Review of KUM Special Diameter Sharpener.

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Our friends at Jet Pens sent this in the early summer, and it somehow got left in the “drafts” folder. Summer vacation is officially over as of this morning, and it’s time to finally finish this review of the KUM Special Diameter Sharpener.

I was confused, at first, by the graphics on this sharpener. They show two triangular and two octagonal pencils, each of two sizes. With the triangular being first and the word “special,” my Summer Brain thought it meant that this sharpener was for differently shaped pencils. But the name clearly denotes differently sized pencils, and the innards support this — as does Common Sense and basic reading comprehension. The innards are simply a double-holed KUM wedge. This is not at all disappointing to me, since this is generally one of my go-to sharpeners, especially for Fat Pencils.

This sharpener is a covered wedge, with a mechanism of sorts which can slide over the holes, to prevent shavings and graphite dust from escaping. Here it is, unassembled.

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What you get is a very portable container sharpener that can sharpen nearly everything you’re likely to have on your person or in your bag or on your desk. In theory, I love it. But I thought I’d throw two sizes of a pencil which is…not as easy to sharpen as, say, a Ticonderoga — the obvious choice for differently-sized pencils of the same type. This is the Faber-Castell Grip 2001 and the Jumbo Grip. The former is certainly not cedar, but the latter is. However, being Fat and Triangular, it is not an easy pencil to sharpen in a blade sharpener.

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The sharpener itself did a great job, producing a semi-short point. However, as you can see below, the black plastic body of the case marred the finish on my Jumbo Grip. This is likely at least partly User Error; I basically stuck the pencil in and twisted it violently (as you can see, perhaps). But I am pleased with the point that the KUM wedge puts on Fat Pencils, for a nice, Stubby point. I usually keep my Fat Pencils a little more…blunt, but I wanted to see what this sharpener could produce.

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For the price (a little over $3), this is a great container sharpener. You might be able to see that I have scratched the clear plastic up, carrying it around a lot in my Diaper Bag and pocket. There are a few similar sharpeners from KUM floating around HQ. But they are not mine and not as “grown-up” looking as this little guy. Of course, you might ask how grown-up a man can look, using Fat Pencils. Certainly.

 

 

Review of Sun-Star Safety Pencil Knife.

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We received one of these Pencil Knives free of charge from Jet Pens a few weeks ago at HQ for reviewing. I have used this little knife for a while and have probably taken it to inappropriate places in my pocket over these weeks. So believe me when I tell you that this is a cool little knife, one that has been tested.
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First, it is a safety knife, but it is still a knife. Don’t give one to a toddler or someone with tiny fingers. That said, it is difficult to cut yourself with it if you are careful and use it for what it is meant for — sharpening pencils. I am a man who brings accidents down upon himself, and I haven’t cut myself with it yet.* This is a very pocket-friendly knife. It takes up about as much Volume Real Estate as a pocketknife, but it is very light. I literally forgot it was in my cargo shorts pocket on several occasions, almost leading to a Washing Machine Test. The blade assembly slides out and locks into place with a satisfying click, and there is a thumb indentation for ease of use.
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I want to stress that using this knife is very unlike using a regular pocketknife to sharpen a pencil. The blade is thinner and is curved. Because of the safety guard, you cannot chop off large hunks of wood or graphite from your pencil. This knife works in a sort of semi-shaving action, taking off small pieces of the pencil with each cut. This means that it takes some time to bring an unsharpened pencil to Readiness for Action. But it also means that there is a lot of room for error. Because it is so unlike a pocketknife and because it takes off so little of the pencil at a time, this is an ideal sharpener for someone who is interested in taking up knife sharpening but perhaps is nervous about losing a digit or is intimidated by slight difficulty of sharpening a pencil with a knife.
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After several weeks of use, my review unit is still working very well, without significant dullness or any rust. Certainly, replacement blades would be a boon to this system, but the $6 price tag is not so steep. I really like this knife for touching-up points while I am out, when the pencil just needs a little nudge back to sharpness. It is lighter than some brass pocket sharpeners, but the volume keeps it from falling out of my pocket.

