Cool, Blue Sun-Star Pencil Gear, Part II.

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Sun-Star Sect Cylindrical Multi Pencil Sharpener
The sharpener is a cool little device. A dial clicks into five positions, giving you, in effect, five point options, from needle-sharp to pretty blunt. I have never owned a blade sharpener like this, and it’s a cool little device. The dial moves the sharpener inside of the body toward or away from the pencil you are trying to sharpen. If it’s far enough away, you can’t feed enough of your pencil through to get a very sharp point, which is ideal for fragile pencils like charcoal and colored pencils.

This is the sharpest point, #1. This is a nice angle, and the shavings were easily removed from this pencil.

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This is the most blunt point, #5. I did find that numbers 3-5 were all pretty blunt, while #1 to #2 and #2 to #3 were pretty big jumps.

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The sharpener itself is a nice blue plastic pocket sharpener. The issue I had was that cleaning it is a chore, if you use it more than a few times without emptying it. We don’t usually carry around the shavings from a dozen pencils, certainly, but this one holds some touch-ups and one or two starts from an unsharpened point before it clogs. The blade came sharp, but it is not replaceable. If you’re looking for a long-term relationship full of new blades, this is not the sharpener for you. But if you want to try an adjustable sharpener that really does make different points and that looks nice to boot, this is the one for you. And, think about it; getting to that $25 free shipping mark never looked so…blue.

Cool, Blue Sun-Star Pencil Gear, Part I.

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Jet Pens sent some cool stuff our way a few weeks ago, and we’ve got a report. These are all blue Sun-Star items, and blue serves these pieces well. We’ll review the sharpener in more detail tomorrow.

Now, we have published a few pieces about mechanical pencils on this site. But I have never written one. I know embarrassingly little about them, and the Bic Matic is probably one of my favorites. So forgive me if I botch the terminology or am completely off the wall.

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Sun-Star Knock Free Sharp Mechanical Pencil
I liked this pencils as soon as I opened it for just the colors and form-factor. I love the ferrule and the band going around it, and the dimensions of the pencil are very nice. Recognized that color scheme: GOLDEN BEAR.What makes this pencil unique is the fact that the pressure of it being put down onto the paper “clicks” it, causing it to feed more lead to you and, in turn, to your paper. I thought it seemed a little…gimicky. But it actually works. I usually write in cursive, and the feed system was able to keep up with my standardish Catholic school script. The lead and eraser worked well, and the whole package comes with a replacement cartridge to boot. This is a nice add-on for a Jet Pens order, for sure.

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Sun-Star Bode Electric Eraser
The battery-operated eraser sort of baffles me. It’s, well…cute, and it doesn’t vibrate enough to make me lose my grip. But I feel like there was a trade-off somewhere in the material which the eraser itself is made. It feels soft, but it’s not. It wouldn’t hold together with the motor turning it against paper it the rubber was very soft. It’s a bit hard, but smooth. It works in tight places, which is, I assume, the attraction of such a sharpener. It doesn’t erase as well as a top-notch plastic eraser, but what does? The design is nice, and I suspect that it would be even more usefull with a better piece of “rubber” in there. I haven’t had a chance to cut something new, but if Comrades have any ideas, I am keen to do some cutting.

Review of Sonic Ratchetta Sharpener.


Apologies for the lapse in posts these past few days, and many thanks for those who sent well wishes. Today, we have the Ratchetta sharpener, sent to us for free from the fine folks at Jet Pens. Sonic makes an entire line of these sharpeners, including three colors that have an adjustable point dial, which would be fun to test as well. We are reviewing here the orange model with an auto-stop feature built in.

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This is a pretty…fancy pocket sharpener; so I’ll quote from Jet Pens:

“The innovative ratchet mechanism in Sonic’s Ratchetta pencil sharpener makes hand-sharpening your pencils quick and easy. You no longer need to repeatedly let go and re-grip the pencil while sharpening! Simply rotating the pencil back and forth does the job. The mechanism is similar to that of a ratcheting screwdriver. The Ratchetta also has a compartment for shavings, and a lid for covering the pencil hole when not in use.

This Notification sharpener has a button that you press down before sharpening. As you sharpen, when your pencil point is sharp and ready, the button pops up with a click sound, notifying you that you are done sharpening. Thus your pencils are saved from over-sharpening.”

