Practically all of us at one time have used a crayon or a marker pen. In this article we'll go on a tour of the Crayola Factory in Easton, Penn.

Binney & Smith, the maker of Crayola products, started out in the late 1800s making the color pigment for the paint used on the common red barns in rural America. Binney & Smith's carbon black was used by the Goodrich tire company to make automobile tires black and more durable. Originally, tires were white, the natural color of rubber.

Crayons got their name from Edwin Binney's wife, Alice. She combined the words craie (French for chalk) with the first part of the word oleaginous (the oily paraffin wax) to make the word "crayola."

The two basic ingredients for a crayon are:

  • Pigment
  • Paraffin wax, stored in heated 17,000 gallon tanks

The mixture is heated until it melts into a liquid. Crayons melt at 105 degrees Fahrenheit (40 degrees Celsius). The mixture is heated to 190 F (82 C). The liquid is poured into a preheated mold full of hundreds of crayon-shaped holes. Cool water (55 F, 13 C) is used to cool the mold, allowing the crayon to be made in 3 to 9 minutes. A single mold makes 1,200 crayons at a time, weighing a total of about 40 pounds. The operator uses hydraulic pressure to eject the crayons from the mold. Earlier mold designs used a hand crank to push up the crayons. The just-molded crayons are then manually quality checked for imperfections and inspected for broken tips. The excess wax from the mold and any rejected crayons are recycled to be re-melted. More than 120 crayon colors are possible.

Binney & Smith also uses injection molding that allows them to make 2.4 to 6.4 million crayons in a day.

Liquid paraffin in a mold.Click picture for a 5-second movie clip.

Since younger users of crayons may have a tendency to peel off a crayon label and ingest it, Binney & Smith uses a non-toxic cornstarch and water mixture for the glue that holds the label on the Crayola crayon. The label machine wraps the crayon twice to give it strength. The Binney & Smith label machine design has stayed essentially the same since 1943! Bare crayons are fed from one hopper while labels are fed from a separate hopper. Glue is added to the glue pot and the label machine is started. The glue transfers to a slot in a drum that a crayon goes into. The label is then fed onto the drum where a roller presses the label against the glue, where the label is then tucked and wrapped around the crayon twice. Before 1943, crayons were hand-wrapped by farmers in the winter months to supplement their income.

The labels are in 11 languages and 18 different color labels are used for all the crayons.

Crayon awaiting label.

Crayon label being applied. The white roller at the right spreads the cornstarch glue. Click picture for a 5-second movie clip.

Crayons are packed in boxes of various sizes from 2 - 96 crayons per box. Small packages of 2, 3 or 4 crayons are purchased for party packs and restaurants.

Labeled Crayons in packing machine. Click picture for a 5-second movie clip.

Marker Manufacturing

The steps:

  1. The barrel is molded from plastic resin.
  2. The barrel is screen printed.
  3. A cotton-like filament that holds the ink is inserted into the end barrel.
  4. Plastic plug is inserted at one end of the barrel.
  5. Ink is injected at the other end of the barrel using a hypodermic-like needle.
  6. The tip (writing nib) is inserted in this same end.
  7. Plastic cap is placed on the marker.

    Parts of a marker pen. Click picture for a 5-second movie clip showing a new pen getting capped.
  8. The ink slowly transfers to the new writing tip:

    Ink flowing into the tip of a new marker pen.

Interesting Facts About Crayola Crayons

  • A national poll in 1993 revealed blue and red are the most popular crayon colors.
  • After coffee and peanut butter, the scent of a crayon is the third most recognizable scent.
  • On average, a child uses 730 crayons by their 10th birthday!

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