Introduction: How to Make Charcoal Pencils

Picture of How to Make Charcoal Pencils

Don't want to pay for expensive charcoal pencils?
Learn how to make your own with a cheap, easy way.
These pencils in my opinion are as good as the ones you buy.

Step 1: Build a Fire

Picture of Build a Fire

Now you need to build a fire.
1. Take some tinder and light it,
2. Put small pieces of wood on the lit tinder.
3.Gradually add bigger pieces of wood.
4.Wait for the fire to build up.

Your fire is made =).

Step 2: Wrap and Cook

Picture of Wrap and Cook

1. Find some sticks that aren't too thin, they have to be thick enough.

2. Wrap the sticks in aluminium foil.

3. Place wrapped sticks in fire.

4. Wait about 20 minutes then find your wrapped sticks and just observe them...LEAVE IN FIRE.

5. You will notice gasses coming outof the foil..tere will be a lot of smoke coming out of the foil and some flames.

6. Observe the sticks until no more fllames and nearly no smoke is coming out of the foil.

7. Gently and carefully remove the foil from the fire and place on any surface.

8. Wait a couple of minutes for it to cool then remove carefully the "cooked" sticks (charcoal) from the foil.

9. (Optional) wrap the charcoal sticks in paper but leave some of the charcoal sticking out then tape the paper (if you don't want to get your hands all black when using the charcoal)

10. Use and enjoy your virtually free charcoal pencils.

(My pencil just looks like a black block wrapped in kleenek...but it goes really well and sorry for crappy image quality.)

(Have Fun!)


pudicobar (author)2008-11-24

i was told that the best pencils come from grape vines... i guess if you wrap the charcoal with a pice of cloth and epoxy / polyester resin (fiberglass stuff) you can make a fairly hard and decent pencil, sharpenable too, with those big mouthed sharpeners.

GlueyMcGee (author)pudicobar2008-11-24

hmm...i didn't know would probably works (i didnt know that the best pencils came frome grape vines)

pudicobar (author)GlueyMcGee2008-11-24

I'm not very sure of this too, but my guess is that any decent hardwood will make good pencils, like the stuff you guys have in America, like oak, osage, redwood, mulberry, apple, cherry etc etc etc... :D Hey, try the epoxy/resin thing and tell us if that works!

GlueyMcGee (author)pudicobar2008-11-25

hardwood does make the best pencils (maybe apart from grape vines)...i probably wont try the epoxy/resin thing cus...well, 1: i don't know where to fand these and 2: thats pretty much it. 3: its winter (wel...officially its winter on december 21st but theres already a foot of snow here so i say its winter :)) now so i can't go biking long distances to get some.

pudicobar (author)GlueyMcGee2008-11-25

Keep it as homework, once the snow melts ;-) However, the epoxy resin you can get even at wal mart (look at tool/paint department) you'll need araldite stuff, like those mix and apply. The polyester resin is sold at paint stores, specially car body work ones and also at marinas, cause many boats are actually made and repaired with it. Looks like you're a handy young man, so I strongly suggest you learn how to work these materials, even with no relation to your pencils, cause you can make lots of things out of epoxy and resin, ok? Take care however, and I don't know about the resin, where you live, but they won't sell it for minors here, cause sadly many smell the stuff as a drug... :-(

Frost5541 (author)pudicobar2016-09-25

XDDDDD smell that stuff?

GlueyMcGee (author)pudicobar2008-11-25

smell it as a drug?! what people will do to get high....thats sad..anyways..i'll keep it in mind and i'll go check into it :)(I'll also check what i can do with epoxy and resin :D) thanks

pudicobar (author)GlueyMcGee2008-11-25

You wouldnt believe what these guys do!!! :-( From time to time i see people like amy winehouse in the courts (like yesterday i was appointed attorney to a 15-yr boy who was into marijuana smoking, cocaine traffic plus armed robbery). Poverty is sometimes a cause of this, but what a way of losing his youth, behind the bars.... Damn it, sad but true... :-( What a world!

