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Pencil Cases

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A wooden pencil case.

Pencil cases are rather odd devices. Their basic purpose is to carry pencils, pens, rubbers and other stationery. Pencil cases are also used as forms of advertisement for many companies. There are many different types and variants, some of which shall now be examined.

Sorts of Pencil Cases


A bag-type pencil case is the most basic and most common type of pencil case one can find. It is a bag made of a synthetic material and is usually about 15cm x 5cm in size with a zip along one of the longer edges. Many companies advertise on bag-type cases. For example, crisp manufacturers like to make bag types a similar size and shape to crisp1 packets in order to try and sell their wares.

The bag-type may be very simple and easy to advertise with, but it certainly isn't very good at its intended purpose. You have to rummage around in it for ages trying to find a rubber2 or pencil sharpener. Smaller objects sink to the bottom and become nearly impossible to find unless you remove all of the other contents. Pens and pencils are just as difficult because they shift from place to place constantly.


Can-type pencil cases are an improvement over the bag type. The can case is a cylinder of synthetic material with a zip all the way around the top. This type is favoured by companies that want to advertise canned drinks. A company will put a device that looks like a ring pull at the top and their logo on the rest to make it look like a can3.

The advantage with this style is that if you put all of your pens and pencils facing upwards while keeping the case vertical, the pencils are much easier to retrieve. The disadvantage, however, is that the whole thing gets very messy and hard to sort out if you take too many pens or pencils out at once. In addition, there is no room for smaller objects like rubbers and pencil sharpeners.


The original pencil case, the tin-type ones, have come back into fashion in the last few years. They are a metal box with dimensions of about 12cm x 4cm, and they either have a lid that can be taken off or a hinged lid. This, like the bag type case, is very easy to advertise on, and different companies can use different textures for the lid. For example, the Umbro Sports Company indented their name into one and a Simpsons football pencil case had a ball as a dome rising from the flat surface. And indeed, in 'the old days', children would be more likely to have a pencil case of this type because it had previously been a container for something else, like mints, cigars or plasters. Modern tin cases, however, are usually purpose-built, with compartments for easy storage already built in.

The advantage to this type of pencil case is that, because you can remove an entire section of the case, your items are much easier to retrieve from it. They also allow for pens, pencils and the smaller objects. The downside is that as they are made of metal, then they get dented, scratched and don't stand up to wear and tear very well. Also, the lids have a tendency to fall off their hinges (on hinged cases) after only a few weeks. This is an annoyingly-common occurrence and little can be done short of re-welding it back together. In addition, little can be fit in the case without compromising its ability to close. To push the case shut risks breaking it even earlier.


Compartment-type pencil cases are probably the best sort one can find. Such a case is a bag of synthetic material of a size similar to the bag type. The difference being that it keeps its shape by being hardened with card or some sort of light wood inside the material that keeps the shape. Around three of the edges is a zip, and the compartment opens like a book. Inside are elastic loops that are designed to hold pens pencils and sharpeners.

The great thing about this type is that the stationery often comes with the case, making it a one-stop purchase. This one is very simple to advertise on because of all of the space on the top and bottom. In addition, one does not need to rummage in order to retrieve items, and the case is easy to close. The only disadvantages are that it is rather thick and does not fit in all bags, and that occasionally the elastic loops break by coming unstitched.


Some questions still remain unanswered about pencil cases. Why are the essentially useless bag types the most common? Why is it so hard to fit things into pencil cases of almost all varieties? Hopefully, these problems and questions will be solved and answered in the near future.

1Meaning 'potato chip' in British terms.2Meaning 'eraser', not 'condom', for which 'rubber' is American slang.3Although it doesn't really resemble one.

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