Honestly, I forgot about the ratcheting action for the first few rounds with this sharpener, and I was already impressed. The points produced are of a nice angle (think KUM wedge), but they even resemble those excellent points produced by a brass bullet sharpener. The blade is sharp and stable. I’m not sure if it is replaceable, but it would surprise me if there is nowhere on earth to get them. The ratcheting mechanism is pretty neat, and it caught Pencil Revolution Contributor Dan‘s attention for a long while the last time we went for a night bike ride and chai tea on the stoop. It’s smooth and quiet, and I could definitely stand for it to be louder, just for kicks.

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The compartment door and the pencil-hole-cover close tightly and open smoothly. Honestly, this sharpener feels like it costs a lot more than $3.30. I’d venture to say that only a Seriously Sharpening Comrade without access to a trashcan, tinderbox or compost pile would need to store more shavings than this little guy can hold. Still, it remains very pocket-friendly.

Another interesting part of this sharpener is its “Notification.” There is a little button you press (the green one, pictured above) in. It stays in. When your pencil is sharp, it pops out with a nicely audible notification. It’s not often that a nice feature like this is included in a pocket sharpener, and less often that it actually works.

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The pin is pushed by the sharp pencil point until it nudges the button.

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It pops up, and you have a lovely, sharp point.

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(Faber-Castell Bonanza and Palomino Blackwing 602, auto-pointed with a ratcheting flavor.)

This is definitely a sharpener for The People. It’s inexpensive, unique, and it even has an auto-stop. My daughter might find that Santa picks up the pink one for Christmas. Above all, it sharpens well! And it holds enough shavings to smell wonderfully after a few days. We held off publishing this review for a week or two until they were back in stock, and I don’t expect them to be for long. The orange one is perfect for autumn, but there are a few other colors as well.

 

Review of KUM Tip-Top Pop Pencil Cap & Sharpener.

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That’s a mouthful, but this is a tool that, as my brother Tom might say, “gets ‘er done.” This is, in short, a very inexpensive version of The Perfect Pencil. This baby leaves your pencil Perfectly Portable, with an eraser cap, extender and sharpener all in one. Honestly, I use mine as a point protector/sharpener for pocket carrying. But the eraser is pretty good, as we’ll see.

This baby gives you a very short point. To give it a fair shake and a good test, I murdered the point of a Palomino with my trusty mid-90s Leatherman. I considered taking a shot of whiskey or getting my wife to hold my hand while I did this. But I didn’t want to catch my hand in those jaws. I have a chip on one of my front teeth from tightening the screw on this thing in 1999. The things a Pencil Blogger must do!

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This item used to show up as the Scribble sharpener (see review here). I like this design better. The colors are a bit…bright. But the blue matches my favorite style of Palomino pretty well. They also come in green, yellow (more like gold) and pink and are available on Amazon, but I got mine at Pencils.com for $2.95. Alberto already reviewed this version, and Comrades should check out his review, which features much better photos than I have here.

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The cap houses a pencil sharpener than pulls out of the top end. One could sharpener the pencil with the sharpener in place, in the cap. But I don’t think it would hold more than one sharpening’s worth of shavings. I remove the sharpener to use it, though it is a little difficult to find a place to grip it that way. The blade is screwed in, but I suspect this is a sharpener whose blade will prove difficult to find replacements for. I tell myself that this item will get smashed or lost before I dull the blade, so long as I only use it on the go. Since I usually sharpener my pocket pencil before leaving my house, this might be the case. Anyway, the sharpener fits nicely into the cap, and the plug hits home and stays there.

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In use, the cap fits very tightly onto most pencils. I have held the following pencils with success:

All current Blackwings
Palomino Blue
Faber-Castell Castell 9000
Staedtler Mars
Staedtler Wopex

Without success (pencil was too thin):

Dixon Ticonderoga (several versions) Edit: I fitted a Dixon Black by pushing it in pretty fare. There’s a little play, though, and the point hits the sharpener in the cap.
Faber-Castell Grip 2001

That is certainly not an exhaustive list, just the pencils I have tried, i.e., could reach on the table or in the box on the table. I should note that the pencil does not enter into the cap very far. This extends a very short pencil very well, but it does little to make a medium-length pencil fit into a pocket. For making stubs usable and for fitting a pencil into one’s pocket without the fear of a vampire-death by impaling, this cap is the ticket. The included pencil is even a little long.

Speaking of which, the pencil this set comes with is a nice one. It’s matte black, round, uncapped and has a nice lead that feels like a Castell 9000 2B to me. The eraser works better than the ones on the backs of the pencils I’ve tried it with, though it wears away quickly. I wouldn’t buy it for the eraser. To me, the pencil and eraser were free with the interesting cap/sharpener.