damn, where do you live? (just asking the country)

sharlston (author)pudicobar2009-06-13

you need polyester stuff to make and mold things the araldite stuff comes in a syringe dosent it?

pudicobar (author)sharlston2009-06-15

I'm not sure if that is possible, just an hypothesis... like if you use that resin intended for fiberglass, you can make nice stuff just using cloth and 'painting' it with the resin. Once I made a wheel for my sister's travel pack using a pop bottle cap, sand and epoxy (araldite), just mixing the resin with sand and filling the cap... It was about 3 years and the wheel is still My guess for the pencil was wrapping a charcoal pencil with cloth then paint it with the glue (any sort of may work). Do your experiments and show us..

sharlston (author)pudicobar2009-06-15

well i have a ployester resin kit that sets in molds really clear like glass

jilllindseyw (author)2010-04-15

 do you have any suggestion on how to get darker or lighter charcoal.

mousewrites (author)jilllindseyw2010-04-16

This type of charcoalis what is referred to as "vine" charcoal. Darker charcoalis generally Compressed charcoal. Here's a Wikipedia article on both.

Basically, to get darker charcoal, you take the vine, grind it up, and compress it with a binder. Not sure what binder you would use for home use, but i'm interested in trying it.

Great instructable, btw!

nightninja87 (author)mousewrites2011-02-20

could you use a little clay to bind it?

Frost5541 (author)nightninja872016-09-25

ii think this is what they use.

GlueyMcGee (author)nightninja872011-02-21

yes you could

hruodger (author)jilllindseyw2010-11-21

As far as I know, the "color" of the charcoal depends on two factors: the first, is the type of wood (cedar, mahogany, oak, pine, etc), because of the inherent grade of natural compression the wood has, and the inherent chemical compounds content in the wood (alcohol, proteins, metals, etc), hence the hardness of the wood (just like graphite leads); the second factor is the "cooking time", proportional to the amount of material that has been subject to pyrolysis process.

I suppose you should do some previous tests to determine which one is darker or lighter.

Hope my answer helps you.

GlueyMcGee (author)jilllindseyw2010-04-15

 if by lighter or darker in color when you stroke then give a different pressure to the pencil but if you mean in general, i think experimenting with different kinds of woods would be best. I have only tried maple and that works great but i haven't tried any other kinds of wood.

jilllindseyw (author)GlueyMcGee2010-04-15

 lol I understand how to get a different tone from pressure but im talking about the actual color of the charcoal I'll try different types of wood as well. Thanks for the thorough answer its much appreciated keep up with the awesome Instructables good sir. 

GlueyMcGee (author)jilllindseyw2010-04-15

 And if you rreally wanted to change the color, then you could maybe grind up the charcoal and mix it up with some pigment and add wax as a binder...That would make conté crayons though :P

Feaf (author)2012-06-25

Aluminium foil costs a lot nowadays and is not always reliable I would suggest a paint can with a few holes for venting as a better solution and the steps are a little different.
1.) clean out a paint can and poke 4-6 holes in the lid(More if you wish)
2.) place in preferred wood.
3.) place in a fire(The paint can is better for making more charcoal as the fire will need to be be bigger and hotter and might melt the aluminium).
4.) Take out of fire and cover the top securely and let it cool.
5.)Take out your charcoal and enjoy.
and great tutorial by the the way o3o

Tmotj (author)Feaf2015-11-24

The foil works, you need to use heavy duty/commercial grade

TimmyMiller (author)2013-08-15

you could probally use an old grill that has a lid with a vent, right

ElaLiser (author)2013-03-09

Are you serious? You would rather go through all of this trouble then simply buy a 4-pack of THIN charcoal pencils? First off, this would take forever, second, this is way to thick, I don't think even I can even sketch with a charcoal pencil like this. Just look at the way he writes the words, unless you want to spend your whole life carving it so it can get thinner, he can barely write with the pencil, for Christ's sakes. Bright Idea, though. I would have never thought of something like this.

