Fans of Henry Petroski’s The Pencil most likely the remember the chapter on pencil sharpeners and how we can now use tiny metal doo-dads, hand-cranked gadgets and electrical appliances to sharpen our pencils. There is a great page the the Early Office Museum with some excellent photos of antique pencil sharpeners and on the history of the mechanical pencil sharpener:
Antique mechanical pencil sharpeners can be divided into three categories based on the cutting medium or mechanism. Some machines rely on abrasive media such as sandpaper or a steel file. Other machines use a steel milling cutter with multiple raised cutting edges. Yet other machines use from one to a dozen or more blades. A few used two of these methods. For example, the 1900 Challenge pencil sharpener simultaneously used a blade to cut the wood and sandpaper to sharpen the lead.
Be sure to click the links at the top for even more information from this treasure trove of sharpener lore. And the Museum Store even has some vintage sharpeners for sale!
[Image, Early Office Museum.]