This is a build I’ve always wanted to make, a traditional wooden pencil but made from aluminium. In this John Wick inspired build we create just that, a solid metal pencil. It turned out both beautiful, and lovely to hold.
Solid metal pencil
The first place to start is with some aluminum rod or tube, so I bought 200mm of aluminum tube from eBay. The dimensions of the tube was 8mm outside diameter (sometimes shortened to ‘od’) with a wall thickness of 2mm. This leaves a hole inside with an internal diameter of just over 3mm (called ‘id’).
So in short we have an 8mm aluminium tube with a >3mm hole
The epoxy resin I used was from easy composites in the UK but any good laminating resin will work.
How to remove the lead from a pencil
The easiest way to remove the pencil lead which is actually graphite, is to burn it off. You can do this by burning the outside slowly and evenly with a flame, or by burning it from the inside, which worked much better for me. Because graphite conducts electricity and heats up you can burn off the wooden outside evenly by using low voltage, as long as it has enough power. Large cordless power tool batteries are perfect for this anywhere between >12v and 18v worked well in my tests.
If you do it slowly by applying power, stopping, they applying the power again it will help stop the wood overheating and bending. If the wooden pencil casing bends too much it will shatter the graphite inside. If you apply the power and nothing happens the battery either does not have enough power, or the pencil is already internally cracked so it will not conduct.
I used an artist 3mm core artists pencil because it fit the inside of my aluminium tube better than the graphite from a small pencil.
How to file the aluminium tube
Filing the aluminium tube easy quite easy as long as you can stop it turning, so I made a simple holder for it. Two screws in a flat piece of wood should grip the tube well. One of the screws is at a slight angle to pinch the tube as it is tightened down. Permanent marker on the tube allows you to see how even you are keeping the faces and allow easy measuring. Remember to keep the aluminium filings for the epoxy later.
Use a fairly coarse file for removing the aluminium for the files teeth with get blocked.
Sanding the pencil
I worked my way up from 24o grade all the way to 1200 with abrasive paper. It is important to make sure you sand the aluminium as flat as possible with anything less that 600 grade, so I glued the paper to a piece of wood to make my life easier. Collect the aluminum filings at the lower grades so you can use them with the epoxy later. Sanding with anything over 800 grade is best done in water.
Inserting the graphite into the metal pencil
Mix up your epoxy resin as per instructions and add the metal filings. To get the epoxy all the way up the tube I sucked it up with another tube so I didn’t get epoxy on my skin. The graphite pencil core can then be added and capped off with blue-tack or plasticine.
With the metal pencil now upright, capped off and held firm, clear sellotape it can be stuck to the top. This allows you to add more epoxy as a reservoir, and a decorative end to the pencil. Here I used some of my best finest filings for a nice finish.
You should allow at least 48h for a full cure.
Sharpening an aluminium pencil
For the video I created a decorative plastic eyeball pencil sharpener. The key to this was to use two small sections of my file in opposing directions. This means when the pencil enters the hole I drilled in the eyeball and rotates the pencil clockwise the files cut the correct angle. In real life this worked, but it is quite slow, with the very first sharpen from dull, taking about 30 mins. This was with the pencil held in my cordless drill and wrapped in soft cloth. You can see the prototype of this in action on my Facebook and Instagram pages somewhere.
Too much rotational speed gums up the teeth of the file as the aluminium heats up and melts slightly, so slow RPM and patience is required. The final finish to the tip is with some 240 grade abrasive paper whilst the drill is still in the chuck of the drill.
If you can find a better way of sharpening a solid metal pencil, I’d use it.
The above project is aimed at adults for education and entertainment purposes only, not to replicate. Anyone doing so takes full responsibility for their own actions.