(The new Leatherman e301.)

Sharpening a pencil can be the best or the worst part of pencilship, depending largely on one’s preferred method of pointing the pencil. Raven writes in about sharpening by straight blade:

“In the midst of this long discussion of pencil sharpeners, let us not forget the humble pocket knife. I was taught to sharpen pencils with a knife as a small girl, and I’ve never looked back. True, you have to keep the knife sharp, and figure out what to do with the shavings, and make other arrangements when you fly — but look at the advantages: 1. You probably already have one, or can pick one up from your local hardware store. No hunting around on the net for the perfect instrument or the perfect supplier. 2. Some manual skill is required, but the skill is easily learned. 3. It’s completely silent. 4. It impresses the heck out of people when you quietly and in an off-hand manner begin sharpening your pencil with a knife. I have not explored the potential for deflecting a boring or toxic conversation, but give me time….”

Is anyone else a fan of the blade?

[Image, J.G.]

22 Replies to “Blades!”

  1. This particular Leatherman has a locking liner and cool finger-flip action, in addition to the thumb-stud. The coolest thing is the caribiner/bottle opener that comes out of the other hand:) Bass Ale and a sharp pencil — can’t beat that!

  2. I have my grandfather’s Buck knife with me all the time, which means I sharpen many pencils with it. Speaking from personal experience, it is possible to literally silence a business meeting by pulling out a knife and slowly making a pile of shavings on the conference table. It’s not threatening (not with this knife, at least), but tactile, sensual, masculine (sorry), and real. When discussing sales of enterprise content management systems, those qualities are otherwise entirely absent.

    Plus, I can make the point of my pencil exactly how I want it to be: long and pointy or stubby and pointy.

    Another benefit is that the attention required to sharpen with a blade allows the rest of my brain to stew for a while, and good ideas can better ferment and bubble to the surface. So sharpening with a blade makes you smarter.

  3. The inexpensive X-acto 3208 utility knife is very handy for stationery-related cutting. It is very lightweight, low-profile (small and flat), and doesn’t look intimidating. I guess I could sharpen a pencil using just the X-acto, but I usually only use it to whittle a pencil sufficiently to reveal a workable cone of wood — a typical handheld metal sharpener can then take over. I never felt comfortable risking prematurely blunting the blade of a handheld sharpener on the initial whittling…

  4. The blade should be handlable with one hand, your dominant one presumably. Use the other hand to hold and rotate the pencil as you shave off slices of wood from the pencil, enough to expose about 2 to 3 mm of raw lead. You have be dextrous enough with the blade to cut just the wood and not the lead at this point (no pun).

    Then, when you have a goodly piece of lead showing, position the pencil, exposed lead down but at an otherwise comfortable angle, on a hard horizontal surface, and use the knife to scrape the lead in smooth downward strokes, rotating the pencil as you do so, till it attains a satisfactory point. Or: you could hold the pencil at about a 30-degree angle against something abrasive like sandpaper, and swipe back and forth, with rotation, till you get a point.

  5. Thank you for the “How to”? I am to clumsy! First I never got a good result and then I cut myself in the thumb. And my girlfriend looked at me like I am nuts. I prefer my metal wedge sharpener.

  6. i carry a Benchmade knife like Chris M. above. And I like pulling out the big blade which looks like a military blade, and hearing the room go silent!! Then I sharpen my 2B pencil!!!

  7. I used to carry a knife to sharpen my pencils, I learned how from my dad, and it was useful back in my drafting class days.

    But then I became a Computer Geek, travelling and going into government buildings. Carrying a knife became a hassle. So I switched to pens (Zebras! woo!).

    But lately as I have settled down into a more permanent position and no longer make calls, I have moved back to pencils. I carry a small pocketknife that if needed can sharpen the pencil quite nicely. I also have one of those snap-off razor knives in my coffee cup that I use for cutting cables, opening boxes and ..sharpening pencils.

    But really, I bought a few KUM wedge sharpeners a few weeks ago, and they fit in my pocket. Sharpen pencils quickly and effectively and don’t cause panic in the streets when I pull them out.

  8. In Life Drawing where I went to school the teacher insisted that there was no other way to sharpen a pencil. Conventional pencil sharpeners just didn’t make the led long enough for you to get decent line quality out of it.

  9. A point is a point is a point, no? What difference does it make if the length of lead immediately behind the point is exposed or still embedded in cedar?

  10. As an art teacher, I would like to add that for most CP work, we use the Crayola’s and Prange’s which the students are allowed to sharpen using the wall-mount. For more special work we might use the $1.00 apiece Prismacolors. Because of this, I have, installed a sensor that causes alarms to go off if any student approaches the wall mount with with a $1.00 apiece Prismacolor on their person. For that, I am sitting at the ready, with my 25+ year old exacto. With newer blades, of course. The exacto is for the pencil, NOT the students approaching the wall-mount with the Prismacolor. A sharp exacto is perfect enough to get the wood, leaving the “gold” alone, so as not to waste any of the precious lead.

  11. Yes! I have an old Remington pen knife that my husband gave me. I was dulling the heck out of the blade on my knife (a nearly new Buck) by sharpening my daughter’s pencils. His knife holds a better edge and I don’t have to go searching for the cheap sharpener I bought her.

  12. Glad to see so many people like me out here. I have two favorite knives for pens — a flat little Swiss Army knife and a Superknife (never heard of the latter? Google it). The little knife is less threatening, but the Superknife is the best. If you are just getting the knack of sharpening a pencil, a stiff and good sized blade is helpful, and it should be **very** sharp. The Superknife is great for this because it uses utility knife blades. Beware the beloved Dixon Ticonderoga though — the lead is really soft and tricky to sharpen if you are new at soft leads. Plus, I’ve found that pencil grips work nicely as guides for sharpening in that you can slide the grip up a bit and then rotate and resharpen.

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