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How is Lead Made for Pencils?

how is lead made for pencils

Most people, especially regular pencil users, are fully aware of the fact that lead material is a vital component of a pencil. However, not everyone knows how is lead made for pencils. This means that despite being a natural part of pencils, many are still unaware of what makes lead so suitable for this particular writing implement.

One thing to take note of regarding the lead integrated into a pencil’s wood casing is that it is not the exact lead material. It is actually a result of combining finely ground clay and graphite and then mixing them with water – after which, they are pressed together in thin rods using high temperatures.

How Does this Lead Material Appear in Pencils?

Over 14,000,000,000 pencils are actually known to be produced worldwide on an annual basis. This huge number of pencil production is enough to put the earth under a loop for up to 62 times. With such a huge number of pencils, expect them to vary in terms of widths and styles.

Despite such differences, the entire process of making lead become part of pencils is the same. Note, though, that the lead that’s said to be a major component of pencils is not an actual lead. The truth is, it is graphite, specifically, plumbago pencil lead.

Basically, this type of lead is a result of mixing graphite and clay. Carbon, graphite, and lead are all capable of leaving some marks on paper in a gray-black shade. However, in 1795, a combination of graphite, clay, and water was made by a chemist in France that also provides a gray-black mark when used on paper.

The only thing that it has to do is to harden the mixture, a process, which is still in existence up to today. So whether you are using a wooden, mechanical, or any other type of pencil, how is lead made for pencils can be answerable with the same process as explained next step by step.

Step 1 – Grind graphite and clay

grind graphite and clay

Of course, the first procedure involved in the making of lead for pencils is to grind the graphite and clay using a large rotating drum that has tiny holes. The process involves putting a few pieces of clay and graphite inside the drum and then adding big rocks – the ones that will crush both materials because of the rotation process.

Once the pieces of clay and graphite are crushed, they will turn into fine powder, which is what will be used in the next steps.

Step 2 – Add water

add water

The whole process also requires the use of water, which one has to mix with the fine powder produced in the first step. Mix them then leave for a minimum of three days, giving the entire mixture sufficient time to blend in.

Once the 3-day period is up, the water will be squeezed out of the mixture to get the correct consistency. The result is a gray sludge, which has to be left for at least four days to harden.

Step 3 – Grind the hardened solution

grind the hardened solution

After seeing the mixture hardening up, it has to be ground once again. It will grind and crush the mixture, leading to the production of another fine powder. This is what will be used in creating a soft paste, which is possible after putting water during the grinding process.

By adding water, a malleable and soft paste will be developed. Note that there are instances when the paste lacks the required dark color. If that happens, it could be due to insufficient carbon. One can, therefore, darken it by putting in more mineral or carbon.

Step 4 – Cut pencil rods

cut pencil rods

This step will provide the required soft paste that has to be pushed through a metal tube that is not only thin but also features a tiny opening. It can, therefore, create something that is shaped like a thin rod. You can refer to it as the traditional and the usual round lead that you can find in mechanical or wooden pencils.

It features a thin and smooth structure, which is responsible for one’s smooth and clean writing. The pen will then be cut based on the preferred length. Note that the pieces of a pencil will differ in length because of this stage.

In most cases, companies and manufacturers follow a specific length of pencil. This is what they will follow when cutting the pencil rods.

Step 5 – Heat it up

heat it up

The last step involved in making the lead for pencils is heating it so it will dry off. Each pencil rod needs to be heated at a temperature of 1800 degrees F. The extremely high temperature is necessary in making the pencil rod hard and smooth, which is also what is needed to promote smooth writing.

To make it deliver an even smoother performance, manufacturers make it a point to have it dipped in either wax or oil. This can further increase its overall texture and quality.


How is lead made for pencils can actually be answered by learning the actual steps and procedures in making and manufacturing these materials. Just a gentle reminder, though, the whole procedure falls under manufacturing.

This means that it is not easy to try and do it at home. In most cases, it is the manufacturers who have mastered the entire procedure of making lead for pencils so it would be better to leave it up to their expert hands.