The thing that’s wrong with a blunt pencil is that you just can’t see the point in it.

Here is a tool I recommend for anyone who likes sharp pencils all the time. Whereas I like and use a rotary pencil sharpener in the workshop, when i am out and about I found I had to be ultra careful with my leads because many pencil sharpeners are poor when developing a point, often breaking and rebreaking the leads. This one I love. It has some good points about it besides lead ones. In the main body of the sharpener are two conical cutter receivers. One for the wood and one for the graphite. It’s a two stage system for sharpening and it works to deliver really long and sharp pencils. In the sides of the sharpener are two more holes, one for a thin lead and one for a thicker one. The blades are sharpenable too. It’s made in Germany by Kum. 


  1. Dave Pawson on 11 August 2018 at 3:38 pm

    Not heard of finer leads Paul?
    I’ve been using .5 pencils (quite cheap), by Pentel, for woodwork for years now.

    • Richard on 11 August 2018 at 5:00 pm

      I use 0.3mmH pentel leads for some work.; 0.5mm & 0.7mm for regular drawing and writing.

      I prefer mechanical pencils because the points can be protected by retracting them.

  2. Joseph R. Janutka on 11 August 2018 at 4:25 pm

    My KUM sharpeners that I bought on Amazon in the U.S. don’t have the small holes for leads on the side. I too prefer a rotary sharpener and yes, a good one that sharpens the point evenly is hard to find.

    • John2v on 11 August 2018 at 7:49 pm

      Not to put a finer point on it Paul ….what would George say about that new fangled tool….” it’s a reet goodan boy but I’ll keep to me penknife….as as like…. you can’t get stones out of old dobbins hoof withit, bygoom”

    • Larry on 13 August 2018 at 9:58 am

      The lead pointers are available separately from Kum for about a buck and a half. Available in drafting supply or art stores.

      I keep some un my tool box drawers and in my drafting kit case along with the dividers and compases.

      About the size of a Chiclet

    • Mario Fusaro on 19 August 2018 at 12:09 am

      Jose, I just took delivery of the exact KUM sharpener that Paul features in his blog. I purchased it from Amazon and I’m here in Connecticut, USA. It works beautifully!

  3. Max™ on 11 August 2018 at 8:47 pm

    Meanwhile I’m over here shaving away on a carpenter’s pencil with an excel whittling blade periodically, though accidentally getting lead on the blade when I use it to mark (the 3 inch flexible sheepsfoot one they make is a surprisingly good marker to slip between pins or tails) helps the line stand out better… hmmm.

  4. Steven Newman/Bandit571 on 11 August 2018 at 10:44 pm

    Have a pair of “Bostons” hand cranked sharpeners…one in the shop. There is also a C. H. Hanson single blade sharpener….used for the big flat carpenter pencils….don’t have any mechanical pencils to fiddle with.

  5. Ken on 12 August 2018 at 1:24 pm

    I always have at least a couple of pencil sharpeners in my garage but do not use them too frequently. I tend to use whatever convenient tool is nearest to hand. A bench plane does a good job. Keep the pencil bevel flat on the plane sole, move the pencil (not the plane) , rotate the pencil after each stroke. (For obvious reasons, keep your fingers well clear of the plane iron). If the point is not sharp enough, simply use a piece of scrap sandpaper to ‘hone’ the point. A chisel and a marking knife will also work (as before, use a sandpaper scrap to get a good point on the lead).

    My problems with pencils in the workshop are rather different. Since the onset of ‘Old Codgers Disease’, both my ears are now cluttered with spectacle arms and ear trumpets. I am no longer able to store a pencil behind my ear as I did in my younger days. If I do, the pencil falls off and attempts to suicide itself on the floor. If I am lucky, only the point goes and I sort it as outlined above. However, on a bad day, the lead fragments inside the wood and a fresh piece falls out on every attempt at sharpening.

    The falling pencil is obviously down to a design failure. Spectacle arms and hearing aids should be redesigned to avoid using ears for support – thus leaving the area between the top of the ear and the head clear for what was obviously its original intended purpose of pencil storage.

    On a serious note: I googled the kum pencil sharpeners and found them on
    One seller appears to be selling them for $7.54 for 1; $28.62 for a 2-pack and $48.29 for a three pack. Another seller has a similar Kum shapener (or possibly the same) but with spare blades at $6.97 for 1; $28.68 for a 2-pack or $43.26 for a 3 pack.
    Maybe I am being a bit dim (there’s a first time for everything!) but I can see no sense in that pricing. Not a problem for me. If I were buying I would buy via – where the above confusion appears not exist. I suggest anyone sourcing via should get clarity on the pricing – especially if buying more than one.

    • Richard on 12 August 2018 at 4:16 pm

      Anyone who uses a chisel or plane blade to sharpen a pencil must pay attention to where they do the sharpening…not over the bench top. Any graphite dust left on the bench could be transferred to a workpiece when it is worked the bench.

      I learned that by mistake when the broken lead from a mechanical pencil contaminated a work.

