Recycle a Pencil Into an Emergency Flashlight

Introduction: Recycle a Pencil Into an Emergency Flashlight

About: I'll add more here later :)

Ever drive down the road late at night and discover your car's more tired than you are?  Being stranded on the side of the road in the dark can be quite a daunting experience.  Especially if you look around only to find that you forgot your flashlight or forgot to replace its batteries.  However, with a few common materials, you can light the night up.

This is particularly useful if you know what's wrong with the car and simply need to be able to see to fix it.  It can also be handy, however, for finding things in the dark (such as your cell phone, a map, or your emergency kit).

I learned how to do this quite some time ago, but I'm afraid I forgot exactly how I learned it.  It has come in handy as I've ended up using this method to replace spark plugs on the side of the highway at 2 in the morning =D

You will get about 20 minutes of light off of a full size pencil. You will be working with electricity, so be careful. Also, you might want to consider doing this ONLY as a last resort. Trust me, a flashlight is still better than a pencil =)

Just read on to learn what to do! :)

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Step 1: Stuff Lying Around:

You will need the following lying around your car:

A pencil
A pocket knife (or other sharp instrument that can cut)
2 lengths of speaker wire (3-4 feet)

Unfortunately, you'll have to scrounge around a bit in the dark to find the materials.  But I'm sure you'll manage! =)

Step 2: Get the Lead Out!

Well, Graphite, anyway.  Simply use the knife to split the pencil in half.  Extract the graphite and break it up into 1 inch sections.  Each section will provide you with about 4 minutes of light.  You should be able to get about 20 minutes off of a full size pencil!

Step 3: I've Heard of Lead Batteries, But...

Pop the car's hood =)

Now wrap one of the ends of one of the wires to one side of the graphite.  Wrap the other wire from the same end to the other end of the graphite.  Now hook one end of one wire to the positive terminal on your car battery.  Repeat with the negative terminal and the other wire.  You should now notice the graphite beginning to glow =D

Step 4: Let There Be Light!

You should now have a working flashlight made from a pencil!  This will help you get through most basic car problems, from changing flat tires and digging out your map, to swapping spark plugs and flagging down help.

One word of caution:  Do not attempt to put gas in the car using this thing.  Seriously, think back to high school chemistry.  Remember those Bunsen burners?  Yeah - you don't want to be one, trust me.

This video shows the graphite hooked up to speaker wire:

Here's what happens when you use jumper cables:

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    6 Discussions


    7 years ago on Introduction

    I don't think I know of any situation that I'd be in that I would need to use this method for light. But it is still informative, thank you for that.

    But still, I have a Redline Nebo flashlight that lasts between 4 and 72 hours depending on the settings. So I think I'm pretty good to go. Batterys aren't a problem either since I keep extras in my vehicle and around my place.


    9 years ago on Introduction

    Not sure how useful as a flashlight, but definitely cool.


    9 years ago on Introduction

    Historical note, I believe that one of Edison's first filaments for the light bulb used both graphite, and graphite coated wires for the same reasons that your flashlight here works.

    Very good job, but I wouldn't want to use this for any more than an emergency reason.


    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    Thanks for the history/science bit =D Definitely only use this in emergencies. You don't want to mess around with the current in a car battery too often, lol.


    9 years ago on Step 4

    Awesome, this is great for the one time you really wish you had a flashlight. :D plus its good to know in case of an emergency.