Author Options:

Graphite as a Dry Lubricate? Answered

I know that graphite is sometime used as a dry lubricant, can I just use ground graphite from pencils or is there more too it? 

Presumably the finer the better, is softer or harder 'lead' better  (4H HB 2B etc.)

Expert advice appreciated,

 - Tom



Best Answer 8 years ago

Yep, I often use pencil graphite to lubricate locks. Softer "Lead" has more graphite and less clay.



7 years ago

Well, I had tenants with sticky locks, and a freind advised using graphite, so I bought a can and sprayed it into the locks. Initially I was able to get the key in, and the locks immediately turned easily. Later my tenants called to say that the graphite seemed to have hardened, and they could not get thier key into the lock at all. Sure enough, I clearly sprayed too much in, and now the keys will not go into two of three locks I sprayed. Is there anything I can do to remove or desolve the stuff? my tenants tried to vacuum it out to no avail!

- Feeling like a doorknob...


8 years ago

There are different grades of graphite; as Steve said, you want the softer version. Try very hard not to get sawdust mixed into it!

Though powdered graphite lubricant is really cheap and is available in most hardware stores, so I wouldn't bother with a pencil except in an emergency.

A few comments:

1) IT DOESN'T TAKE MUCH. Too much graphite will tend to accumulate moisture and turn into mud (powdered rock plus water...). It will still reduce wear, but may not slide as easily as you'd like. A single very light puff is usually plenty; more is not better.

2) GRAPHITE IS CONDUCTIVE. Don't use it where that could be a problem. You're probably OK on automotive locks, since the actual switch is separate from (and horizontally adjacent to) the lock cylinder. You may not want to use it elsewhere, especially around higher voltages.

3) GRAPHITE IS NO LONGER THE BEST CHOICE IN MOST CASES. It's much better than old-style oil for things with small moving parts (like locks) since it doesn't get gummy over time, but a better choice is the silicone microsphere lubes. These are available in several forms -- usually as a spray or liquid where the liquid portion evaporates away, leaving only a dusting of microscopic ball bearings. Sometimes the liquid is formulated to act as a cleanser too; there are a number of products which offer that combination, and I generally consider them the best choice for long-term preservation of pin-tumbler/wafer-tumbler locks.

4) Powdered graphite has another entertaining use -- it can be used to lift fingerprints. Locksmithing/lubricant graphite isn't as fine as "real" fingerprint powders and so doesn't work as well, but it can work; I've pulled fingerprints off paper, as well as polished surfaces, using it. (The powder sticks to the oils in the fingerprint; blow away the part which hasn't stuck, then either protect or lift it with adhesive tape.) Pencil shavings are even more coarse, but they _might_ work.

Hope that helps.

-- O. R. K. Security Services
"Full service, part time."


8 years ago

.  The problem with pencils is that the lead also contains clay (possibly a polymer binder nowadays) that is abrasive. Softer pencils (lower number) have less clay/binder.