      • Ken on 14 August 2018 at 5:19 pm

        You are right Richard.
        A well-organised person would probably sharpen their pencils directly over a waste bin; a less well-organised person would probably do it over the big shelf (that thing some people know as the ‘floor’). In fact, many other things which stray on to a workbench can wreak havoc – screws, tools dried glue, wet glue etc etc. I would suggest getting into a routine of checking before putting any workpiece on any surface. Apart from avoiding physical damage to the workpiece, you will also avoid damaging the bench top. (I know the bench top can be repaired – but that steals time away from the project.)

  6. colby on 13 August 2018 at 2:22 pm

    Any chance on a video on sharpening the blades?

  7. Keith on 13 August 2018 at 2:29 pm

    I’ve never had much success with pencil sharpeners and always use a chisel. This was mandatory at my school where the technical drawing instructor showed us how to do it without cutting ourselves. Interestingly, he always finished the sharpening by rotating the lead on his sock to remove the graphite dust. I wonder if his wife ever complained?
    This would not be permitted now due to the health and safety police who don’t realise that cutting yourself modifies future behaviour for the better.

  8. John McKenna on 13 August 2018 at 10:29 pm

    Your comments on the real purpose we have ears designed the way they are is humorous and reminds me of seeing the men in my grandfathers joinery shop carrying a pencil above their ears. As a small child I practiced doing the same as I thought I would get an early start on my apprenticeship, but didn’t achieve their degree of balance and nonchalance.
    However this memory is fondly stored along with the aromas of shavings and sawdust just on the floor in heaps and not sucked away with vacuum hoses to a plastic bag, putty and linseed oil being being kneaded for fitting glass as quick as you like, and door frames sliding under a monster sander. Nostalgia is a fairly healthy indulgence I think.

    • Ken on 14 August 2018 at 2:09 pm

      Hi John,
      Nostalgia is indeed a very healthy thing. Your mention of kneading putty and linseed oil conjures up memories of my paternal grandfather who always seemed to have some on hand to repair the cold frames in his garden. Kneading putty and linseed oil has its distinctive smell but is also a very tactile/hands-on job.
      You know when the kneading is done by the feel of it; equally you know by the feel if it is not right or of the putty is too far gone to be of any use. My grandfather was a painter by trade, could paint the most beautiful signs when called upon but mostly painted in schools (blackboards, the lines on the tarmac in the playground etc.) I must have been about 8or 9 years old, when he taught me how to clean paint brushes after use and the importance of doing it. I have paintbrushes, rollers and plastic paint trays which are 20 years old and still in excellent condition – because I still follow his advice. He also taught me how to splice rope. Not something I do often but its a very handy skill to have in the armoury.

      All that and more from your mention of linseed oil and putty. Thanks for triggering those memories!

  9. Dan Breyfogle on 14 August 2018 at 1:53 am

    I have a thicker lead mechanical pencil in my pocket all the time but in the shop I find myself with the old fashioned yellow wood pencil, it just seems right to use what I started using to mark my cuts way back in 1967 when I took my first carpenter job.

  10. Bill Nenna on 14 August 2018 at 9:29 am

    I’m familiar with the KUM sharpeners. I use them for the long taper they give. They come with or without the small graphite sharpeners. You should note most of these come with a spare blade that can indeed be sharpened. Be careful of the lid and don’t open them wide unless necessary as the lid hinge is a weak point. I baby mine and never open it wider than just wide enough to dump shavings. The spare blade is inside on the far end opposite the pencil sharpening end. Be careful not to “accidentally” throw the spare away with the shavings.

  11. Frank Niering on 28 August 2018 at 2:08 pm

    I bought one (post cost more than the tool!) and have found its results far better than the chisel-hewn points whose small unseen point offsets can contribute to inaccuracy. Thanks for drawing it to my attention..

  • Vidar Fagerjord Harboe on Perfection RevisitedAs I wrote, I do not mean any disrespect. If what I wrote gave an impression of the opposite, I am very sorry. But in todays society, people very often think less of them selves. T…
  • Andrew on My Latest Giveaway is now OPEN!That's 450000 people with good taste.
  • Ray Powell on A Future PastAn excellent blog Paul. 1. It brings back memories of being Dallas and weekends flying up to a small town in the pan handle some years ago where woodwork, guns and longhorns sit ha…
  • D.J. Quigley on A Future PastMr. Joe Renta on 28 September 2020 at 7:01 pm got to it first. That is a damned fine rocking chair. Certainly a worthy project if it would be practical.
  • Terrence OBrien on A Future PastStaircases? My initial interest in hand woodworking came from a staircase in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Google "Loretto Stairs." It's easier than trying to explain the stairs. They are…
  • Steve P on A Few Years AgoI was planning on making the small dutch toolchest for travel but i really like this one. I 3rd the WWMC
  • Jeff D on A Future PastIt is nuts that some woods can last centuries in the open air without a synthetic preservative. I went to a state park the other day, maybe yesterday. I saw one of the oldest build…