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As I mentioned above, this sharpener makes one short point. While I’m not generally a fan of such points, I can live with this. For one, a blunt point is the one I want in my shirt pocket or my hip pocket while on my bike. This is certainly just a “mental thing,” but I’m sure I’ve mentioned my abiding fear of Pencil Impalement before. Also, this cap’s utility makes whatever point it wants to give up more than good enough for me. If I will be away from home long enough to dull more than one pencil, I generally carry more than one pencil. But if I need more, forget one, or break that sum-gun, this cap will certainly help. Plus: it just looks way cooler than a small plastic point protector.

This little set is a winner, and at that price, definitely worth a spot in the pockets of Comrades everywhere.

Review of Helix Pencil Top Sharpener Combo.

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I found these at Office Depot during back-to-school shopping season. They cost $0.99 for a pack of two with one yellow pencil. I figured these were certainly worth a chance, and I am happy I bought more than one pack.

These are marketed as a combo-solution. There is a plastic sharpener encased within a rubbery housing. The housing is an eraser. To boot, one can use this as a semi-efficient point protector; turning the pencil in such a situation sharpens it a bit. I can’t find the item on Helix’s website, since they are now part of Maped. I’ve seen a few Maped items at USA stores lately, and I am hoping they might bring their pencils here.

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The sharpener is actually pretty good, giving a point similar in angle to a standard wedge sharpener. I tested a very cheap pencil first, as these are generally difficult to sharpen. The shavings came off in a nice long ribbon, which I found very surprising for some reason. I suppose that this item smacked of being “gimmicky” with its price and bizzarre design. Designing two items which are eaten away in use (sharpener that goes dull and an eraser that goes to dust) together is pretty smart, and it echoes the ephemeral nature of a wooden pencil itself.

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The screw is designed to not be removable (for safety, I assume). So replacing the blades looks impossible. At $0.50 each, though, this is not terrible — doubly so because so much of the material is usable as an eraser.

Speaking of the eraser — I’m not sure we’ve ever actually reviewed erasers. Part of this is that I just don’t like them. Or, at least, I used to not like them. They reminded me of nuns standing over my shoulder looking angry that my math homework was sloppy (though correct!). I think I’m over that now (sigh). And this is unavoidable anyway. We can’t review this without mentioning the eraser.

For another surprise, I’m, well, surprised by how well the eraser works! The performance on the black one I tested feels like a Black Pearl or black Factis. But it erases better, with with less effort.

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While it is unremarkable looking at best (I think it’s more…ugly), the pencil the set comes with is not bad. It produces a nice, dark line, though the finish is pretty disappointing. The label is already coming off. The UK versions have pencils which coordinate with the sharpeners, but all of the US versions I have seen only have yellow pencils. (Go figure.)

So this set winds up coming with a decent (if ugly) pencil and two good sharpeners held by excellent erasers. All for a buck. I was surprised by the quality of each item/function. Comrades, this eraser and sharpener combo is a keeper. Nab some, if you can find them. I’m not linking to sellers, but I’ve seen very good deals on eBay…

Upcoming Reviews.

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In the last few days, we took delivery of a few nice new sharpeners we will be reviewing in the next week or two (or three). Pictured above, the Sonic Ratchetta, sent over by Jet Pens for review. They are out of stock; so we will hold publishing our review until Comrades can actually get their hands on one of these babies.

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We also have the KUM Longpoint magnesium block sharpener and the Helix sharpener/eraser found during back-to-school shopping. This is a pencil-topper styled sharpener that was super cheap.

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Finally, we have the KUM Tip-Top Pop sharpener, a Perfect Pencil-ish topper/cap/extender/sharpener in plastic. I bought the blue to match my blue Palominos.

Not pictured: The Graf von Faber Perfect Pencil that Faber-Castell sent over for review a few weeks ago. I am really excited about this one!

From the Archives, Early Sharpener Reviews.

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For one reason or another, we haven’t reviewed very many sharpeners (and no erasers?) on Pencil Revolution in all these years. We’ll give more frequent sharpener/sharpening posts a shot. In the meantime, here are some of our earliest sharpener reviews, in honor of our 8th blog birthday.

Our first sharpener review, of the Trooper, the KUM wedge.


The Dux Inkwell sharpener review, by Ana.


Review of General’s 3-in-1 sharpener, by Gary.

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The Boston Bulldog review, by Gordon.


The T’Gaal sharpener review, by Bill.

Drill Bit Pencil Sharpener.

[Today's post comes from Comrade Logan.  Thanks to Logan for a great post about an....interesting product.]

