Have a mechanical pencil (also known as an automatic pencil) whose lead won’t come out? There is a good chance that your pencil is jammed! This can be annoying, but it’s usually easy to fix. This guide will help clear that jam and get get your pencil back in working order.
How Pencil Jams Happen
Mechanical pencils are relatively simple devices so there isn’t a lot that can go wrong. That said, stuff does happens. In this case, a small fragment of lead can get stuck in the sleeve or clutch of the pencil and prevent lead from pushing through. You unknowingly push the button, cramming more lead down there and usually making the situation worse. This is more often the case with smaller diameter lead pencils, such as 0.3mm, but it can happen to any pencil.
How to Fix a Jammed Pencil
Assuming simple measures — like giving the pencil a good shake while upside down and pressing the button — don’t work, you’ll need to do a real fix. The best way to to this is by using a cleaning rod (sometimes known as a clean-out rod). These used to be included with almost all technical pencils, but as products have gotten cheaper and less focused on the professional user this is less likely to the the case.
Some pencils that include a cleaning rod are the:
- Lamy 2000 mechanical pencil
- Pentel Graph Gear 1000
- Pilot S20
- Rotring 800 / 800+
- Pentel Orenz
If your pencil doesn’t include a rod you can try to find a thin piece of metal wire, but this can be very tough to do, especially for 0.2mm and 0.3mm pencils.You can get creative with this and try something like a very skinny paper clip or a pipe cleaner, but just make sure that whatever you use for the job isn’t going to make things worse or leave any fragments inside your pencil.
If you’re pencil doesn’t include a cleaning rod, you can buy an eraser kit that includes one. Just makes sure that the rod is the right size for your pencil — that is, not bigger than the diameter of your lead! Smaller, say 0.3 mm for a 0.5 mm pencil, is OK though! A few options for this, all of which are under $5 are the:
- Pilot MS-10 eraser refill kit
- Pilot HERFS-10 eraser kit
- Pentel PPE-2 Orenz eraser kit
- Lamy Z10 eraser refills
To actually fix the jam you’ll simple need to do the following:
First things first, remove the front tip of the pencil and make sure no small pieces of lead are jammed inside. This might seem obvious but it’s a logical first step.Look at the clutch (the part at the front that holds the lead), is it moving freely? Are there fragments jammed inside?
Didn’t work? Let’s move on to the deep fix.
- Remove the eraser and anything else keeping the lead in
- Remove all the lead and keep the pencil upside down on your desk
- With the front of the pencil off, open the clutch, either by pushing down the pencil button or opening the clutch by the front end. This might require pushing the pencil down (pushing the top button) while pushing a small collar down
- Poke the cleaning rod into the pipe and dislodge any lead pieces stuck inside
- Throw out the small debris that falls out of the pencil, don’t try to reuse any very small pieces
At this point your pencil should be fixed and ready to go.