Plus, did I mention that this knife is just cool?

* Knock on wood.

Review of Ticonderoga Electric Sharpener.

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A few weeks ago, I joked with Dixon Ticonderoga on Twitter that they should send us one of their new electric pencil sharpeners for review.


So now we have our first ever review of an electric pencil sharpener. I should probably mention two things right at the start. I do not generally like electric pencil sharpeners; I do like Dixon Ticonderoga very much.* This sharpener is pretty basic, and I mean that in a good way. You put your pencil into the hole; the burr rotates around your pencil; it stops rotating when it feels no friction; you have a nice, long point on your pencil. But there’s much more to say than that, of course.
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First, I really like Dixon’s design choices here. The yellow and green really pop, with a bit of chrome trim to polish it all off. The left green side is covered with a grippy material, while the right side is the shavings tray. The plug even has a subtle Ticonderoga logo on it.
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The shavings container is easy to remove (I did not need to consult the instructions) and fits securely to the body. It’s not an especially large space for shavings, but it is very easy to empty without spilling Cedar Shards and Graphite Dust all over your office, house or Outpost. I prefer this to my, ahem, other electric sharpener that will hold a year’s worth of shavings, only to cause them to cover your legs as you sprint to the nearest receptacle.

The sharpener is fitted with four Rubber Toes on the bottom, resulting in the possibility of one-handed sharpening. This makes this sharpener a good choice for Marathon Writing, where a blind drop of the pencil into the sharpener with one hand gives Comrades a quick point.
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Now, the Point itself. This sharpener gives you a long point, similar in length to the point achieved with the Classroom Friendly Sharpener. This is excellent. The point is different, however, in that it does not curve inwardly toward the point the way that the Classroom Friendly sharpener does. The “Black” Ticonderoga was sharpened with the Dixon Ticonderoga sharpener in this photo, with the yellow Dixon being sharpened by the Classroom Friendly Green Machine. The Ticonderoga sharpener produces a straight point, as I hope is more obvious in this manipulated close-up.
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This leaves less “point” along the length of the exposed graphite, but it also makes a stronger point. Comrades will have to decide for themselves which they prefer.
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The lack of aperture means that there are no bite marks on your pencil. It also means you have to be careful to center your pencil within the Input Shaft** of the sharpener. The shaft is wider than standard pencils, but it does not accept jumbo or mini-jumbo pencils. So there is some movement which requires holding the pencil very still and centered. If you do not, the pencil rotates within the holes in a way that tricks the auto-stop mechanism into thinking there is more cutting required — it won’t stop.

There are advantages to this manual drop-in sharpening method. It is easy to stick your pencil in and take it out. This means that Comrades can easily stop the sharpening process before an overly sharp (for some applications) point results. This is great for quick touching-up. When I use a very sharp pencil for a short time — not long enough to require sharpening but long enough to have dulled the point a bit — I sometimes like to perform such a touch-up before putting the pencil back into the cup, box, case or behind my ear.

Certainly, this sharpener is not perfect. The logo could be stamped on a little more clearly. Unlike some sharpeners with metal gears, this sharpener’s gears appear to be made of plastic. I had no issues with slippage, through a few weeks of testing.
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But one never knows how this could play into long-term durability. While our unit was provided free of charge, I feel like the price tag on this sharpener is a little steep. However, it could work for years, and then I would say otherwise. I will say that it’s my favorite of my two electric sharpeners and the only one I actually have plugged in and use.
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In the end, I like this sharpener very much. I like even more that Dixon Ticonderoga seems to be experiencing some kind of surge of energy lately that they haven’t shown for some time here in the United States. There are some new erasers, this sharpener and even a blog by the CEO. I’ll be watching Dixon with anticipation in the future. I was unhappy when they outsourced their production a few years ago, but they do continue to make quality products. If you like Ticonderoga pencils and longpoints, this might be the sharpener for you.

*Can you say, “You had me at green and yellow plastic”?
** I officially propose to contribute this to Mr. Rees’ lexicon.

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!