When I first saw the drill powered pencil sharpener on Notcot I was vaguely disturbed by it, but I wasn’t sure why.  On the practical side, if you regularly find yourself with an unsharpened round or hex pencil in one hand and a drill in the other, this gizmo will effectively sharpen your pencil in about 5 seconds.

Lets look at the pro’s and con’s:

Pro – low effort; makes big cool shavings; you get to use a drill; bright color so it won’t get lost easily; cheap ($4 for 1 sharpener & 15 pencils at Lowe’s); useable without the drill for resharpening; could sharpen a dozens of pencils in no time without the overheating problems most inexpensive electric sharpeners have.

Con – doesn’t work with carpenter’s pencils; round so it would roll off a table or roof easily; could be awkward to use with larger drills; construction site folks don’t usually need a finely pointed round pencil.

Upon further reflection, I think my issue with the drill sharpener is that I really enjoy using a hand crank sharpener for initial sharpening, and a blade sharpener for resharpening. But what do I know? I’m not the target market for the product.

That in mind, I asked two friends about it. One is a former construction worker; the other restores furniture professionally. Thumbs down from both. The construction worker only used carpenter’s pencils, and only sharpened with a utility knife: “I bought a square pencil sharpener once, used it one time and never bothered again. Finding it in my tool box and using it was slower than just carving a point with my utility knife, which I always had on me. It would take even longer to find this thing, take out the bit that was in the drill, put it in the chuck, use it, then replace the other bit. Besides, you don’t need a sharp pencil for marking boards.” The furniture restorer wasn’t any hotter on the idea. He uses finely pointed pencils for his detailed woodworking, but always works in a shop, so he has an electric sharpener on his workbench.

Not that it isn’t an interesting sharpener. In fact, I’d probably pick one up next time I was at Lowe’s if it didn’t come bundled with 15 generic HB pencils that would just take up space in my already overflowing pencil drawer. Hopefully there’s some other application it is perfect for that I haven’t thought of.

Suggestions?

[Text, L.L. Used with kind permission.]

Review of Classroom Friendly Pencil Sharpener.


A few months ago, Troy contacted us about reviewing the Classroom Friendly Pencil Sharpener, a burr-type sharpener that boasts smooth and quiet sharpening and quality construction. We took delivery of this heavy-duty green sharpener this fall and have put it through lots of tests with lots of pencils. And, golly, we have not reviewed a sharpener in ages! This is a very worthy harbinger of further sharpener reviews.  This machine is great.

Vitals:
Type: Single burr, 8mm hole.
Material: Metal body, mechanics and handle, with plastic tray and small parts.
Shavings Receptacle: Large, clear plastic tray.
Point Type: Very long.
Markings: “Pencil Sharpener”.
Place of Manufacture: ???
Availability: Official website and Ebay store..

This is, frankly, a big and heavy sharpener. I’ve heard tell of devoted Comrades carrying burr sharpeners around with them for their daily writing needs. I never do that myself. What I look for in a crank/burr sharpener is metal construction and heft, frankly. I like that this sharpener is burly and solid. It comes with mounting hardware, but I’ve never used it. Since the clips hold your pencil in place, you only need one hand to hold the body still while you crank out a nice, long (LONG) point.  You can even hold the machine in your hand (or on your lap) with one hand, while the other cranks the handle.

Watch a video of the sharpener in action.

One of the best features of this sharpener is its auto-stop. The teeth/clamp feed the pencil into the burr mechanism. You turn the crank. The pencil gets sharpened. If you are my age and remember the old sharpeners we had in school that would just eat your pencil if you didn’t stop turning the crank, you might be relieved with this sharpener. When the point is achieved, the feeder stops, and turning the crank doesn’t engage the blade any longer. I put this to the test with some completely new pencils. The auto-stop kept the pencils from getting shorter at all. On very close inspection, the graphite at the point still retains the flatness of its unsharpened state just enough to see with very good eyes. It’s sharp like a pencil, not like a pin — there are no minuscule points that will crumble immediately.  This sharpener does not eat pencils.

Speaking of the point, it makes a KUM Longpoint look…stubby.  If you like a really, really long point but are not particularly adept at whittling your pencils with a blade/knife, this might be just the sharpener for you.  Below, from left to right, are unfinished “sample” pencils with points from: Classroom Friendly Sharpener; KUM 2-step Longpoint; KUM brass wedge.  (Note the pin points on the KUMs which are ready to break off.

