Wednesday, 14 December 2011

The MUJI Pencil Making Kit

Far from Palimpsest to resist a pencil making kit, especially when it comes in the very affordable price of £3.99. The pencil kit in question is on sale in MUJI, the well-know Japanese chain which offers anything from erasers to beds. It comes in the characteristic MUJI cardboard box with an English label "Sawdust Clay - Make Your Own Pencil Set Kit Creator" and 17 bullet-point instructions at the back in... Japanese. Those not able to read have to make do with six (6) pictures.

Inside the box are three blobs of clay wrapped in plastic and six pencil leads in a cardboard tube. Palimpsest is disappointed to discover that by "pencil making" MUJI actually means encasing ready-made graphite leads in clay. Palimpsest was actually naive in believing that she would actually get to make the pencil leads. Well. Moving on, moving on.

Palimpsest takes out the blob of clay which is slightly moist...

According to the pictorial instruction, the blob has to be rolled out and flattened with a roller. How thin? Who knows. Written instructions are in Japanese, remember? So I roll out the clay using the cardboard tube that contained the pencil leads. 

 Next, I cut out a rectangular piece out of it (as per instructions)... 

and place the graphite lead inside so both ends stick out...  

and proceed to wrap my clay piece around it...

And then I repeat previous steps all over again because I find the clay is too thick and thus pencil turns out to be an unwieldy piece of... well, clay. 

After a couple of attempts I end up with the above piece. 

According to my pictorial instructions I have to mould a circular piece on top of my pencil (not sure why). I do that and end up with what I can only describe as a weird fish. 

Next I sharpen the graphite with a sharp blade and try to shape the end part of the pencil to make it look like, erm, a pencil. 

 The finished product is very soft. Am I supposed to cook it? I decide to wait assuming that this is a kind of clay that hardens with air exposure. Sure enough after two (2) days, the pencil is hard enough to hold (but not really rock-hard). It writes like a cheap pencil and there is plenty of clay to make a set of 12. Xmas stocking filler? Hmm. 


  1. I think the Staedtler historic pencil making kit from this year may have a bit more class... though I wouldn't know, as I wasn't able to get my hands on one. This MUJI one looks quite feeble in comparison.

  2. Thanks for the information. I have heard of this approach, but it uses an oven to bake the clay. Maybe the Muji clay also has to be baked?

  3. Kevin, I bet Staedtler would have a bit more class... Stephen, this polymer clay project is certainly more convincing and the pencils look great. According to the pictorial instructions no baking is necessary in the MUJI kit. The clay does harden with air exposure but takes time. But the end result is not so elegant. (Maybe it's me)

  4. I'm trying to understand what MUJI had in mind with its kit without much success. Someone with elementary woodworking skills and a drill press could likely make a simple clutch pencil from a piece of dowel. Jack/Ohio

  5. How is one supposed to sharpen clay?