Why do my pencils keep breaking?

It can be annoying when you have to get up and sharpen your pencil several times because it keeps breaking. How do keep your pencil from breaking? First thing we must do is try and understand a little about what are some causes for pencil lead to break.

Common reasons for broken lead in pencils
  1. Pencil quality and pencil type.
  2. Being dropped or banged around.
  3. Being heavy handed and pushing to hard.
  4. Aggressively sharpening a pencil with bad technique.

Pencil Type & Quality

Pencil quality will determine the density of the Graphite Lead. Depending on the brand and the blend of graphite you can have a range from a very soft pencil to a hard pencil.

The blend you have will be a factor in how brittle the “lead” can be. There is a scale with designations like 4H, 2H, 2B, 4B and so forth that are to help indicate how hard or soft the pencil lead is.

This is the HB Graphite Scale. Many people are probably familiar with these types of pencils and are very common. Most pencil manufacturers use this scale. They use the letter “H” to indicate a hard pencil. Similarly a pencil will use the letter “B” to indicate a softer lead.

Pencil lead is a mixture of graphite and clay. Depending on the manufacturer there could be additional materials. Higher quality pencils could have something like “chemically bonded” printed on them to indicate that there are additional adhesives in the graphite to make them more durable.

Being Dropped

Taking care of your pencils is really helpful. Dropping a pencil or shaking them around in a case with other pens and or pencils can cause fractures to the graphite core that aren’t going to be apparent until you have sharpened the pencil down to that point.

So don’t drop them if you can help it. This will be one of the best steps to help prevent your pencil lead from continuous breakage issues.

Sometimes you can’t know if a pencil has been dropped, they may have been dropped in the store, in transit or even in the factory where they were made. After a pencil has been dropped there is very little you can do for it.

Suggested solutions for preventing broken pencils:
  1. Order your pencils direct from manufacturer.
  2. Lay them flat when not in use.
  3. When carrying them try to keep them from rolling around and bang against anything to hard.
  4. Be careful to not drop them.

Bad Pencil Sharpening

There isn’t really a proper way to sharpen a pencil perse, but there are techniques to help with preventing unnecessary damage to the pencil lead, tip and the core.

There are plenty of different ways to sharpen pencils that I will briefly cover. Before I do that I want to call out a few bad habits that I consider to be fairly universal and should be avoided if possible.

Pencil Sharpening Don’ts

Uneven pressure
Whether your use a hand-held sharpener or electric sharpener will cause uneven wear on the barrel. This leads to an awkward distribution of pressure on the pencil tip. Heavy hand people like me will snap the freshly sharpened pencil often if you are not careful.

Too much pressure
Pushing the pencil to aggressively into the sharpener is not good for the lead of the pencil. The pencil tip could break while trying to sharpen it.

Frequent sharpening
Not letting the pencil tip wear down enough with frequent sharpening will place more unnecessary stress on the pencil barrel and tip.

Ways To Sharpen A Pencil

Now I would like to talk about 3 ways to sharpen pencils now.

Electric Sharpener
This can be an expensive option, however a high quality electric sharpener can have self-sharpening and auto stop function to help prevent over sharpening.

Maintaining an electric sharpener is important. When the baldes begin to duill they should be replaced. Depending on the level of usage this might on need to happen once or twice for the life of the electric sharpener. If they are not you will notice your pencils starting to look like they have been chewed on.

Hand-held Sharpener
A more affordable solution. These are portable and easy to use. Replacement Blades will be very important. The blades do get dull on a regular basis, but it’s always handy to have one of these sharpeners in your pencil case.

Sharpening Tip:

1. Turn the sharpener instead of the pencil to help reduce unwanted pressure on the tip.

Sharpen with a Knife or Xacto Blade
A knife or Xacto Blade is a versatile method of sharpening a pencil. It will take some practice and should be done with care. This is something that does take some time to master and there are some important techniques depending on your pencil type. I won’t really be getting into that here.

Sharpening Safety Tip:

1. Always cut away from yourself.

Best of luck

Everything I have talked about are all from experiences I have had and what I do to help myself. I hope this is helpful in reducing some irritation when it comes to broken pencil lead. Thank you for reading and take care. Until next time.