The smooth cranking action and sharp burrs really place this in the realm of very quiet sharpeners. When I think of the wall-mounted, decades-old behemoths that used to eat my pencils in grade school, I wish heartily that the good sisters of St. Thomas had one of these green beauties around.  The wall-mounted monstrosities were loud enough to silence even very loud math lessons from Sr. Teresa Mary.

This machine is not flawless. If there’s one thing that bothers me, it’s the teeth that grip your pencil for sharpening. This sharpener might not eat pencils the way that some burr machines do, but it does bite them a bit. This varied from indentations in thickly lacquered pencils to mini-holes in old Mirados. However, since a pencil is a tool that, by its very design, gets sharpened away anyway, these bite marks are overshadowed by what a great point you can get and how nicely this sharpener is built. I showed this to my good pal, and he said the same thing as me: So what?  It’s a pencil for writing/drawing.  And, for the record, he sharpened his pocket pencil with it and immediately wanted to know where to get one.

As it stands, it’s my favorite crank/burr sharpener to date.  I really like the vaguely retro looks of the chrome and green paint, and the metal body and heavy construction leave me thinking that my 8 1/2-month old daughter will wind up using this for school at some point.  I keep mine out in the open because it’s a handsome piece, and I definitely intend to pick up a second unit for my office.

EasyRiter writing gear.


With National Novel Writing Month fast approaching, some Comrades might be flirting with the idea of writing a novel longhand –  or, at least, parts.  We’re planning on featuring some equipment to make this easier on Comrades’ hands and spirits.

First up is some very interesting gear from Idea Sun in the UK.  John sent us an Easyriter pencil, sharpener and pen, gratis, for review.  First, the pencil.

Vitals:
Material: Extruded plastic, with wood pulp.
Shape: Triangular, concave/flat sides.
Finish: None.
Ferrule: None.
Eraser: None.
Core: Polymer/graphite composite. Available in #2/HB.
Markings: “EASYRITER…IDEASUN.COM”.
Origin: UK.
Availability: From IdeaSun.Com and brick and mortar retailers.


This is a very striking pencil.  As  you can see, it is very plain and very oddly-shaped.  What you cannot see is that it is also somewhat flexible.  This is due to the fact that the lead and barrel are both extruded plastic.  This marks a first for Pencil Revolution, where we usually seem stuck-up enough to only discuss wooden pencils (and usually only cedar at that).  But that doesn’t mean that there is no place for plastic.  The “wood” in the Easyriter is made of recycled wood, mixed with polymer.  At first glance, it looked like a large, weird golf pencil.  It’s nothing fancy to look at.

But that’s not the point of the Easyriter.  Rather, its shape mimics the grasp of a three-fingered pencil hold.  We’ve seen this general concept applied to different triangular pencils.  But the Easyriter takes it a step further.  The three sides are not equally-shaped.  One is flat (the part that meets your middle finger), while the other two are concave.  Because of this innovation, increased pressured merely squooshes your fingers into one other, not into the pencil.  This wide pencil is, honestly, incredibly comfortable for writing.  The woodpulp/polymer barrel provides a nice grip, and the pencil is also extremely lightweight.  And, while I’m not generally a fan of plastic pencils, this pencil would be ridiculously expensive to make out of wood, since each one would have to be shaped either by hand or by special machinery.  The wood pulp content does make you forget, and it’s got a nice texture.  The lead is surprisingly dark for a polymer pencil, and it’s nice and smooth.  I’d rate the darkness in general as pretty middle for an HB (Dixon-dark), and that says a lot with an extruded core.  I usually have to hammer those things to make a mark at all.  If you have to press too hard to make a mark, this pencil would defeat its own purpose.  But.  You don’t, and it doesn’t.  The lead is probably the best extruded cored pencil I’ve ever used.

I really like the included sharpener.  It’s a large-diameter sharpener, but with only one hole!  [Here it is next to one of my favorite sharpeners, a KUM brass wedge.]  John at IdeaSun tells us that it’s a stock item from India but they they are thinking of using their own specs in the future.  This is the only single-holed, large diameter sharpener I’ve ever used, and I hope that, if they do re-spec it, they keep this general design.

Technical Information (For Sharpener):
Type: Blade.
Material: Magnesium-alloy.
Shavings Receptacle: None.
Point Type: Medium (for wide-body pencils).
Markings: None.
Place of Manufacture: India.
Availability: From IdeaSun.Com.


