Wednesday, January 30, 2008

76 foot pencil

The 250-pound eraser is real rubber. The lead is 4,000 pounds of Pennsylvania graphite. The exterior matches the yellow hue of a classic No. 2. Guinness World Record maker and breaker Ashrita Furman considered every detail when he built the world's largest pencil — except, perhaps, how to sharpen it.

"We thought about making the world's largest pencil sharpener, but we ran out of money," Furman said.

Furman escorted his 22,000-pound, 76-foot-long pencil to its new home at the City Museum in St. Louis on Monday. Furman cut the pencil in two for the trip from Queens, New York; City Museum artisans will reattach the sections soon.

City Museum founder Bob Cassilly isn't sure when or where the pencil will go on display. Maybe he will suspend it among the airplanes and fire trucks that are part of the museum's outdoor jungle gym, Monstrocity. Or perhaps it will join another museum superlative: the world's largest pair of underpants.

"It's hard to leave it, but it will bring a lot of joy to the people here," Furman said. "This place seems like the perfect fit."

Furman, a 53-year-old health food store manager, and some 50 friends built the $20,000 pencil in August as a birthday gift to their now deceased meditation instructor Sri Chinmoy. Take that pencil manufacturer Faber-Castell; it boasts a 65-foot pencil outside of its Malaysia headquarters.

"They said it took them 7,000 man hours to build their pencil, but we were able to get ours done in about three weeks," Furman said.

This was not the first time Chinmoy's followers celebrated his birthday with a world record. Once they served him a cake studded with 27,000 candles (Chinmoy was only 74). Another year, they sculpted a 20-foot birthday cake from popcorn and corn syrup. (No one took a slice.)

"Meditation has given me the inner strength to do these improbable things," Furman said. "True, a lot of what I do is crazy, but it gives me a chance to spread the message of meditation."

Furman claims he has set 177 Guinness Records in his lifetime and currently holds 72 records, one of which is setting the world record for world records.

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