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Extracting The Lead Core From A Wooden Pencil



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Someone mentioned this in a previous thread, but I couldn't find it so I thought I'd start a new thread on the topic.

 

As most of you are probably aware, wooden pencils have 2mm lead cores which will work just fine is a 2mm lead holder (aka "clutch pencil") if you can get it out of the wood.

 

The first method I've tried was to carve the wood off the core with a knife. It works but is extremely tedious and risks breaking the lead as you expose more of it.

 

The second method I've tried was to burn the wood off. This works surprisingly well but leaves patches of glue residue on the lead. Some pencils bend as they burn which snaps the lead, but others just separate around the core as they burn and I've gotten one long core. Even the broken pieces are typically longer than an inch, so still useable in a lead holder. Someone mentioned that some leads have wax in them so burning the lead out of a pencil might change the lead in some way, but when I've taken 2 identical pencils, burned one, and then compared, I couldn't really tell a difference.

 

The third method I've tried is to soak the pencil in water for several days until the wood is soft. Videos online show that squeezing the soft wood with pliers makes it separate and you can pull the lead out with your fingers, but that has not happened yet for me. I always end up shaving some of the wood off until I can grab the lead and then the lead usually pulls out of the remaining wood (maybe the glue is water soluble?).

 

So, of the methods I've tried, I get the best results with soaking the pencil stub in water. I've been doing this on pencil stubs that are too short for even the kids to use (less than 3 inches). I don't know how well it would work if you tried it on a longer pencil.

 

Anyways, has anyone else been pulling cores from wooden pencils? Any tips or tricks to make it easier?

 

--flatline

 

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huh.

 

but, why don't you just get 2mm leads?

for example, faber castell tk ...

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  • 1 month later...

First off its not lead, actually pencil core contain no lead at all , and as already mentioned, why not just buy 2mm refill, and they do come in all kind of grade since not only are they used for drafting and alike but also heavily used by artist, Art Supply store can help you on choosing the right one

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GeneralSynopsis

If you really want to use the stubs of wood-cased pencils, why not use pencil extenders. These can be bought, or better yet made from paper formed into a suitably sized tube (being a cheapskate this is my solution).

--“Truth does not change because it is, or is not, believed by a majority of the people.”
Giordano Bruno

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After removing the ferrule I have used pencil extenders on Blackwing pencils. I have salvaged cores with a very sharp pen knife and splitting the wood apart with success most of the time. Softer cores, not so much.

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I have a large stash of quality 2mm refills for my holders. My interest in removing cores for wooden pencils is purely a "because I can" kind of thing.

 

That said, I've removed the cores from every pencil stub we had in the house. Dixon and USA Gold cores work great in my lead holders. The cores from unbranded pencils have a tendency to be thicker than 2mm and won't fit in all my 2mm lead holders. My Alvin holders (MC5, DA, and B/2) have no trouble with the thicker leads.

 

Every core I've extracted feels better to write with in my lead holders than it did while encased in wood. The USA Gold cores, in particular, feel almost as good as  my Staedtler and Uni leads. The Dixon cores are still "meh", but it's a better "meh" in a holder than in wood.

 

--flatline

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17 minutes ago, flatline said:

My interest in removing cores for wooden pencils is purely a "because I can" kind of thing.

 

I can think of a few different answers for the questions in this topic: because they're stubs; because lead holders might hold onto the last few mms better; that you might have the lead holders but not the extenders... but that answer is all you need. 😃👍

 

I'm interested in the outcome of this topic. I like using Derwent drawing pencils and other wide, 8mm pencils. One's a stub, others are getting close. I'm not overly fond of Derwent's knurled aluminium 8mm extender, the funny coating they put on them, or having to buy a twin-pack with a regular sized extender, but I don't know of any other 8mm extenders out there. If I could pull out the big 5mm cores and if they fit in, say, a 5.6mm lead holder, that would let me away nicely.

 

I take it that shaving off any lacquer would help the wood soak quicker?

31182132197_f921f7062d.jpg

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I use my pocket knife to take the paint off and then drop the pencil in water. The outside wood gets soft in a couple of hours, so I shave it off and put the stub back in the water. After repeating this cycle 2, maybe 3 times, the thin layer of remaining wood can be easily lifted off with my blade or even with my thumb nail sometimes. I think the Dixon pencils use water soluble glue to glue the core to the wood, because once I shave the wood thin enough for water to soak to the lead, the lead usually slides out.

 

I haven't removed anything softer than 2B yet. If you have an art pencil with 5mm core, I'm guessing that's like a 6B? If you got it out without breaking it, you could probably use it in a 5mm or 5.6mm holder. I see 6B 5.6mm leads for sale in art stores, so they probably won't crumble in a clutch. But maybe those leads are formulated different from the 6B leads in wooden art pencils. I have no idea.

 

Might be fun to try if you can't use the pencil as is.