Frankly, it’s a great sharpener, and I think the Dixon Tri-Conderoga would have been better with this than with the cheap-looking (though nicely-performing) plastic sharpener with which they come.  Sharpening is not as easy as with a round pencil, as is the case with most triangular pencils.  In fact, my first sharpening with the included sharpener was a little awkward because the angles of the factory sharpening were different that what this cool little sharpener was making.  After the first sharpening, however, it was smooth-going.  Triangular pencils produce really interesting shavings (see here for a great photo by Comrade Mark).  This pencil makes extremely cool-looking little shavings.  And, once you get the point in line with the included sharpener, they are long and smooth, just like sharpening a cedar pencil in a good wedge sharpener.  You certainly have to take care because of the severe angles.  But I am usually a careful sharpener anyway.

There’s also an Easyriter pen, if you just have to use dirty old ink (!). Actually, it’s got a nice weight and feel and is at least as comfortable as the pencil is to write with. My father was visiting my daughter and I for lunch (dill potato soup!) the day that the package came, and I think he was coveting the pen (he cannot use pencil at work).  It’s a black ballpoint pen with the same shape as the pencil.

If you’re thinking of doing some loooonnnngggg writing next month for National Novel Writing Month, you might seriously enjoy the Easyriter pencil (and pen).  If nothing else, it’s just a really cool, really comfortable pencil.  I can picture these in different colors, with capped ends being very attractive.  A ferrule might be nearly impossible (without being very expensive), but different colors (black!) with a dipped end and no factory sharpening, and this pencil could be quite beautiful.  As it stands now, it’s, again, COMFORTABLE, and that’s the point.

Review of KUM Automatic Long Point Sharpener.

Finally, another sharpener review! This piece is courtesy of our good friend and pencil champion Woodchuck.

KUM and California Republic Stationers have collaborated to introduce a special edition Palomino Long Point Sharpener. This is an adaptation of the premium “Automatic” Long Point sharpener from KUM that features a two step process to acheiving a perfect point. The first step sharpens just the wood leaving the graphite core mostly untouched for step two; sharpening the graphite core to a fine even point. Normally available in a translucent red finish this special edition is translucent orange to complement the Palomino graphite pencil range.

Type: Dual 8mm holes – to sharpen regularly-sized pencils in two steps.
Blade Material: 2 Steel blades (plus 2 replacement blades included).
Shavings Receptacle: Translucent orange plastic with clear plastic hinged lid; oval profile.
Point Type: Long Point (approx 2.3cm from sharpend pencil point to lacquer coat 0.5cm exposed graphite core).
Markings: “Palomino California Republic Stationers” is imprinted in gold on side of the sharpener; “KUM Automatic Long Point” appears on the clear lid with “Made in Germany” on the bottom.
Physical Size: Approximately 2 1/2 inches long X 1 1/2 wide X 1 inch high.
Availability: Palomino Limited Edition through Pencil World Creativity Store; standard KUM Automatic online at Pencilthings.com, Dick Blick and art and office supply stores.

Prior to being exposed to this two-step sharpener I was a devotee of the KUM metal wedge sharpeners favoring either the magnesium two hole or a block type one hole sharpener. I have several varieties of these, both with and without various container formats. I’ve even gone so far as to string a two hole magnesium wedge sharpener to a lanyard for use during fishing trips. I still enjoy the range of magnesium wedge sharpeners for the simplicity, and the clean, short points when I’m using a Golden Bear or Prospector around the house or office.

However, I’ll no longer touch my Palominos with anything but this Long Point sharpener. It provides a fine, crisp point that lasts longer between sharpenings than the wedge point. The feel and performance when writing or sketching is just great. While it does take a bit more care to protect the sharper point for the first few minutes of use than the more blunt wedge shape of other sharpeners, it’s worth the effort. This sharpener also makes the pencil look so much more of a premium product, much better than our initial factory sharpening which does the best job we can do without hand sharpening and creating a higher risk of damage during shipment. If I could find a way to provide the Palominos with this quality point straight from the factory without any damage I’d do it in a minute.

Each sharpener comes with two spare blades and a cardboard case with operating instructions on the two-step sharpening process. The blades are interchangeable, as it’s the design and precision milling of the light magnesium alloy that positions the pencil relative to the blade to achieve a perfect pencil point. The screw-mounted blades are held absolutely immovable, do not loosen, and the pencil does not wobble while turning. Since you’re sharpening the graphite alone in the second step, you can get to a great point purely by feel as you can really sense the lighter resistance of the graphite on the steel blade.

