While wandering around the fascinating website that is Instructables I found that, though there are a bunch of projects that require the usage of the graphite core of a pencil, there doesn't seem to be any suggestions on how to extract the "lead" besides whittling the pencil down or splitting the pencil in half.

Sure, these methods are okay and all, but for my first attempt at writing an instructable allow me to propose what I find to be an easier way of getting that sweet, sweet carbon center out of the also-carbon-based-but-significantly-less-sweet wooden exterior. My proposed solution can be summed up as follows: light it on fire!

Tools and Materials

A means to start a fire (I find that a lighter works best here)
A pencil (one without paint works best, but pencils with paint also work)
A ceramic plant pot plate with a diameter around the same size as the pencil
A knife (a small, easy to handle one works best)
A cup of water (for dealing with things that are hot)
Optional: A candle slightly shorter than the plate is deep

Since you'll be lighting things on fire here, you'll also want to follow basic fire safety, such as keeping something around to extinguish any errant flames or working in a ventilated, clutter free space. As you can clearly see in the first picture, however, I am a terrible example of the latter.

Step 1: Start the fire!

If you aren't using a candle:

Light the pencil on fire around the center and then lay the pencil across the center of the plate (see picture).

If you are using a candle:

Light the candle, place it in the center of the plate, and then  lay the pencil across the center of the plate such that it cuts across the candle. If the candle is of appropriate height, its flame  should light the pencil on fire and keep the pencil lit (again, see picture).

Either way:

You'll likely have trouble setting a painted pencil like the one I've pictured on fire because initially only the outer layer of paint will burn. With a little diligence, however, you too can eventually light your pencil on fire.
<p>Excellent! I thought this would work, now I know! Definitely much nicer than whittling the wood; this probably gives you the most possible graphite.</p>
<p>Ah I just did it and the pencil feel apart- with the graphite I was trying to extract... Could you help me and tell me what I'm doing wrong. Are led and graphite two different things? Or did I just do it plain wrong?</p><p>P.S. I did get some graphite but it was broken into small pieces .</p>
<p>Well done! I'm in the process of making a microphone using graphite and this will really help! Thank you so much! Great idea as well...</p>
well played, i did not think about doing that
i did this and the pencil exploded and i didnt get the lead out
Thank you! I was a little worried this was a stupid thing to publish.
knowledge never is stupid... <br><br>nice.
and he did change to saying 'graphite' instead of 'lead' !!!!!!!!!!! great instructable !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!11
if you have trouble lighting it you could always use a knife to scratch the finish off to get started

About This Instructable


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Bio: I'm a microbiology "research specialist" (i.e. lab tech) and grad school hopeful trying (among other things) to make stuff with microbes.
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