Bushcraft Pencils

Make your own charcoal pencils


Making bushcraft pencils requires a fire and using a knife and secateurs, please ensure you are with an adult and that you are in a place where you can safely light and manage a fire.

To make your bushcraft pencils you will start by making charcoal. Making charcoal is one of the oldest crafts – it dates back to Roman times.  To find out more about it check out the video and article here.

Making Charcoal

Find some thin sticks to make into the charcoal. Peel off the outer and inner bark of the lengths of wood using your peeler or knife.  Use the secateurs to cut your twigs to length so they fit in your metal tin, making a crisscross shape allowing air to move around in the tin.  Put the lid on the tin.

Next build your fire, ensuring you are somewhere safe and that you have a bucket of water nearby just in case. Take some tinder and light it, put small pieces of wood on once the tinder is burning, then gradually add bigger pieces of wood.

Once the fire gets going, carefully put your tin onto the fire. The smoke will start off thick and white. When the smoke turns clear, remove from the fire and allow to cool. DO NOT REMOVE THE LID. Removing the lid will add oxygen and the hot charcoal will burst into flame.

Bushcraft Pencils

If you want to make your charcoal into pencils, then while the charcoal cools, you can start on the outside of your pencils. Cut the elder into the length of pencils. Push out 2 – 3cm of pith from the end of the elder with the tent peg. Sharpen the end of the elder with the hole in, to make it more pencil-like.

Once the charcoal is completely cooled you can open the tin and use it as is or insert it into your pencil outers. If you are making pencils find a piece of charcoal the same size of the hole in your elder and push gently inside. Use a knife to gently score around the charcoal to break off to the desired length. If it
breaks off, poke out with a tent peg and replace with another piece.

Top tip: Drawing onto something soft like canvas is better for the charcoal than hard wood.

Take it Further

If you have some elder left over after making your pencil casings, you could make elder beads and create some jewellery. You might also want to check out our instructions for how to make a bird feeder. Or use your bushcraft pencils to draw a fist in protest using our Images to Icons activity.

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