One thing I still don’t quite understand is the name “Automatic”. Though it was explained to me as something to do with the autostop feature so that the 1st step of sharpening the wood alone does not oversharpen the pencil, it seems to me this is really a manual sharpener. Thus the “Automatic” terminology seems a bit out of place, and for our purposes we have dropped the Automatic name from our eBay listing.

KUM produces two standard styles. A red version which is just the same as this Palomino limited edition and blue version which adds a 0.5mm mechanical lead pointer to one side. Both are available through PencilThings.com and other places online.

As far as this special edition Palomino Long Point version is concerned I was first introduced to this sharpener back in January at the Frankfurt PaperWorld fair during a meeting with KUM Owner and Managing Director Fritz Luettgens. I knew immediately I had to pair it with our Palomino pencils to ensure our users had the opportunity to experience the best sharpened point in the world with our fine quality pencils. The whole group at KUM was great to work with and patiently created a series of color variations until we got just what we wanted, a nice translucent orange with our gold California Republic Palomino imprint on one side.

[Images and text, Woodchuck.  Used with very kind permission.]

Review of General’s 3-in-1 sharpener.

This review is from Gary Varner from Inkmusings.  Many many thanks to Comrade Gary! 

The General’s 3-in-1 Pencil Sharpener:  Form AND Function?

What’s about $5, doesn’t make a mess, and even keeps colored lead shavings from staining your Palomino? Why, the General 3-in-1 Pencil Sharpener, that’s what! But before you run down to your local art supply to pick up one, there’s some good news and bad news.

First, the technical specifications:

Type:  Three blades, double receptacle.
Blade material: Steel.
Shavings Receptacle:  Two plastic snap-off cups.
Point Type: 5/16” pencils on colored pencil side, 7/16″ and 3/8″ pencils on lead pencil side.
Markings: “Made in Germany” on bottom, “Color” on colored pencil cup lid,”Made in Germany” on metal blades.
Physical size:  2-1/2″ high, 1-5/8″ wide.
Availability: Online at most art supply sites; local art supply; some office supply stores.

And now, the good news:  the General 3-in-1 definitely scores points for form. The halves snap together solidly and keep any debris from messing up your pocket or backpack. Snap the sharpener open, and there’s a side for colored pencils (yellow) and a double sharpener for non-colored (orange). Separation means your colored pencils won’t gum up the sharpeners for your serious pencils. The black receptacle caps snap off easily to empty the shavings cups, and while not holding a lot, they certainly help when you’re places you don’t want to make a mess. All of this combines into one compact, portable sharpening solution.

So does it score as well for function? Not exactly. The quality of sharpening is okay, but not great. Colored pencils seem fine, but harder lead tends to chatter a bit in turning, but with practice produces a decent point. And that’s the bad news, although not terrible news.

Ah, comrades, don’t despair: the Revolution is all about finding a better way. There is a simple hack that will make this sharpener with its snap-cups and multi-point versatility, a “must take” tool. With a flick of your fingernail lift the plastic stops (see photo), remove the orange double blade, and replace it with a KUM double-holed wedge. NOW you’ve got a heckuva sharpener, and you won’t incur the wrath of your wife/girlfriend/boyfriend/roommate for getting shavings all over the carpet.

Life is good.

[Text and images, G.V. Used with kind permission.]

Review of Dux Inkwell sharpener.


It’s been too long since we posted a review, and Ana from Snow Angels was kind enough to write a review of a great sharpener that I also own — and has taken some fantastic photos to boot!

Technical info:
Type: Blade.
Material: Glass and metal, mostly steel.
Shavings Receptacle: Glass inkwell, available in an assortment of translucent colors.
Point Type: Medium.
Markings: “DUX DX2580N Alvin Made in Germany” on the lid; “DUX Germany” (on sharpener body); blade is not labelled.
Place of Manufacture: Germany.
Availability: Art supply shops; online at Utrecht, Alvin Co., Daniel Smith and others.

Originally, when I saw the luminescent-colored, glass inkwells in the art supply shop, I was disappointed to discover that they were not functional inkwells. I do a lot of hand lettering for work and I was really hoping to find a solid inkwell to store my favorite inks. After I accepted that I would have to keep using cheap plastic bottles for my ink needs, I quickly warmed to the idea of an inkwell sharpener. The colors were beautiful, and the sharpeners had the weight and aesthetics to be genuine desk accesories.

Overall the sharpener seemed to be supremely functional. A standard, silver-metal blade sharpener is mounted into the black cap and is fitted with a stainless steel blade. The cap twists off easily to empty shavings. The sharpener fits easily into my hand and its attractive enough to earn a coveted spot on my desk. The sharpener also detached from the cap via two screws.

