Question:

Paul,

This my not be important, but looking at your pencils in the jar in the tool well, I wondered how you sharpened your pencils?

John F

Answer:

Most of my life I used a chisel to sharpen my pencils but `i felt the graphite wasn’t good for my chisels. I use pencil sharpeners in the school for convenience for the students who are not used to chisel sharpening and switched from using the chisel to the sharpener. Anyway we used one made by Swordfish and it has proven the best of all as it’s a simple hand wound one that always gets a good point even with soft leads for drawing and even coloured pencils too. Phil found a new one from Swordfish called the Swordfish Pointi. It creates a beautiful long and slender point and for around £6 it is good value for money.

On a side issue:

My boss always irritated me whenever I sharpened my pencil, about ten times a day working on wood, by saying, “The problem with blunt pencils is there’s just no point to them.” I lean across my bench for the sharpener now and every time I hear his Irish lilting voice saying, “The problem with blunt pencils is there’s just no point to them.”, but now I smile to myself and everyone I work with wonders why I always smile when I sharpen my pencil.
Have a nice day everyone. Oh, and always try to get your point across. Make someone in the dim and distant future smile. It’s nearly 50 years since I heard Patrick’s voice. One day someone will chuckle to themselves I’m sure.

12 Comments

  1. Robert N. on 25 January 2015 at 5:06 am

    You make a valid point, Paul ! My sharpener is very similar, made by Mitsubishi, but slightly pricier. Might I suggest you try my favorite pencil, the very smooth Palamino Blackwing.



  2. Charles on 25 January 2015 at 5:10 am

    You know, it’s interesting that you bring this up. Not coincidentally, there’s a woodworking video that I have seen where the master woodworker mutters to himself, as he sharpens his pencil, something along the lines of, “Even the act of sharpening a pencil should be a work of art.” If only I could remember his name…



  3. Alan on 25 January 2015 at 7:34 am

    What do you use for marking on dark woods (ebony and the like) where a normal graphite pencil won’t show up?



  4. martybacke on 25 January 2015 at 8:06 am

    When a mechanical pencil doesn’t provide a fine enough point, a draftsman mechanical pencil and associated sharpener can’t be beat. Something like http://amzn.com/B0006HXM8O & http://amzn.com/B001DI8FSM



    • AJMac on 26 January 2015 at 11:47 pm

      I’d second that recommendation, I’ve been using a Koh-I-Noor 2mm pencil for a while and it’s been brilliant… the point is very durable and so much more predictable than either an ordinary or a carpenter’s pencil. More importantly still the clip means it doesn’t go missing like the others!



      • Paul Sellers on 27 January 2015 at 4:13 am

        I have to say that I love wooden pencils with simple leads and the feel and weight of them. There are many reasons I like them not the least of which is simply that they feel just so perfect. When ever I try mechanical pencils with clutch tips or propelling leads I just never felt right about them.



  5. Chris harvey on 25 January 2015 at 8:49 am

    Hello.
    I once went to a woodworking course where the guy said anything but chisel sharpening was anathema.
    Relief to go on a Paul course with pencil sharpener approach. Now I use sharp pencils always.
    Paul is arealist, and not hidebound.
    Chris from Belgium



  6. Terry Pullen on 25 January 2015 at 3:11 pm

    My favorite pencil sharpener is a block plane. I sometimes use a chisel and my backup sharpener is my pocket knife. Measuring and marking, the foundation of good work.



  7. Thomas Tieffenbacher on 25 January 2015 at 5:49 pm

    Paul,

    Nice sharpener! I had an OLD mechanical sharpener that had a suction hold down. which aged out. found it again as the electric sharpener I purchased does not sharpen as well as the little plastic one with a razor blade in it. Put four holes in the old sharpener’s base and I’m getting points very similar to yours.

    If it gives out, before I do I will keep your new model in mind.

    Now all I have to do is stay on my mark? LOL!



  8. Paddy on 27 January 2015 at 10:22 pm

    My 6 year old daughter bought me a similar pencil sharpener for my birthday last year. I must say I love it compared to knife or chisel. Unlike those little plastic ones I can actually find it on my bench.



  9. jmpurser on 7 March 2015 at 7:04 pm

    I went through about a dozen of those cheap hand held single blade sharpeners and couldn’t find one that consistently gave a good point. I switched to sharpening with a chisel after seeing Paul do it and got much better results than from either my pocket knife or the cheap sharpeners and I’ve been going along with that for a while. I keep one of those stubby plastic handled 1″ chisels on my bench for miscellaneous tasks like glue scraping and pencil sharpening. When I read this column I looked at the swordfish but balked at the price.

    I did some research and found this:

    http://www.mybinding.com/dahle-rotary-sharpeners-professional-sharpener-155.html?coupon=5OFF&utm_medium=shoppingengine&utm_source=googlebase&utm_content=155&gclid=CLagrIPsgMQCFQ6MaQod9EQAAw

    If the link breaks that’s the Dahle 155 sharpener. So far it’s been excellent. It quickly gives me a very sharp point every time and I haven’t broken a tip in the sharpener yet. It’s made of plastic but fairly heavy duty plastic and has replaceable blades which I’ll probably never need but I like the attitude.

    I also got great service and a very good price from the vendor “mybinding.com”. The sharpeners arrived the same day the “we shipped it!” notice hit my inbox.

    John



  10. brian crout on 20 May 2017 at 11:12 pm

    some carpenters myself included sharpened pencils with the handsaw. A small nick was filed sharp, tight up under the handle on the heel of the saw, handy if you were up on a scaffold doing a cut roof with just a hammer and saw



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