Review of KUM metal wedge sharpener.

This is our first review of a sharpener, and this is the sharpener that I currently always have in my pocket. Several people have asked me lately what kind of sharpener I would recommend to them for sharpening quality pencils, so I thought a review of a sharpener (finally!) would be highly appropriate. There are many brands who make the exact (almost) same sharpener, but we are going to stick to this one for today. Just as there are many subtle differences and not-to-subtle differences between different brands of hexagonal yellow pencils, there are, too, such variations on the metal wedge theme.

I have not been able to find this model for sale online, but here is some information about it, in case you can locate it in a local shop. I found them at Plaza Artist Supply in Towson, Maryland, where I stock up on them whenever I am on the East Coast. Rumor has it that KUM New York will sometimes sell to individual customers, and we’ll be sure to ammend if we find out for sure.

Technical Information
Type: Blade.
Material: Magnesium-alloy.
Shavings Receptacle: None.
Point Type: Medium.
Markings: “KUM Precision” (blade); “KUM Made in Germany” (body).
Place of Manufacture: Germany.
Availability: Physical shops, i.e., real stores; possibly from KUM New York (?).

This little gadget is a powerhouse! Not only is it light, durable, compact and comfortable to hold; it sharpens hard and soft pencils alike to a terrific point. As you can see from the photo, the point you can get with this sharpener is somewhere between the very short “factory point” and what KUM calls a “long point.” As such, you can really use this sharpener for both art pencils and writing pencils, since you can carefully stop sharpening once you have the point you want. If you push the sharpener to its apex, you can achieve an extremely sharp point, albeit one that is likely to be too short for drafting or engineering purposes.

Performing the actual sharpening is a breeze, resulting in a fluid motion whereby long strands of pencil shavings fall into the trash can or coffee cup saucer (a la Hemingway) in various geometric designs. Of couse, one of the drawbacks of this sharpener is that it does not have an on-board receptacle for shavings. But one of the advantages is that you can see the point as you are sharpening it, so you know when you’ve achieved your desired point. Even if you do mind that this sharpener makes a mess, that gentle cedar smell wafting from the fresh — and very smooth and clean — cut makes it all worth it.

What makes the KUM model different from some of the others I have tried is the smoothness and ease of sharpening, and the perfectly-designed hole that keeps the leads both centered and safe during sharpening. You will not need a lot of effort or pressure to use this little powerhouse. And, to boot, the blades last longer than one is likely to be able to hold onto this sharpener. Being small, they tend to get lost, so I have yet to actually wear out the blades on one myself. And the brand-new blades do not show any noticeable difference in performance than ones that have sharpened dozens of pencils. The KUM wedge is definitely a nice companion for premium quality pencils.

As for availability, we will keep the Revolution posted about places one can purchase these, if we can locate an online source. But I suspect that these little guys are easier to find in art shops than I think, along with other nice sharpeners that are hard to find online. So it can’t hurt to check your local art supplier.

[Photos copyright J.G. 2005.]

27 Comments

  1. Anonymous

    Rather than buying several, change the blades in your portable sharpener. I used to buy a new sharpener every time it would dull… not realizing that the new blades sold at art stores tend to have a better edge than the one that comes with it. (and you’re producing less waste as well)

  2. Anonymous

    Thank you for the review and this information. That link shows other interesting products from KUM as well – even gold-plated sharpeners. I don’t think they’ve made their way into my local store, but I’ll look again.

    The DUX line also looks amazing.

    I use a UFO on the go – it looks nice, goes well with the eraser, is very thin, and does the job. Unfortunately, the blade is rusted now. I’ll have to check into replacement blades.

    At home a Staedtler with a cover does the job.

    But now – enlightenment – the KUM or that adjustable DUX look amazing.

  3. John – I use a disc shaped sharpner made by Fabe-castell however, the blade has dulled. Will have to sharpen it on a knife-sharpening stone and reuse it. Also, would you please also do a review of the many powered/motorised pencil sharpners available these days?

  4. Wow, I so use this sharpener too! I live in the UK and got it from WHSmith. I also have a spare one which I found lying around at school, unloved and alone, which I also keep in my pencil case (I can’t remember why I didn’t hand it in…)

  5. Frank C.

    I found two at Pearl Paint. They are excellent sharpeners, better than any electric sharpener that I’ve ever tried.

    I was at Pearl again today and found a KUM sharpener that came in a plastic tube that could catch pencil shavings. Great bargain at only $2.00, and it uses the KUM metal wedge sharpener while giving you the convenience of having a place to catch pencil shavings.

  6. One of these simple wedges came in a package of colored pencils that I bought. I’ve treasured it ever sense. So many of the ones I have with containers break the tip just as I’ve turned the last twist.

  7. I have the KUM block sharpener which came with two additional blades from Utrecht for under $3. I compared it to the Boston sharpener reviewed here and the Staedtler dual wedge and the KUM block sharpener was far superior. If you ever come acorss one of these sharpeners, I highly recommend picking one up.

  8. P Nrusimha Rao

    Goibg by the details provided here, I cannot but be surprised by the enrgy people have on the Net. To go further, some time back someone asked me (on net) whether there are sharpeners employing blades. No idea was the reply. thinking later I was of the feeling sharpeners with bent blades have the capability to substantially replace the known ones based on flat blades. Just think over and may be the benefits may be too good especially to those involved with the relevant business.

  9. lillian williamson

    Purists claim it has to be a knife but in my book this is the best for art pencils and I love the feel of this instrument in my hands. It gets my vote!!

  10. Pencils!

    One of my favorite blogs has a post about pencils. Since I’ve been sketching everyday and creating some new hand drawn art for a client lately, I thought I’d share some of my current favorite tools.

    The PrismaColor Col-Erase Erasable P…

  11. Katty Ulloa

    Hi, nice site, very interesting. I wondering what is the exact composition of the magnesium-alloy you referred in the article and if it’s true that they reinforced the carbon steel blade with polished magnesium fitting. Hope a response.

  12. Chris

    I also have one of these, and I have found it not to do so well on softer leads (4B and softer)

    Also it doesnt create those long shavings as described. Maybe I got a bad blade and it needs to be replaced, but I dont know. I tried tightening it to no avail.

  13. Sounds like you got a bum blade? I’ve had dozens of these, with the same results. The brass version is one of my very favorite sharpeners around. :)

  14. To carry this in your pocket, might I suggest putting it in a mini altoids container. This provides protection from dust as well as a place to store shavings until they can be disposed of as you see fit.

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