The true test of any pencil sharpener, of course, is how well it works and I am pleased to say that this is an excellent sharpener. It sharpens smoothly into long curls and sharpens to a good point — though, in a perfect world, I wish it would sharpen to a slightly longer point. The inkwell holds plenty of shavings and since the container is translucent, its easy to tell when its full.

I got my sharpener at Utrecht art supply for about $5. Many other online art supply shops list them for prices ranging from about $5 to about $8.50. Unfortunately, most online vendors do not offer shoppers the opportunity to select a specific color so I recommend scouting around your nearest art supply shop in order to pick your favorite color. The colors listed are red, blue, amber, or green.


I would recommend this sharpener to anyone looking for a nice, tidy desk sharpener. It holds plenty of shavings and look fabulous while doing it.

(Ed.: Extra blades can also be fitted and purchased from Alvin Co.)

[Images, (c) Ana Reinert, 2006. All rights reserved. Used with very kind permission.]

Review of T’GAAL sharpener.

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
Type: Blade.
Material: Plastic.
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.


Figure 2 The compact T’GAAL sharpener.

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.


Figure 3 The T’GAAL Multisharpener.

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.)

Figures 4 and 5 The T’GAAL package.

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.

Addition:
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!”

Review of Boston Bulldog Sharpener.

Gordon Coale was very kind in writing the review of the Boston Bulldog sharpener for us (which also appears on his site here).

Technical Information
Type: Blade.
Material: Plastic.
Shavings Receptacle: Barrel.
Point Type: Long-Point.
Markings: “BOSTON” (body).
Place of Manufacture: Made in China, by Hunt Mfg. Co.
Availability: Office Max stores and Mister Art, among other sources.

“The heartbreak of a pencil sharpener.”

This is the second time I’ve written this review of the hand held Boston rotating lid pencil sharpener.

The little Boston hand held sharpener has a lot of things going for it. This biggest thing is that it has a container to hold the shavings. Even better, it has a rotating top that keeps the shavings inside.

It’s big enough to hold a fair amount of shavings but small enough to fit in a pocket. It also puts a nice long point on the lead and the barrel shape makes it comfortable to hold while sharpening. However, there was one teensy drawback. I wrote the first review as I did this one, with my California Republic Palomino HB in my Moleskine notebook. I was almost finished when the little Boston sharpener started to eat my Palomino. The blade had gone dull.
No continuous curls of shaved wood — just sawdust and a broken lead. Oh, heartbreak! Was this relationship to end when it had barely begun? Apparently.

The blade was attached with a screw which means that the blade could be replaced if only I could find a replacement. I Googled high and low, and not a single replacement blade was to be found. I was looking for a long term relationship with my pencil sharpener, and now it appears that I will be forced into a series of short term relationships and one night stands as I search the seedy environs of drug stores and supermarkets for the cheap plastic thrills they offer. I can’t do this. I want a good sharpener that I can settle down with and make shavings.

So I Googled for a sharpener with replaceable blades. There isn’t much. Staedtler had some hand held pencil sharpeners with replaceable blades but I couldn’t find anyone who carried the sharpener and the blades. What has this world come to?

Then I found the hand held sharpeners at Alvin — a fine assortment of spiffy sharpeners and their replaceable blades. Unfortunately, Alvin only sells the sharpeners in blister packs containing many sharpeners. I’m afraid I can’t afford a polygamous relationship with many sharpeners. I am a one sharpener kind of guy. But they did sell the blades in affordable 3 packs. Alvin has Alvin and Kum sharpeners. The Kum sharpeners had a variety of models with containers. The Alvin brand has some nice metal ones including the sublime Bullet, a sharpener reduced to it’s essentials.

I searched the web for an Alvin or Kum sharpener and it’s replaceable blades. I only found two sites, and the selection on both sites was minimal. Oh, where will I find the sharpener meant for me? Maybe there is hope. I had an exchange of emails with Charles Berolzheimer, aka WoodChuck the pencil pusher, President of California Cedar Products Company, from whom all Palomino pencils flow, and I spilled my heart out to him about my fruitless search for a long term relationship type of pencil sharpener. He is going to see what he can do at the Pencil World Creativity Store. Good luck WoodChuck!

Maybe some day in the near future there will be the pencil sharpener of my dreams nestled in my pocket ready to make shavings. A guy can hope.

Many many thanks, Gordon! Be sure to check out Gordon’s other post about pencils and Moleskines.

[Text and images, G.C. Used with kind permission. First image, J.G.]

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