How Pencil Lead is Made | You Need to Know

Pencils are one of the most commonly used, famous, and oldest writing elements. From our early childhood to adult life, we use pencils.

Most of the pencils we use are graphite pencils.

But do we know how the leaders of this pencil are manufactured? What is pencil lead? What is it made out of? The function of wooden pencils and mechanical pencils?

In this article, I will briefly discuss how pencil lead is made. I’ll talk about what they do at a pencil factory and how the pencil makers do it.

I will talk about the things required and the step-by-step procedures of this manufacturing process. So, let’s start making pencil lead.

How Pencil Lead is Made

Things Required to Make Pencil Leads

Before starting, you need to know the necessary things required to make pencil leads. I’m just going to add the required items below.

Gently remind that this entire process is a manufacturing process. So, you shouldn’t be trying this out at home. Let us have a look at the pencil material.

  • Graphite 
  • Water
  • Kiln
  • Grinding drum
  • Metal tubing (tiny holes)
  • Clay

These are the things you’ll need before getting started. Get this pencil material, and let’s get going.

The Process of Making Pencil Lead

Now let’s begin the pencil lead-making process. I’ll be briefly discussing the entire process in step by step procedure.  Let’s begin.

Grinding up the Clay and Graphite 

The first step of this process is grinding up the clay and graphite. We will use a vast rotating drum with small holes for this procedure.

Put the pieces of graphite and clay in the large rotating drum. Put large rocks inside. These large rocks will crush the graphite and clay due to rotation. 

And they will be turned into a mixture of fine powder. This powder is going to be used for the upcoming procedures.

Water Mixing 

As the name suggests, we are going to use water. The water will be mixed with the produced powder.

We need to add water to the powder and blend them. And we need to blend the water for at least three days. This will give enough time for the solution to blend in.

After that, we need to squeeze out the water when it is in the right consistency. You will get a grey sludge after squeezing the water out. Leave the grey sludge out for a minimum of four days. It will harden itself in the meantime.

Grinding up the Hardened Stuff

Now we need to grind up the hardened stuff for the second time. After letting it dry for four days, it should be appropriately hardened. The grinding and crushing will produce another fine powder.

Similar to the first step. Now we are going to use this powder to make the soft paste.

Making the Soft Paste

Add more water when grinding for the second time. The additional water will create a soft paste. Water will ensure soft, malleable paste forms. 

If the paste is not dark enough, that is due to less amount of carbon. So, add more carbon or dark mineral to the mixture to make it darker.

Now you have your desired soft paste mixture. Take this soft paste to the next step.

Cutting the Pencil Rods

The mixture is pushed through a thin metal tube with a small opening. As a result, it comes out in the shape of thin rods.

This thin metal shape is the familiar and traditional round pencil lead of our usual wooden or mechanical pencil. The smooth and thin structure enables smooth writing.

Now cut the pen according to the proper length. The pencil length pieces may vary. Most pencil /pen companies follow the ideal and demanding pencil length. Cut the pencil rods accordingly. 

Heating to Dry Up

This is the final step of our whole process. Up until now, we’ve created the familiar pencil rod figure. We just need to heat them to produce dry off.

Need to heat the pencil rods at 1800 degrees Fahrenheit. We need to ensure a thorough heat procedure in the process. We are going to use the Kiln for this process.

Heating the pencil rod at such a high temperature will make the pencil rods super smooth and hard. This is why it is capable of smooth writing.

For even smoother performance, you can dip it in oil or wax. The texture and overall quality of the pencil rods will increase. 

Now, simply use the pencil to make a wooden pencil or a mechanical pencil of your preference. And there you have your desired pen.

This is the simple formula for making pencil leads.

FAQs

Q: What Does the Number of the Pencils Mean?

I’m sure we all noticed some numbers and letters written on the surface of graphite pencils. It is on mechanical pencils as well. A lot of people don’t know the reason.

The numbers and letters indicated the hardness/softness of the graphite used in the pencil.

 #1 means the graphite is soft, #2 means medium hardness, etc. A higher number means more hardness.

The same goes for the letters. H indicated stiff graphite, and B indicated the softer ones.

Q: How Long Does a Lead Pencil Last?

This is a common question. Lead pencils are featured with many advantages. But we need to know how long it usually lasts.

On average, a lead pencil lasts 2 to 5 years. But this duration depends on the user. If you’re a frequent pencil user, it may run out sooner than anticipated.

The average can write a total of 44000 words which can stretch about 36 miles! The numbers are not wrong at all.

Read Also: How Long Does a Pencil Last

Q: Is Pencil Lead Conductor or Insulator?

It’s a commonly asked question. And to put it in simple terms, it is a conductor. A pretty good one. 

We all know that it is made out of graphite and clay. Not pure graphite.

And this is a conductor of electricity. But it will need a more significant resistance compared to any metallic wires. The conductance occurs due to the free electrons inside the graphite.

Graphite is a common form of carbon. 

But don’t start comparing with copper, silver, or iron. Those are excellent conductors.

But for graphite, we can consider it moderately good in this case. Wooden pencils and colored pencils aren’t good conductors.

Q: Is Pencil Lead Waterproof? 

Another commonly asked question is whether pencil lead is waterproof or not. Simply saying, pencil leads aren’t waterproof. 

Although it isn’t completely waterproof, it has a certain level of water resistance, which is common among most pencils.

The softer pencils are less water-resistant than the hard ones. So, if you’re using a hard pencil, it will be more water-resistant.

Now, this factor occurs due to the mechanical property of modern pencils. Nowadays, it is made out of graphite, clay, and other polymers.

Read Also: How to Seal Pencil Drawings

Conclusion 

I’m sure this entire article gave you an idea of how pencil lead is made. I’ve used simple words and steps to describe the entire process.

Before ending, I would like to give you another reminder. This entire lead pencil making is a manufacturing process. They are made at pencil factories.

So do not try to do this on your own. It requires professional touch and directions to execute correctly. Know the process correctly.

Source: [PDF] [pens.com]

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Loard Eva

Hi there! I’m Eva, artist, designer, photographer and mom of three little gentlemen altogether. When I’m not playing with my kids, you’ll find me researching and writing for ChooseMarker.

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