Mechanical pencils are a useful everyday tool for people across the world, but sometimes there are issues that can cause a mechanical pencil to break or become frustratingly unusable.
The most common cause why a mechanical pencil keeps breaking is a lead jam, which occurs when the lead inside the pencil gets stuck, causing it to become brittle and break when you try to write with it.
Some mechanical pencils are also just plain old cheap and not suitable for long-term use.
That’s not the only reason your mechanical pencil can break or malfunction, though. The rest of this article will discuss other reasons a pencil can break or fail along with how to get it back into working shape so you can continue writing.
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Lead Jams Cause Mechanical Pencils to Keep Breaking
According to jetpens.com, the most common cause of a lead jam is when a broken-off bit of lead gets stuck in the tip or clutch mechanism, which might be why your mechanical pencils keep breaking.
This then causes the lead not to be able to be pushed down the tube and dispensed correctly, causing the lead you are using to become brittle and break when you try to use it. To fix this, you’ll need to acquire some kind of cleaning rod.
Some higher-end mechanical pencils come with one, but if you don’t have one, don’t worry! Just take a twisty tie off a bread bag and use a multitool or a wire stripper to remove the plastic from the twisty tie. That way, you’ll have a perfect little rod for the job ahead.
Start by unscrewing the nose cone and taking a look at the inner tube. Make sure there’s no lead debris in the nose cone itself and then poke your cleaning rod (makeshift or otherwise) into the lead sleeve and prod around to try to remove any broken lead pieces.
Next, take a closer look at the clutch. The spring powered clutch is the mechanism that clamps the lead in place so that you can write with it. It looks a lot like the chuck in your everyday screwdriver.
Most mechanical pencils allow you to manipulate the width of the clutch by holding down the end of the pencil at the eraser end. While holding down the eraser, widen the clutch with your fingernail and probe around with your cleaning rod.
When you’re finished getting any broken lead out of your mechanical pencil, tip the pencil upside down and shake out the rest of the lead. Otherwise, you might end up just tipping more broken bits into the mechanism or the clutch when you click the end of the pencil.
Once you insert a new stick of lead and click it several times, the lead should come out as expected and work properly. If so, then you shouldn’t have any more issues with your mechanical pencil due to lead jams!
Alternative Techniques to Deal with Lead Jams in Mechanical Pencils
Some mechanical pencils don’t allow you to manipulate the clutch mechanism or remove the nose cone. In this case, you’ll have to get creative!
Tip the pencil upside down and hold down the button. Carefully insert the cleaning rod into the tip of the pencil and use it to feel around and dislodge any jammed pieces of lead.
You may dislodge the main stick of lead you were using, but that’s ok. You can always put it back in later.
Take off the eraser or remove the lead storage chamber and shake/tap the pencil to clear out any broken bits of lead that may have been stuck in there.
Once you finish poking around in the tip, put a fresh stick of pencil lead in and reassemble the lead storage compartment back into place.
Click the end button to extend the lead to a usable length, and you should be good to go with no more breaks due to lead jamming.
The Correct Lead Size and Type Can Prevent Your Mechanical Pencil from Breaking
Another common cause of malfunctions in mechanical pencils is that you’re using an incorrect lead size. Most mechanical pencils have the measurement in millimeters (aka .3mm or .5mm) written on the body of the pencil, but others have it written on the clip.
If you’re using a lead that’s too thin for the clutch to hold properly, you’re effectively forcing a thin rod of metal to bend unnaturally― practically begging for it to break. Small lead (.3mm) is especially prone to breaking and is generally only used for drawing in minute detail.
If you find you’re a little heavy-handed with your mechanical pencil, consider changing to a wider lead size such as .7 mm. The hardness of lead in your mechanical pencil also affects how easily the lead will break.
The harder the lead, the more prone it will be to breaking if you don’t have a light touch with the pencil. Getting a softer lead will reduce the risk of breaking significantly and will be more suited to your writing style if you find you break lead very easily.
Cheap Mechanical Pencils Break More Easily
Unfortunately, cheap mechanical pencils don’t tend to last very long. Whether from being gripped, bent, dropped or stepped on, sometimes a cheap mechanical pencil just doesn’t cut it.
If you’re finding that your mechanical pencil keeps snapping in half, consider investing in a higher-quality mechanical pencil.
You can find decent mechanical pencils (the ones that don’t just have a hollow plastic body) on Amazon for around $10, which is more than worth it for the peace of mind knowing you have a reliable pencil for all your writing needs.
If you are looking for a recommendation I suggest the Pentel Graphgear 1000. You can read our review by clicking here.
- Pentel Mechanical Pencil
- Retractable Tip
- Roulette Grip
In conclusion, a lot of mechanical pencils can break or malfunction due to lead jams, which can be addressed easily with some DIY fixes. Lead size and hardness can also affect how often your mechanical pencil breaks.
Lastly, if you’re using a cheap mechanical pencil, don’t expect it to last very long at all. It’s better to buy a proper pencil that you know you can rely on.