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I have an issue where the point and core of my colored pencils will fall out when using them or sharpening them.

These pieces can be up to an inch long. As they're primarily Prismacolors, they're expensive to wear through so quickly.

Why are they breaking inside and falling out? I take care and sharpen with sharp blades. They stay stored in their original hard box when not in use, and aren't used often. I feel like they've been cracked inside for awhile, and can't pinpoint how it happened.

But even new ones I've bought individually have done it, too.

What can I do?

  • Are these pencils you are travelling with or are they in the original case and stay at home and get used as required? I am asking about the core fracturing during transportation from impact and possibly temperature changes maybe. – Matt May 19 '16 at 19:31
  • @Matt Edited to answer. – user24 May 19 '16 at 19:33
  • This happens with my kids cheap Crayola colored pencils as well, but I assumed it was because they get treated roughly. Maybe there will be some other info for me in the answers. – JPhi1618 May 19 '16 at 20:19
  • (Having just learned about the options) You're sharpening with a knife, or a sharpener? – Erica May 19 '16 at 22:18
  • @Erica I have tried both. With a knife I expose very little of the core. – user24 May 19 '16 at 22:19
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Prismacolor pencils are notorious for lead breakage, but the creamy lay down keeps folks coming back. However, there are some things you can do to moderate the problem, in general (I'm going to answer a bit beyond the question).

Pencil Selection

The pencils that tend to break more easily have off-center cores. If you're buying open stock, take a look at the bottom of the pencil and ensure that the core of it is in the center of the pencil body and not askew. None of mine are in this state, or I'd post a picture, but it's really obvious when you see it.

Sharpening Technique

A little counter-intuitive, but I've found that instead of rotating the pencil in the sharpener, going the other way works better. In this scenario, hold your pencil in your "off" hand and then using your normal hand, rotate a very sharp sharpener around. This should be very sharp, the wood should shave off in a long, continuous strip. If it doesn't then it's time to replace.

In addition, don't create a long point. Smaller amounts of exposed core tend to be less fragile and so don't break as often. Find a sharpener that lends itself to that or allows you to control the point.

Fix It Up

Prismas are wax based and can sometimes be fixed by heating the core to fuse it together again. Prismacolor doesn't recommend the microwave, rather a sunny window spot, but many use the microwave. Just keep it short, seconds at a time. After all, you're not looking to make it runny, just softened enough to fuse again.

Handle With Care

Since the lead is fragile, avoiding drops and bangs is a must. The problem, of course, is that transportation to your supplier probably banged and bashed them around, causing the odd one to break even before you got it. To that end, I really recommend going with open stock since you can check the pencils there and, as I noted above, you can confirm that it's not askew.

Change 'em Up

At the end of the day, the price of Prisma feel is the weakness of the lead. If you're reaching the point that it's too much, then there are alternatives. Faber-Castell and Caran d'Ache make great pencils and they don't have the breakage issue. That's partly because they're vegetable oil based rather than wax, but also the lead is bonded to the wood, so even if there is a break inside, all is not lost.

In any event, I have no familiarity with Caran d'Ache pencils to use, but the Faber-Castell Polychromos are really very good and also available in open stock. For me, open stock is a must. So, I have the full Polychromos set and a select bunch of Prismacolors (I generally prefer the white Prisma). They work together just fine.

  • The only thing I would add to this is that no matter what your pencils look like when you purchase them you cannot know their history. Shipping and other potential customers could have easily put some stress on the cores and weakened them before they were purchased. – Matt May 20 '16 at 0:43
  • @Matt - Quite true. Some kid shaking a tin the store could easily happen, for example, and that would be bad. Hmm... that reminds me not to shake gifts anymore. :) – John Cavan May 20 '16 at 0:46
  • The heating is amazing, I'll have to try that. I'm sure my sharpening technique needs adjustment from my graphite and charcoal style. Are different shaped sharpeners or blades better? I use the kind pictured at the end of my sharpening answer. – user24 May 20 '16 at 0:47
  • Also, I didn't know this about Prismacolors. I inherited a 72 pack and replace the few I use the most. Any other things I should know about that brand? – user24 May 20 '16 at 0:49
  • @CreationEdge - That's basically what I use. I have the Staedtler metal one and there are those that swear by the Kum variant, same basic shape. I've started to avoid the ones that I can't see the cutting easily. – John Cavan May 20 '16 at 0:49
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A small tip when you buy a new color pencil, if it has a round shape and it is the case of the prismacolor, you can make them roll on a plane surface. If one does not roll as the well as the others it is likely that the core of this pencil is broken.

Also if you want to protect them, some pencil cases exists (link to amazon), it protects the pencils in a better way that the original box, because the pencils can't move since they are fixed individually.

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