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How To Sharpen Charcoal Pencils

how to sharpen charcoal pencils

Charcoal pencils are a necessity for sketching and drawing in art class because they can be easily erased. However, if they become too dull, then your work might become distorted or smudged.

Therefore, sharpening charcoal pencils should be done frequently. We can make it easy with the following methods. So read on!

How do you Sharpen a Charcoal Pencil without Breaking it?

Method One: With a Knife

Another way to sharpen charcoal pencils is on top of a piece of paper using either the backside (for softer leads) or flat edge (for harder leads) of a craft/utility knife blade. You can also use a box cutter to sharpen a charcoal pencil.

  • Grab one side of the lead between your thumb and index finger while holding down another section with your middle finger, ring finger, and pinky
  • Now hold down another section with two fingers from each hand so that there are three sections held firmly between both hands
  • Slowly drag the tip across just above where it meets the paper and sharpen using a slow, controlled motion

Method Two: With a Mechanical Pencil and Irons

If you have a mechanical pencil, sharpen it with an iron. This method will create a fine point for your charcoal pencils used for more detailed drawings.

This most complicated method is also the best for sharpening very dull leads. However, this method is not recommended if your lead can break easily due to the heat from the iron.

  • To sharpen your charcoal pencils, grab either end of an unsharpened mechanical pencil with both hands, then press down hard while twisting in opposite directions
  • This should scrape off small pieces of wood and expose fresh lead, so sharpen using one of the methods above if necessary to achieve the desired point!
  • After finishing, use a cotton swab or paper towel to clean out any remaining shavings from inside before reloading with more graphite/charcoal mix

Method Three: With Sandpaper

how do you sharpen a charcoal pencil without breaking it

This method is best for hard leads or when you don’t have any other options available to sharpen your pencils.

Step 1: Create the Charcoal Dust

  • Take your sandpaper and place it on top of something flat like a table or countertop. Make sure there are no bumps on the surface underneath
  • Light up your candle and hold it right above one of the corners on your sandpaper near where you will be drawing with your charcoal pencils
  • Keep moving the flame back and forth over this corner until you see some black dust collecting at the bottom edge of where you have been writing on your paper
  • Once this has happened for about twenty seconds, then blow out your candle! You just created charcoal dust, and now you can sharpen your charcoal pencils!

Step 2: Sharpen your Pencils

  • Take the corner of the sandpaper that has been covered in charcoal dust and place it on top of each end of your sharpened charcoal pencil
  • Gently rub the flat side of the pencil tip over this area for about thirty seconds until all four corners are completely blacked out with charcoal dust
  • Once again, use a candle to light up one of these corners, so they become dusty before moving onto another section
  • Last but not least, just sharpen them normally using whatever method seems best at home or school, depending on where you’re located!

This trick should allow you to sharpen almost any type of wood-cased graphite/charcoal pencil smoothly without having to worry about the wood shavings getting stuck in the paper.

Can you Sharpen Charcoal Pencils with a Normal Sharpener?

Yes, you can sharpen charcoal pencils with a normal sharpener.

However, it is not recommended because the lead will break very easily. Instead, use a sharpener designed explicitly for charcoal pencils. The right tool will ensure that the lead is properly sharpened and less likely to break.


Now that you know how to sharpen charcoal pencils, try using sandpaper if you’re looking for a quick and easy way to sharpen charcoal pencils. It’s an inexpensive option that can be found at any hardware store. Remember to keep practicing, and don’t be afraid to experiment with new techniques.

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