Of course, with all the attention I am giving to the Argos pen, I have to be careful not to overlook the Ikea pencil if I really want to take a comprehensive look at the icons of free stationery.

For some reason, people are always surprised when I mention the fact that I do quite a bit of DIY around the house.* I think people have an image of me as a sort of foppish figure, and find it hard to reconcile that image with the thought of me sawing wood and banging nails into things.

Anyone who has ever done any DIY will have experienced that moment when, just as you are about to mark where to cut or drill or whatever, you are suddenly unable to find your pencil. “I had it a minute ago” you mumble to yourself. “It was just here, I’m sure I put it down here.” Minutes would be wasted searching for the missing pencil, and frustration levels (already dangerously high) would peak. The Ikea pencil saved me from this misery.

During each of my many visits to the Edmonton branch of Ikea over the last couple of years, I have helped myself to a handful of Ikea pencils. They fit perfectly into the little compartment in the lid of my toolbox. If I can’t find the pencil I was using, I simply dip into my Ikea pencil pool and pull out a fresh one. Generally, once I’ve finished whatever it was I was doing and have started packing up my tools, I’ll start to find all the other elusive pencils, and they can then be returned to the pool.

At the last count, I had twenty-eight Ikea pencils in my toolbox.

Just as I wanted to know how many pens Argos produce every year, I had a similar question relating to Ikea pencils. I emailed their customer service team to ask and received a reply:

Dear Mr. Ward,

Thank you for your recent questions and interest in IKEA UK.

Due to the large number of requests we receive for information about IKEA UK, we do not have the resources to answer all your individual questions.

You can find out all about IKEA, IKEA history, IKEA products and environmental issues and all about IKEA design on the IKEA web site


For further information, we can recommend our group corporate web site at


IKEA is a private company and we do not issue out financial reports, but facts and figures on our global operation are available on the web site.

Yours sincerely,

IKEA UK Customer Services Team

Not one to be easily deterred, I decided to take matters into my own hands and Googled ikea +pencils +”every year” and found this document from 2008 celebrating twenty-one years since Ikea first opened a store in the UK.

The document included a page listing twenty-one facts about Ikea:

Fact 10 on the list says:

DRAWING THE LINE – The humble IKEA pencil, provided for customers to jot down details of their purchases as they walk around the store, became the subject of “front page news” when an eagle eyed photographer spotted a referee using one for his match notes in a controversial Scottish football match! Last year, IKEA UK customers used 12,317,184 pencils.

It’s a little out of date, as it refers to 2007, but it’s enough to satisfy me. Still, I can’t help but feel that Ikea missed an opportunity. If Rachel had sent me the direct link to this document, or just copied and pasted that paragraph, I would have been really impressed by their customer service. It would only have taken a minute or so, but it would have shown that they actually made an effort to help answer my query. Instead, I received a generic reply effectively saying “Fuck off and stop wasting our time”. Poor show, Ikea. Poor show.

* Anyone who wants to take a look at my DIY skills close up can come and LIVE with me. Yes, you could LIVE with ME in MY HOUSE.

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