No, charcoal pencils aren’t all that expensive, but if you do a lot of charcoal drawings, it can begin to add up to a good bit of cash. Why spend anything at all on charcoal pencils when you can easily make them yourself? It doesn’t take a lot of effort to make them and the ones you create will work as well as those you purchase. And, if you have a way to build a fire, the pencils won’t cost you a dime.

Build a fire in a fireplace or even in a barbecue grill. You’ll need a good, strong fire that will burn for a while. Once the fire is built you can then decide on the type of stick you want to use for the charcoal pencil. The stick should be close in size to a pencil – in length as well as diameter – and should be a hardwood stick.

Choices include a piece of grapevine, cedar, mahogany, oak, maple, apple, cherry, or even a wooden dowel. You can end up with different shades of black depending upon the types of sticks you use.

Wrap the chosen stick(s) tightly in aluminum foil and put it in the fire. Leave it there for at least 20 minutes then look at it. You will see smoke coming from inside the foil; leave the stick in the fire until you no longer see the smoke coming out of the foil itself. At that point, you can remove the stick. Allow it to cool before unwrapping the new charcoal pencil.

Although burning the stick in foil turns it into charcoal you’ll be covered in black soot if you handle it. There are different ways to wrap the pencil to protect your hands from the soot. One way is to just use a piece of cling wrap. Wrap it once around the pencil but leave the end of the pencil protruding. Another option is to wrap the pencil with a piece of paper and apply glue or tape to the edge to secure it. When you use paper you can easily sharpen the pencil as you normally would.

The homemade charcoal pencil can be a little more brittle than a store-bought version. Because of this, take care when sharpening it. Other than that, use charcoal pencils just like you do ordinary ones. They work just as well yet cost you nothing.