This review comes from Comrade Bill Brandon. Many thanks to Bill for writing this for us during this very busy time of year!Technical Information
Shavings Receptacle: Barrel.
Point Type: Variable.
Markings: See images.
Place of Manufacture: Made in Japan, by Kutsuwa Company, Ltd.
Availability: Locally, and online at Wet Paint Art.
T’GAAL: What the heck is that?
A pencil sharpener review by Bill Brandon
What has a blade, a tank, no batteries, sharpens pencils and allows you to control the length of the point? Look at Figure 1, which shows identical pencils, sharpened to five different lengths. All five were produced by the same sharpener.
Figure 1 Five points, one sharpener (click all images for larger ones).
These points are the product of the T’GAAL Multi-Sharpener, manufactured in Japan by the Kutsuwa Company. (See Figure 2, which will give you an idea of the size of the T’GAAL.) It’s a handy, pocket-size, blue plastic tool sold mainly to schoolchildren in Asia, but available to anyone.
As you can see in Figure 3, the T’GAAL has a large dial on the side. The blade and its adjusting mechanisms are inside a container (the tank) that catches the shavings. The dial adjusts the angle of the sharpener blade, and therefore determines the length of the pencil point. There are five settings, from short and blunt to very long. The dial also has a sixth position, at which point a small shutter blocks the sharpener opening in order to keep the shavings inside; be aware that this is not a tight seal. The shutter will keep the shavings in, but graphite dust is liable to leak out. However, I have carried mine in the pocket of my jeans without any terrible mishaps.
The sharpener accepts only standard-size pencils. Jumbo pencils like the Dixon Tri-Conderoga won’t fit. The blade appears to be replaceable, but no replacements come with the T’GAAL, and the Kutsuwa web site does not offer any for sale.
The experience of using a product tends to be highly subjective, but I’d have to say that the T’GAAL is very smooth. Shavings come off the pencil in an unbroken curl, no sawdust or crumbs, no broken leads. As long as you let the blade do its work, without jamming the pencil into the sharpener, it is an easy experience to obtain the precise points you saw here in the first photo.
There is some resistance when you turn the dial from “Close” to the “5” position, and you may think that the mechanism is jammed. But keep a firm grip on the (slightly slippery) dial and the shutter will open. The resistance is the result of the way the cam on the back of the dial is set up. To turn to “5” from “Close” you are pushing up over the “hump” onto the high point of the cam. However, once that is done, the dial turns easily to whatever setting you desire. If the resistance bothers you, just make it a habit to always turn the dial to the left to “1” and you will find that it turns quite a bit more easily.
The only true (but slight) imperfection involves the small section that slides off to allow emptying the shavings. It can be a little tricky to put back on, and it gives the impression that it might be easily broken or lost. It does open easily, and might come open on its own (though I’ve had no such problem).
The package that the T’GAAL comes in contains a wealth of information. Unfortunately, it’s all in Japanese, which I am unable to read. Fortunately, there are some good illustrations that show how to use the machine. (See Figures 4 and 5.)
The Kutsuwa phone number, web site, and customer support e-mail addresses appear on the package. You might be able to order replacement blades directly many Japanese businesses use English when dealing with foreign customers.
Kutsuwa Company is a stationery wholesaler, selling to vendors who serve the Japanese education market. They don’t appear to sell directly to retail customers. I bought my T’GAAL online from Wet Paint Art, but they also have a retail store in St. Paul, MN. The price of the T’GAAL was $14.50, plus shipping and handling. My order was sent UPS Ground (the only option offered) two business days after I placed it, and it arrived at my home near Dallas about three days later.
On the whole, if your work would benefit from variable angles on the points of your pencils, I’d recommend the T’GAAL. I’m not aware of any other sharpener that does what it does. Besides, it’s nice-looking, and clearly marks you as one of the pencil illuminati.
A note from Tim, Marketing Manager at Wet Paint Art:
“Thank you and Bill Brandon for the very nice and comprehensive review of the T’Gaal sharpener from Holbein. This is a real staff favorite here at Wet Paint and we were hoping to give this unique sharpener some attention to a community that can really appreciate it.
We’ve had it at a promotion price thru December 31st, and it’s been such a hit that we are currently out of stock– we have more on order and expect them to arrive after Jan 1. Although at that time our price will return to list price ($14.50), we’d like to extend our holiday promotion price exclusively for those visiting your site through the month of January.
Simply have your visitors to type “BB review” in the comments section of their Wet Paint order during January and we’ll give them the discount price of $9.99. Of course any orders taken this week will automatically receive the holiday price.
Thanks again– I’m glad there are websites like yours out there!”