GlueyMcGee (author)ElaLiser2013-03-09

Well, first off, with this method you can make as many charcoal pencils as you want, which could save money in the long run. Secondly,my pictures are just examples. You can make much thinner and more suitable pencils by finding thin branches and using that. Also, the wood I used for this instructable was maple, which is not ideal and is actually pretty hard to draw with. Oh, btw this takes very little time to make. You put some wood in tinfoil or an empty paint can, throw that in the fire, wait (you don't have to sit in front of the fire the whole time, too!), check once in a while. This way, you could make hundreds of pencils at a time.. which would probably be faster than going to buy hundreds of pencils at the store, not to mention cheaper.
Yes, I am serious.

GeekyGirl1103 (author)2010-04-15


I LOVE to draw with charcoal, but I'm always too broke to buy some. Thank you SO much.

The Jamalam (author)2008-07-27

take knex out of the keywords, it is irrelavent

GlueyMcGee (author)The Jamalam2008-07-27


The Jamalam (author)GlueyMcGee2008-07-27

well, put it this way, why is it under knex in the first place?and also, how is it relevant in any way??

GlueyMcGee (author)The Jamalam2008-07-27

i caan put any keywords i want, why would it have to be relevant

lawizeg (author)GlueyMcGee2008-08-21

You're obviously doing it to get more attention. Instead of messing up the search engine, you should make an Instructable that will get attention for what it's worth.

also, this is very bad for the environment. the smoke, the fire, ugh.

nutsandbolts_64 (author)lawizeg2010-04-15

lol, use pyrolisis


and lawizeg, don't you think that the millions of cars on the road and the millions of cows and the smoke created by factories is worst than what im doing? Thats what i thought.

Besides, the fuel is renewable!

The Jamalam (author)GlueyMcGee2008-07-28

because they are the laws of this site. And you still haven't answered my questions

The Jamalam (author)GlueyMcGee2008-07-28

that is the point of keywords! They are relavent to the instructable so that when you search for any of them, it comes up!

GlueyMcGee (author)The Jamalam2008-07-28

i know, but even iif its not relevant, it comes up while youre searching for it

The Jamalam (author)GlueyMcGee2008-07-28

i know, but this would clutter up the k'nex search menu, and we would not want that. Someone might think this is knex, only to find it's not, and have to go back, wasting maybe valuable time. Could you do that to someone?

zascecs (author)2010-04-14

Hey, this is actually a pretty good idea; I don't see why people are rating this instructable so badly...

LiaVivas (author)2009-07-11

Hey! great to know about this, thanks! It reminded me of an article I read a litlle while ago about this pencils made out of old newspapers. So I was thinking that if you are into recycling that can be an alternative to the cloth under the resin. Although in those pencils they didn´t use resin just a adhesive solution resistant to water (of the sweat from the hands I suppousse). The thing would be to know if this homemade charcoals are strong enough to resist the process, they seem to be fragile. I´ll see if I can try this but if you do, let me know!

GlueyMcGee (author)LiaVivas2009-07-12

they are pretty brittle so if you do that you'll really have to be careful not to break it

bullet-head (author)2009-04-13

Thx man, im saving alot of money on my art work. Keep It Up!!

wgrube (author)2009-02-13

It's a lot easier to put wood sticks into a metal can with a small hole in it and then put the can into the fire. This is the way I always make my charcoal pencils. You can make a whole bunch that way at once.

amakerguy (author)2008-12-09

Thats really cool. 3/5 Stars.

thythy (author)2008-11-22

is it possible to sharpen the finished product? and if so, what should be used for sharpening? [yeah, I'm 15 and I'm like curious ^^;;]

GlueyMcGee (author)thythy2008-11-23

yes it is possible, tou just use a normal pencil sharpener if its fots(be careful not to rbreak the charcoal pencil though) or use a knife or rub it on paper. Hope this helps :) (I'm aactually 15 too)

thythy (author)GlueyMcGee2008-11-24

aki! thnx! (hehe! awesome! then you must be smart then! hehe)

GlueyMcGee (author)thythy2008-11-24

:p thanks

casey321b (author)2008-09-07

just take the unnecessary kewords out it does't make a difference we all found it just the same.

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