How To Clear A Mechanical Pencil Lead Jam

If you use mechanical pencils frequently, there is sure to be a lead jam or two.

Although lead jams, unfortunately, are almost unavoidable, they are not that difficult to handle.

In this article, I will be showing you 3 different ways to handle those annoying lead jams. And at the end, I will also give some pointers on how you can prevent those lead jams and have a smooth working experience with your mechanical pencil.

But First, What Is A Lead Jam?

A lead jam happens when broken pieces of lead or even dust get stuck within your pencil. Thus preventing more lead from passing through.

It is frustrating using a mechanical pencil with a lead jam. Your leads don’t come out when you engage it and even if it does come out, it slides back in when you use it.

Some lead jams are tougher to clear than others. But they all require the same equipment for the jam clearing which we’ll look at next.

Stuff You’ll Need

#1 A clean-out rod

This is the savior to most of your lead jam problems. It’s a simple thin wire made specifically for your lead jam problems.

Mechanical pencils like the Pentel Orentz, Rotring 800/800+, Pilot A, and Lamy 2000 mechanical pencils come with cleanout rods. It’s usually found attached to the eraser.

You can cross getting a cleanout rod off your checklist if you have one of these pencils

However, most mechanical pencils don’t have a cleanout rod. That’s why there’s option number 2.

#2 Anything else that’s a thin long wire

Any simple thin metal wire can be an alternative to a cleanout rod, even a handy paper clip.

You could also use a twist tie- that colorful rope thing used to tie bread bags- as your make-to-do clean-out rod.

But there’s a warning! This wire must fit snugly into your pencil tip. Don’t go using a wire that’s thicker than the pencil tip.

If you can get thinner or smaller wire, that can work too. As long as it can fit into the tip of your pencil, it can do the job.

#3 And finally, your jammed mechanical pencil

The 3 Ways To Fix A Jam

There are three ways you can fix a lead jam.

The first way is the easiest and should be the one you start with first.

The second and third ways, on the other hand, are for more complicated jams.

The First Way

This is the simple and easy way 🙂

  1. Take the lead out of the pencil.
  2. Turn your pencil upside down (that is tip facing down) and give it a few taps on a hard surface to get rid of any debris or lead stuck there.
  3. Once that’s out, put the lead back in and see if that worked. If it didn’t, move on to the other ways.

Second Way

This works for mechanical pencils that you can’t easily dismantle.

  1. Hold your pencil with the tip facing upwards.
  2. Press down the button on a desk or any hard surface
  3. With your cleanout rod or alternative thin rod, poke into the tip of your pencil
  4. Push it in deeply and wiggle it around a lot to free up the trapped lead bits
  5. Next, open up the lead storage and bring out all the lead in there.
  6. Put in a new lead and try it out.

Third Way

This way works if you can dismantle your pencil.

You can take off the nose cone and see the clutch system. They’re like a set of prongs or jaws. Lead pieces get trapped in between those jaws and also in the nose cone. **

Now let’s see how to handle it.

  1. Unscrew the nose cone of your pencil and inspect it for any lead clogging up the place.
  2. Pass the cleanout rod through the nose cone and lead sleeve** and get rid of the broken lead bits hiding in them.
  3. Next, inspect the clutch system and look for any trapped lead.
  4. Press down the button on a table or any hard surface. This causes the jaws to open up.
  5. Slide in the cleanout rod between the jaws of the clutch system and do some more lead freeing up.
  6. Open up the lead storage and bring out all the lead there. We need to be sure that there’s no lead anywhere in the pencil’s mechanism to cause any more jams
  7. Assemble your pencil, put in a new lead, and try it out again. It should be good as new.

How To Prevent A Pencil Lead Jam

They say, “Prevention is better than cure” and there are no lies in that phrase.

You may know how to fix a lead jam and get your pencil working again. But it’ll be better to find out what NOT to do so you can prevent a lead jam.

#1 Don’t overfill the lead chamber with lead.

I get it. You don’t want to be putting in a new lead every 20 minutes. It’s more convenient to put in some more lead and not worry about it.

No matter how tempting it is, stop overfilling your lead chamber. Stick with just putting 2 or 3 leads at most in the lead chamber.

Having much lead in there increases the chances of having a lead jam so reduce your chances by reducing the lead amount.

#2 Stop using the wrong sized lead for your pencil.

Sure, a 0.35 diameter-sized lead can work in a 0.3 pencil without much hassle.

But that little 0.05 difference can get scrapped and trapped causing an unwanted lead jam.

It’s much safer to use the right-sized lead for your pencil. And, if you use a smaller lead size, it is just going to fall off.

#3 Avoid overpressing the button when you DO have a lead jam

If you know you have a lead jam, quit pressing the button constantly.

When you push the button, you will keep forcing the lead to go through. But the jam won’t let that happen. Your button pushing will just make more lead breaks.

This just makes your situation worse and you do not want that. Deal with the current lead jam and take out all the lead.

Final Thoughts

You now have enough information on how to clear your mechanical pencil lead jams and a few tips to prevent them.

If none of these worked, you might want to consider if your mechanical pencil has a problem.

There’s also a chance that you purchased a poorly made mechanical pencil. So you could throw it away and get a new one.

About the author: My name is Marcus, I am a lawyer (LL.M.) and the founder of this website. Besides sometimes doing lawyer stuff, I like to draw and improve my skills as a “digital artist”, and I write about what I learn on this website. If you want to know more about me or reach out, then you can click here.

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