How to Sharpen a Pencil Without Breaking the Lead

Whether you are an artist and are drawing your exceptional thoughts out on a paper, an architect and are making the blueprints of buildings which will be considered as wonders of the world one day or a student and trying to make your parents proud by scoring high in your tests.

You will find the key component that unites us all; is a pencil. And a pencil’s best friend is not only an eraser but also a “Sharpener” who makes the pencil acute and pointed every time they interact.  

Sharpening a pencil is as important as keeping the lead intact is. But if your lead keeps breaking, there is no gain in sharpening it in the first place. So following are some tips and tricks for you to know and follow so your pencil can stay friends with one sharpener for a long time. 

Why Does the Pencil Lead Keep Breaking?

Why Does the Pencil Lead Keep Breaking

This is a common question that you may have asked yourself after breaking the lead of your pencil. But the following points will help you not to do so. 

There are 4 main reasons that are the possible causes of lead breakage. 

The Quality of Pencil

It is clear that a pencil of good quality wood will last longer than a pencil of poor quality wood. Because a pencils life is dependent on its wood quality and the manufacturing process. The common best quality wood for pencils is incense cedar. And a lot of companies use this wood to make their pencils.

Pencils that are made from poor quality wood is easily breakable (even dropping from the top of the desk can break them in half) and usually does not have a lead that is completely attached to the wood interior. This space between the lead and wood makes the sharpening difficult and the tip of your newly sharped pencil can break by just applying a minimal amount of pressure. 

Being Dropped

This is the basic reason for the breakage of newly sharped or inside lead of a pencil. Because dropping a pencil can break the inside lead into pieces. And once this damage is done there is nothing you can do to make it right. 

So make sure to maintain good care of your pencils and before placing an online order make sure that the company you chose provides a safe and secure delivery to your doorstep. 

Pushed too Hard

One main reason for pencil lead breakage is that you put more pressure than the bearable capacity of the pencil and as a result, the lead breaks down. You have to handle your pencils in a lighter mode rather than exerting high hand pressure on them to keep their lead tip intact.

Frequent sharpening 

A habit of frequent sharpening can be a reason why your lead keeps breaking. Because if you move your pencil at an irregular angle or the blade of your sharpener is misplaced by default it will break your lead.

Things to Consider Before Sharpen a Pencil

If you are to sharpen a pencil for a specific purpose, consider the following things in your mind.

Types of the Pencil

There are two types of pencils in general. Hard and soft. And hardness doesn’t mean the wood material used in manufacturing, instead, hardness refers to the lead inside the pencil. 

Any number in the range of B will be considered soft. In the B range softness increases as we increase the numbers and strokes become darker because more lead is released with less pressure making 9B the softest pencil available. 

On the other hand, in the case of range H, hardness increases when we increase the number H and the lead becomes hard making the strokes lighter because less lead is released when we apply pressure during writing or drawing, making 9H the hardest pencil available. 

Also available charcoal and colored pencils that are also popular for artists. But keep in mind that sharping process are not the same for all. And if you’re a fan of drawing with the colored pencil you must know how to sharpen it without the lead breaks.

Quality is Important

Make sure to use the pencils from companies which offer a good quality product no matter if you have to spend a little extra on them. Because it is better to use one expensive pencil for a week rather than using 4 cheap pencils for the same period of time.

The Proper Ways to Sharpen a Pencil

You might be wondering if there are defined methods to sharpen a pencil?  Yes! There are different type of sharpener.

Using Electric Pencil Sharpener

You can use an electric sharpener if you are looking for a long term solution and do not want to visit stationery stores on daily basis. These are a little expensive but they are useful in the long run. You just have to put the pencil in the hole and hold it tight, and wait for the pointed tip to appear.

These do not cause mess either as they have a separate holder for the waste. 

Note: E-Sharpener is good for colored pencils. Even It can sharpen a dull pencil without any trouble with balance.

Using Handheld Pencil Sharpeners

Hand-held pencil sharpeners are best for students, kids, and beginner artists. if you have a low budget it’s pretty good. They are usually made of plastic and have one or two holes to accommodate different sizes of pencils.

Most importantly ‘handheld manual sharpener’ can carry easily wherever you want them to be.

Using Pocket knife or Blade

A knife or blade can also be used as an excellent alternative for a sharpener. In fact, many artists use a sharp knife to make their tips functional according to their particular need.

This is certainly a difficult procedure to learn and follow and you have to be a master of it in order not to hurt yourself. But once you learn how to modify the pencil’s tip according to your need, you’ll sharpen a pencil and shape it as much as you need.

Helpful Tips: If you don’t have a sharper to sharpen a pencil you can use sandpaper block or nail filler. I’ve written a complete guideline on it: How to Sharpen a Pencil Without a Pencil Sharpener.

How to Prevent Breaking Pencil Lead

This is probably the most important segment of this article because as a student, an artist or anyone who uses pencils in their daily life routine, you do not want to waste your time re-sharpening your pencils again and again. 

So, following are some tips that will save your time and energy. 

Start with Light Pressure

There is no rocket science behind this point, that starts with light or low pressure on your newly sharped pencil. Because pointed tips can bear less pressure than non-pointed tips. So if you have sharped your pencil for a pointed tip, do not apply pressure to break it. 

Heating Up Before Sharpening

This is rather another effective way for a long-lasting pencil. Because a pencil having a dry wood covering has more chances of breakage than a pencil with a less dry wood covering. By heating, the pencils in hot water make their wood damp and pencils long-lasting.

Other Helpful Tips to Keep in Mind

Following are the tips that you should keep in your mind to take care of your pencils. Because It is known that, for a pencil to be a versatile tool it has to be in the hands of the right person. 

Never apply too Much Pressure

This protecting technique is like Newton’s third law of motion which states that “every action has an equal and opposite reaction.” 

In this case, the action is the pressure that you apply and the reaction is the breakage of the lead. So, do not apply too much pressure on your pencil for not breaking the lead tips and making them last longer. 

Protect Your Pencil

This is something that we all have been taught in our schools from our early years to protect our pencils. Protecting our pencils doesn’t mean putting them in safe lockers of banks. However, it means not dropping them, sharpening them too often or using them as drum sticks on your desks. Using carry case for pen or pencil is good practice in this case.

Yes! you can not use them as drum sticks. 

Maintain Your Sharpener

As we have already mentioned that a sharpener is a friend of pencil, you have to make sure it is a ‘good friend’ and is not letting down your pencil. You should maintain it by cleaning the inside after every time you use it and not let any piece of lead stuck in its way. 

Make sure the blade of the sharpener is fully dry after you use it for wet pencils because the moisture can cause serious damage to your blade by causing corrosion in it and it is irreversible damage. 

Before You Go…

In this article we came across different reasons why your pencils break in the first place, then we had a look at some important features one should keep in mind before buying a pencil.

Then mentioned the most effective ways to sharpen your pencil and in the last, we came across the precautions that will help to prevent the breakage of the pencil lead.

Also, It’s very important to sharpen your pencil properly when you do pencil calligraphy or using it on your art projects.

However, if after all of your precautions your pencils tip breaks, it is nothing to be sad or worried about. Because sometimes, no matter how much care you take of your pencils, if they have an inner broken lead due to the damage during shipping. But if you are lucky enough to have a pencil of an intact lead, take good care of it.

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Maria Tanish

Hello World! Tanish here, a student of Fine Arts. Drawing was my passion from an early age but I also love to do some DIY projects to spend my leisure. Even I work as a writer, to share my knowledge about the ins and outs of drawing and the art industry itself. As an artist, I always wanna share my experiences with you all.

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