 

--flatline

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2 hours ago, flatline said:

If you have an art pencil with 5mm core, I'm guessing that's like a 6B?

 

Thanks for the procedure, Flatline. The drawing pencils are a wax/oil based thing, but I've got all sorts of junk, including soft graphite. I have a 6B lead in a 3.15mm lead holder that's sturdy enough. It's mostly really soft or brittle stuff like charcoal or conté I'd worry about.

 

The thing is to source some inexpensive 5.6mm holders. I think Koh-I-Noor do 'em.

31182132197_f921f7062d.jpg

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GeneralSynopsis

Paper wrap extender made for a 4b pencil:

Pencil extender.jpg

When you have as many wood cased pencils in play as I do (graphite, charcoal, pastel, coloured, water-colour, Inktense), you do not want to spend money on multiple extenders.

 

(as an aside the Inktense pencils appear to be cellulose reactive)

--“Truth does not change because it is, or is not, believed by a majority of the people.”
Giordano Bruno

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I have 6B Croquil holders and leads and 6B wood pencils.  You are saying the result of taking the graphite out of a wood pencil would give a more interesting result than the leads made for the holder?

 

 

"Don't hurry, don't worry. It's better to be late at the Golden Gate than to arrive in Hell on time."
--Sign in a bar and grill, Ormond Beach, Florida, 1960.

 

 

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I would imagine the 6B lead made for a holder is roughly the same as the 6B lead housed in a wooden pencil. But once that pencil is too short to put in a sharpener, it seems like it would be better to remove the wood from the lead that is left and get some use from it in a holder rather than throwing it away.

 

What got me started down this line of thought was cleaning the house and discovering we had a bunch of pencil stubs that were too short to easily sharpen in the sharpener. So I started experimenting with ways to remove the wood from the remaining lead and using it up in my lead holders. Some of the lead is terrible, but some of  it is actually really nice to use in a holder. The USA Gold, in particular, feels almost as good as my Staedtler and Uni 2mm leads. That was a pleasant surprise since I have dozens of USA Gold pencils around the house (they used to be the kids favorites).

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GeneralSynopsis
9 hours ago, flatline said:

I love your paper extender! Is that just a paper tube and some tape? Or is there more to it?

 

It is a paper tube wound on a longer pencil of the same calibre, using pva glue to secure it. I may use masking (decorators) tape to secure it while the glue dries, but I think not for the example shown. For the example the paper is 130gsm cartridge paper but that is just because that was what was to hand.

 

I also use a touch of acrylic paint to secure it to the pencil stub.

--“Truth does not change because it is, or is not, believed by a majority of the people.”
Giordano Bruno

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I think I'll try the paper extender when I have a whole rake of stubs to use at once. (I'm not immune to the 'cheap' argument) But the moment I'm thinking about protection and portability for one or two.

31182132197_f921f7062d.jpg

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For those curious about the amount of waste, I've been throwing the  leads away once they hit about 7mm. They're still long enough to use at that length but they can no longer be sharpened conveniently.

 

If you sharpen a pencil up to the ferrule before you throw it away, you're still throwing away at least 3x as much lead.

 

Just food for thought.

 

--flatline

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  • 2 weeks later...
On 12/5/2020 at 6:41 PM, GeneralSynopsis said:

If you really want to use the stubs of wood-cased pencils, why not use pencil extenders. These can be bought, or better yet made from paper formed into a suitably sized tube (being a cheapskate this is my solution).

Pencil holder / extender is a great aod for short pencils

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I've purchased a variety of pencil extenders over the years, but none of them get much  use. I much prefer my lead holders to wooden pencils anyways, so being able to feed my lead holders is more interesting to me than using a wooden pencil with an extender.

 

Of course, now that my kids are moving away from wooden pencils and towards mechanical pencils, maybe I'll  have to start using wooden pencils again just to get them short enough that the leads will fit in my lead holders, at least until I've used up the (large) stash of wooden pencils we have in the house.

 

--flatline

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  • 2 weeks later...

Probably solved already, but there are some people offering tools and parts to DIY pencils as a woodworking hobby, and they are selling loose cores.

 

As a woodworker myself, I'd probably make a V-groove in a block of wood, with a stopper on the end and use either a saw/ kerfing plane/ plough plane to make a groove on either side of the pencil and then split the wood casing off. But, usually pencils are made by two halves of the casing wood glued together with woodglue, which also holds the core. If you want to remove that as well, maybe some kind of plate with a 2mm hole to strip the core of the glue, like the plates that are used to make dowels.

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flatline

If the glue doesn't outright dissolve when i soak the core in water to soften the wood, it at least gets soft and I can remove it with a blade or thumbnail.

 

This was a fun little exercise and now I have no pencil stubs left in the house.

 

If you decide to try this yourself, be warned that lots of the off-brand pencils that I removed cores from had cores that were wider than 2mm and so only fit in a small number of my lead holders.

 

--flatline

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