How to fix a broken mechanical pencil

An architect or engineer completing a technical drawing with a mechanical pencil.

Mechanical pencils are a popular tool with students, writers, artists, engineers, and architects thanks to their constant line width, durability, and precision.

However, as with all stationery, things can occasionally go wrong with mechanical pencils. Luckily, issues can usually be resolved relatively quickly.

Let’s look at what a mechanical pencil is, the issues you might face when using one, and how to fix one when it’s broken.

What is a mechanical pencil?

A mechanical pencil is a pencil with a free-moving lead propelled forwards by a mechanism. The user controls this action, triggered by a push button on the outside of the pencil.

The body of a mechanical pencil is usually constructed from plastic, metal, or a combination of the two.

How to fix a broken mechanical pencil

A mechanical pencil that is broken can’t deliver graphite to a page for one reason or another.

The most common reasons for this are a broken lead or a lead jam — both of which, you’ll be pleased to know, can be fixed cheaply at home.

Replace the lead

If your mechanical pencil isn’t working, the first thing to check is the lead. A broken lead won’t retract correctly from the mechanical pencil, meaning you won’t be able to use it.

If you discover a broken lead, replace the broken pieces with a new stick of lead.

Clear a lead jam

You probably have a lead jam if your lead isn’t moving in either direction when you press the pen’s push button.

What is a lead jam?

A lead jam occurs when a lead stick gets stuck inside a mechanical pencil.

You can easily take some pencils apart to solve a jam, but with others, you’ll need to work a bit harder to get it back into working order.

How to fix a mechanical pencil lead jam

Close-up of a mechanical pencil and a wooden ruler sat on an architect's blueprint drawing.

Mechanical pencils and wooden rulers are essential tools for architects

To clear a mechanical pencil lead jam, you’ll need to source a thin, stiff wire or something similar but more robust than your pencil lead.

Your mechanical pencil might have a clean-out rod mounted underneath the eraser section, so check for that before sourcing an alternative. For example, Lamy mechanical pencils feature a clean-out rod, as do the Caran d’Ache Ecridor (except the XS), Madison, and Hexagonal tools.

If you own multiple pencils, it’s worth checking them all for a clean-out rod, as they tend to be universal.

We stock eraser refills that feature clean-out rods so that you can replace your spent erasers with the correct accessory.

You could even purchase an eraser refill to clear future lead jams in your pencils, as the refills are affordable and perfect for the job.

Method one

Firstly, remove all the lead you can from the pencil.

Take out the nose cone and check if the lead sleeve is attached. If so, gently insert your clean-out rod through the nose cone and lead sleeve to push any stuck lead pieces out.

Next, check the main pencil body to see if removing the nose cone and the lead sleeve has exposed a clutch mechanism.

A clutch mechanism resembles a pie chart as it’ll be circular with sections in it, and a ring of metal or plastic will surround it.

If you have exposed the clutch mechanism, press the pencil’s push-button while pulling the ring away from the mechanism’s tip to open the clutch’s prongs.

Now tip the pencil up to free any broken lead inside, then use your clean-out rod to ensure you’ve removed all the lead.

Finally, empty the lead reservoir of all lead. Replace the nose cone, insert a new lead refill into the pencil, and use the push button to check it works.

Hopefully, you’ve cleared your lead jam. If not, or if this method isn’t suitable for your pencil, then consider method two.

Method two

Hold your pencil with the tip facing upwards and press the push button to open the clutch mechanism inside.

Next, grab your clean-out rod and insert it into the pencil’s tip. Move the clean-out rod around inside the tip as much as possible to clear as much trapped lead as possible.

Open the lead reservoir while holding the pencil with the tip facing upwards to empty it fully.

Insert a new lead refill, put the pencil back together, press the push button, and see if the jam has cleared.

How to prevent a mechanical pencil lead jam

Prevention is often said to be better than a cure, and that idea rings true for mechanical pencils.

Lead jams can occur when the incorrect lead size or type is used in a pencil, so you can prevent the majority of jams by double-checking you buy and use the correct lead.

If you use multiple mechanical pencils, they probably take different lead refills, which could confuse you. You’ll notice the lead size in millimetres is often written on the body or clip of mechanical pencils, which should help.

Buy a quality mechanical pencil

A great way to avoid issues with your mechanical pencil is to opt for quality over all else.

Plenty of cheap mechanical pencils are on the market — and not all are bad — but it’s worth researching before you commit to a purchase.

The cheapest pencils with thin hollow plastic barrels often break when dropped or gripped too hard.

The Lamy AL-Star mechanical pencil (reviewed on our blog) and the Lamy 2000 mechanical pencil are always popular choices in our store. Read a review of the Lamy 2000 to learn more about it.

The best lead for mechanical pencils

The best leads for mechanical pencils are those manufactured for each pencil.

Problems can sometimes occur when you replace branded leads with cheap universal alternatives, although most issues occur when you use the wrong lead size.


If you’ve tried all of our suggestions and are still having problems with your mechanical pencil, get in touch, and we’ll be happy to help.

If you’ve found this blog post helpful, why not read our guide to mechanical pencils and learn more about this unique stationery adored by artists and writers alike?

Lucy is our lead editor and has been passionate about stationery since childhood. She has a particular fondness for rollerball and calligraphy pens and is a keen advocate of snail mail.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *