KUM Masterpiece Instructions.

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While the KUM Masterpiece is a fine piece of engineering and one of the pieces of Pencil Ephemera about which I have been the most excited lately, there is something missing that I hope we can add to the Pencil World. The instructions on KUM’s website are not great. The video is produced to a quality standard that does no justice to all of the research and work that went into this sharpener. I have practiced a bit, and I think I have figured out the best way to use this sharpener.

First, start with a quality pencil. This machine begs for at least a good Semi-Cheap, if not something premium. From there, follow these steps:

1) Use the hole marked 1 to sharpen away the wood. Do this until the graphite hits the auto-stop (the blue piece). You might notice that there is a piece of wood stuck to the long piece of exposed graphite on one side. What you want to do is push the pencil into the hole and gently against the blade again, and keep doing this until you encounter no resistance at all, i.e., there is no more wood being cut.

1A) Another option is to push the blue plastic out of the way before step 1. Then you can expose graphite to your Pencil Heart’s content. You can then proceed on to the shaping the graphite.

2) Use the hole marked 2 to sharpen the graphite. At the beginning, the exposed wood of the pencil will not fit against the cavity of the hole. You’ll have to do your best to center the burgeoning point. Turn the pencil, and watch fine pieces of graphite pile up on top of the sharpener. Here, you have a couple of options:

2A) Bring the graphite to a nice point, and then stop. You will have an odd-looking point that is not as sharp as the Masterpiece is capable of producing. But maybe you don’t want one that’s that sharp. Or maybe you are pressed for time. The advantage of this method is that you can sharpen the graphite again to a point without having the sharpen the wood again. You can skip Step 1 and just point the graphite at least one more time.

2B) Push the point into the second hole until you notice the blade cutting wood as well as graphite. It is this method which will get you the acute point that you see on the pencils at the top of this post, and this is the Insane Point for which this sharpener is made, I believe.

I hope this is helpful and not overly cheeky to KUM. If Comrades find better/alternate ways of using this sharpener, I’m sure we’d all be glad to read about them in the comments section. Also, check out Gunther‘s and Matthias‘s posts about the Masterpiece, with way better photos and more information about this fascinating sharpener.

A Halloween Sharpener.

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Let’s play “Find the Halloween pencil sharpener!”

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Jetpens sent over a package to HQ today which included this cool little ghost sharpener. To be honest, I’ve eyed this up for years, though I assumed it was smaller in person. It’s actually got a nice reservoir for shavings, and it’s easy to open.

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Inside is a KUM “Narrow Wedge” in black plastic. Both the wedge itself and the blade are replaceable, meaning this this spooky little fellow could grace your Halloween pencil adventures for years to come.

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The point is your standard KUM-Wedged (let’s make that a new verb for the lexicon) business end. The point is a little short, but not overly so.

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This is also the first pencil sharpener I own that glows in the dark. They must have improved this substance since I was a kid in the 80s because it definitely glows more brightly than the toys I had.*

*Or is it the CFL bulbs we didn’t have back then?

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.

 

 

On Pencil Sharpers, and the Secret to a Great Point.

Classroom Friendly sharpener: one of my favorite crank models, with a Deli I like very much.
Classroom Friendly sharpener: one of my favorite crank models, with a Deli I like very much.

[I wrote this as a guest post on PPIL’s Pencil Week (here). I thought I’d repost it since I’m up to my knees in reviews I need to take photos for, and the site’s been quiet.]

There are lots of different kinds of pencil sharpeners. One can do no better than to read David Rees’ How to Sharpen Pencils to learn all about them. My list is less specific than his and certainly not as…good, but I thought I might share how I actually sharpen my own pencils at the end, since I hear time and time again that the process gives some folks a bit of trouble.

Turn me. I make pencils sharp. Do it. Do it now!
Turn me. I make pencils sharp. Do it. Do it now!

Crank Sharpeners
These are sharpeners into which a pencil is inserted, which produce a point on the pencil by means of a blade or burrs which rotate around the pencil via a manual crank which is activated by the individual doing the sharpening. The Classroom Friendly sharpener is a great example of this (see here, here and here for a few reviews). These sharpeners sometimes have mechanisms that prevent over sharpening, but most I have encountered in schools and workplaces do not. As such, they tend to eat pencils. They also tend to have old, dull blades/burrs which prevent anyone from really using them effectively. I would not trust an untested crank sharpener to put a point on anything expensive or precious unless my life depended on it. And when I fear that my life might depend on a sharp pencil (!), I have a pocket blade sharpener or knife on me.

My much-beloved and coveted brass KUM wedge.
My much-beloved and coveted brass KUM wedge.

Manual Blade Sharpeners
These are sharpeners that require the user to rotate the pencil inside of the sharpener body, against a blade. Standard wedge sharpeners and Snoopy sharpeners fit into this category. These are generally my favorite, since I can control how much of the point I actually sharpen more easily. They are easy to use but not to master.

Knives
These can be “controlled” knives like The Little Shaver, a machete, short sword, pocket knife or purpose-built pencil sharpening knife. This is an intimate way to sharpen pencils that is generally frowned upon aboard airliners and some city buses. To use a blade, one simply cuts the pencil’s business end into a spear, blunt cone or wedge. This is not for beginners. Or maybe it’s perfect for beginners.

Electric Pencil Sharpeners
These work like crank sharpeners, only they have motors which drive the gears. I own two and more-or-less hate one of them. I find these the most difficult to use, despite their alleged convenience. I am working on a review of a yellow and green model that I like a little better.

The Secret
For pencil sharpeners whose cutting mechanisms rotate around the pencil, it is imperative to hold the pencil perfectly still. Most such sharpeners have no aperture into which to insert the pencil which matches its shape. As such, the cutting mechanism will not rotate around the pencil evenly and produce an even point without the pencil being held stationary, directly in the center of the chamber. I make such an aperture out of my thumb and a finger or two and then insert the pencil into the sharpener through my grip, with which I pinch the pencil in place. Try this with the wobbly sharpener in the library or the electric beast at your office, and you might be pleased at your new results.

For a manual sharpener, just jam that sumbitch in there, directly in the center of the hole, and turn the pencil against the blade. Hold it firmly and steadily, and cut the wood – don’t shave it in splinters. We are looking for strips of cedar to scent your pocket here. Any good sharpener of this type will have a shape which will sharpen your pencil evenly if you feed the pencil into it evenly. Do not be tempted to lean the pencil against the blade, as this will warp your point. Keep it centered, firm and straight. You’ll nail it every time.

Review of Mixed Grade Hi-Unis from Jet Pens.

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I’d bet that a lot of Stationery Buff Comrades know that Jet Pens stocks a lot of great pencils and pencil gear. They sell hard-to-get pencils like the Tombow Mono 100 and the Mitsubishi Hi-Uni (a lovely dozen of which they sent us last year), in addition to pencil sharpeners and accessories I have never seen elsewhere myself.

The good folks at Jet Pens HQ sent us a little package with a Hi-Uni in F, HB and 9B. I thought we’d do something we’ve never done before and compare different grades of a pencil. Generally, we review HBs, but this is interesting — if nothing else, then because I think F is an cool grade that not all lines include.

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The finish and pencil exteriors remain the same: gorgeous. When viewed at the business end, the 9B has one massive core. This produced interesting shavings. While the F and HB rendered shavings like most pencils, the 9B (out of a KUM brass wedge) produced “shorter” wood shavings and long, lovely graphite splinters. I take the fact that there were splinters in the pile (and not merely dust) to indicated that the 9B is a strong lead, albeit a soft one. Sharpening a Hi-Uni is always a pleasure. They sharpen very easily and evenly. But what’s more; they smell incredibly cedarlicious.

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The F grade is as smooth as the HB, with the difference being one of point-retention and darkness. I feel like I should stress this. As the pencil grade moves toward the harder end of the line, it does not get less smooth. The transition between the HB and F is also very subtle. This is also remarkable. I, for one, have used grades of certain pencils wherein, say, 2H-HB feel like very different pencils than B and darker. (I’m not naming names. Not now.) Since F is really a semi-grade between H and HB, this is an even greater accomplishment.

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When faced with a Japanese 9B pencil, I was at a bit of a loss because we usually review pencils for writing. I have been known to use very dark pencils for signage and for drawing. But I thought I’d give making some letters a try with this pencil. It is very dark and very smooth. Honestly, at 9B (a grade most manufacturers actually stop short of), this is to be expected. But what pleased me the most is the fact that this pencil resists smearing at such a very soft grade. Sure, it smears a little, but I’ve seen some HB pencils smear this much. To be sure, frequent sharpening and the wide core will keep it from being a go-to pencil for NaNoWriMo participants. But I have used this pencil in place of a Sharpie more than once over the last week, to make huge words — for grocery lists, putting “please do not bend” on a package, and even just to stress something in a notebook.

If the entire range of Hi-Uni pencils is this smooth and has transitions this subtle, I look forward to trying more of the extreme and in-between grades myself.

Hit up Jet Pens if you’d like to try them yourself. The cost of Hi-Uni pencils does help you get free shipping at $25! And these are well-worth it — check out our review again for more details.

 

 

 

 

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.

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!

“Oh, no, I spilled shavings!”

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Thus shouted my daughter this morning, while she over-did-it with the sharpener I brought her from my way home via the art shop a few days ago, a gummy-bear KUM unit. Kids make messes. Yesterday, it was a broken glass at our local Sardigna joint from the three-year-old and a small bucket of vomit all over the front of me while in line at the post office to mail off some pencil goodies. Today, there were pencil shavings all over the living room floor at HQ, along with the aroma of coffee and cedar in the air on a fall-like day.
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Life is good at HQ. Very good.

And, just because I like this passage, from Thoreau’s Journal, 13-Aug-1854:

First marked dog day; sultry and with misty clouds. For ten days or so we have had comparatively cool, fall-like weather. I remember only with a pang the past spring and summer thus far. I have not been an early riser. Society seems to have invaded and overrun me. I have drank tea and coffee and made myself cheap and vulgar. My days have been all noontides, without sacred mornings and evenings. I desire to rise early henceforth, to associate with those whose influence is elevating, to have such dreams and waking thoughts that my diet may not be indifferent to me.

International Drawing Tools.

Having kids and a pencil affection means drawing a lot. I have been practicing this skill lately, in effort to be That Dad Who Can Draw Stuff. And tonight, I realized that I was drawing on French paper, with American pencils, using a German sharpener and a Spanish eraser.

My little pictures were worldwide tonight.

(But the batteries in all of our cameras are discharged.)

Clairefontaine Crokbook
General’s Cartooning and Kimberly pencils
KUM 2-hole wedge
Factis black eraser