While Tivo-surfing for new material, I came across “How It’s Made,” focusing on the mechanical steps involved in producing a particular kind of widget. It’s much lighter than Mythbusters and Dirty Jobs, but still entertaining.  Because the show has been around a while, my Tivo picked up a dozen showings before I told it to knock it off.

The episode I watched last night showed how Rose Art’s crayons were made (slightly different than Crayola’s recipe.)  Some snippets:

  • The crayon base is made from a combination of waxes, primary paraffin because it’s cheap, and has a nice “rub-off”
  • Wax is melted at 144°F. They add a “secret powder” as a filler and to provide some structural strength. They also add various fatty acids ( e.g, stearic acid) to prevent the goo from sticking to the machinery. Stearic acid also enhances the rub-off. Every ingredient is non-toxic.
  • Once dye is added, it blends for 45 minutes. The factory shown can make 127 different colors. The most popular packages are 16- and 24-packs.
  • Wax is pumped into rotary machine, then injected into crayon-shaped molds. Water is added to cool (and thus harden) the wax. Excess is scraped off and recycled. Each machine can do 2,700 crayons per cycle.
  • With several machines, they make 30,000 per hour.
  • When set, the crayons are ejected from the mold and transported on a conveyor.
  • A gluer coats surface between grooves. A labeler wraps the strip of paper around the crayon. It can do 8,500 crayons per hour.
  • Crayons land in bulk box, where they’re sorted by workers to packaging hoppers
  • Broken crayons or loose labels will cause the machine to stop until workers fix the problem.
  • Crayons slide into a box and are weighed. If a box is underweight, it’s kicked out of the line and manually filled with the missing crayon

6 thoughts on “Crayons”

  1. Interesting! I’ve seen that show a couple times. I think there are a lot of clips from it on YouTube and whatnot… You might want to check out some of those.

    By the way, I tagged you for a blog meme where you have to share eight random things about yourself. 🙂 I know I tagged you for one just like that a while ago, so of course it’s optional.

  2. We watched that quite a bit while out of the country, because it was relatively easy to snag via torrent. There are two hosts- one is a woman who does a pretty poor job, the other one is Mark Tewksbury, a thick-necked Olympic swimmer who has less personality than cardboard.

    We are addicted, a bit like watching a bad movie. Still, that’s my favorite part of life- figuring out how things are made or done.

    1. Ted: Heh. I’ll keep an ear out for the narrator. The mechanics were fascinating and the segments are short enough.

  3. I LOVE that show! It’s a staple on all my TiVo’s. I keep a stock. It’s great when I need 10-15 mins of something. One of the best ones I ever saw was how they make milk!

    You are nearly old enough to remember Industry on Parade which was one of my favorite TV shows as a kid. They took you into a factory and gave you a tour. I was fascinated.

  4. I love “How it’s made”! When I had stomach flu in May it was the only thing I could watch that I was nearly 100% sure wouldn’t have food commercials in. Plus, I’m a geek: when I was a kid my favorite part of Sesame Street was when they took us to the crayon factory or the peanut butter plant. Thanks to this show I now know why my “reclining chair” creaks the way it does when I open the footrest.

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