So Special?