Saturday, November 10, 2007

Art Equipment - and more Pencil Sharpeners

More on the subject of pencil sharpeners - a subject which absorbs many artists who use coloured pencils. I'm including this post - and any others relating to my studio/plein air tools and equipment in my new squidoo lens Art Equipment - Resources for Artists.

Tina mentioned the Faber Castell 'Grip' 2001 Pencil Sharpener in a comment on Wednesday's post about the isharpener. Which was when I realised I'd never said anything about this and didn't have it listed on the art materials and resources page on my website (which is where you can find details of all the art materials I use)!

So - time to highlight what this sharpener does and why I like it.

What I use where
  • At home I usually use a mains powered sharpener as I have damaged tissue and acute tenosynovitis in my right hand which means I can't grip properly or twist for any length of time or repeatedly without experiencing acute pain and swelling.
  • If I know I'm going to be working away from home for a long time (such as on an art holiday) I use a battery powered one for the same reason - but they are always heavy due to the batteries, the square shaped ones are awkward to carry and all make a noise.
  • However if I have all my pencils sharpened before I go out sketching, then a small manual sharpener works fine when for most sketching for 'repointing' of any pencils used a lot on the day.
You've got lots of choice for a manual pencil sharpener. However the Faber Castell 'Grip' 2001 Pencil Sharpener is my favourite portable sharpener and goes in my light weight kit for working outside my home. The reason it's my favourite is that I can sit sketching in museums and galleries and at tables in restaurants and cafes and sharpen pencils without a problem due to silent sharpening into the little canister which holds the shavings.

The sharpener has three holes. One for thick/fat pencils; one for normal sized pencils and one (in the other section) for coloured pencils. This one provides a very short conical shaped point to a coloured pencil which I'm not that fond of so I generally use the 'normal' pencil hole which works fine.

The two halves of the sharpener are hinged so that when opened up it can sit flat. There is one icon (a triangle shape - see image) for 'open here' and another (an arrow with the word clean) on another side of the sharpener which means 'open to clean here'. The latter enables access to the shaving compartments so they can be emptied. The big trick is to remember they do different things and learn fast which notation is which. Otherwise one is apt to open it to sharpen a pencil and inadvertently cover oneself with shavings by mistake until that lesson is learned!

I've actually seen this 'model' of sharpener with different brands which set me wondering whether this is some sort of universal sharpener which gets rebadged or whether there are copies out there.

Faber Castell Sharpening Machine

The other pencil sharpener which I've been looking out for but not seen anywhere - because I need to 'try before I buy' - is Faber Castell's Green Sharpening Machine. I know a number of people who swear by old-fashioned pencil sharpeners like the ones we all used to have in primary school all clamped on to a table.

This one from Faber Castell has an adjustable setting for sharpening different sized and types of pencils. Artifolk,
who seem to be leading in the online sharpener supply stakes, state that it will sharpen all round, hexagonal, and triangular section pencils up to 12 mm in diameter.

The pencil is held and inserted into the sharpener by means of a chuck mechanism; the actual sharpening action is achieved by manually rotating the handle.

It also has a large transparent receptacle for all the pencil shavings and also comes equipped with a handscrew clamp which makes it possible to attach it to a desk.

My main concern is I'm not sure whether my tenosynovitis can cope with this one as I have problems with my right hand gripping and turning due to the tenosynovitis. I'm left wondering whether, alternatively, my left hand could be used to turn the handle (hence why I need to try it first - which means find it first!) but it looks interesting.

For those people who don't have problems with grip I should imagine this would provide a good and economical option for getting a lot of pencils sharpened to a good point.



  1. I just have to smile that you've been able to produce 3 blog entries just about pencil sharpeners! :) and all good ones.

  2. Ah well - pencils sharpeners are a VERY SERIOUS topic of conversation when you are a coloured pencil artist. I guess having spent Thursday talking to UKCPS people - and visitors - at the UKCPS stand at the art materials show in Birmingham I was "in the groove" ;)

    CP artists can devote develop long threads on the topic of pencils twisting and breaking in different machines, which ones get long needle points and which ones get short and conical and the merits of the spiral cutter compared to the blade, how many graphite sticks do you need to feed and how often - and where on earth you get the cement thinner which you need to clean out the insides.

    It's all very scientific!

  3. I have a sharpener that looks like the Faber Castell Sharpening Machine, but mine says DAHLE 155 on it. I purchased it from Dick Blick in the USA. It works well on larger pencils ... I use it for my Conte charcoal pencils. Mine only works well if it is clamped down. (My husband needs to clamp it down for me ... I can't seem to do this.) I find it requires 2 hands to operate ... one to hold the sharpener steady and one to turn the handle. Thanks for the posts on sharpeners; sharp pencils are so important. I have tried razors, but just don't feel comfortable with them.

  4. i use a blade now. my first art teacher after i restarted convinced me that they were better :D I guess it is also because cp or pencils are not my main medium. The posts on hand and battery operated sharpners have been interesting. Particularly as they fascinated me when i was young and they were not available back at home then. We used hand sharpeners and when our parents weren't noticing blades!!

  5. ujwala - Blades (ie naked blades) can be very good but to get the point you can get using a battery powered or electric sharpener you'd also need to use a sandpaper block - and have oodles and oodles of time!

  6. Laurel - Dahle is certainly a brand of manual sharpening machine which I've heard a lot of Americans talk about - but I've never seen one! I would imagine these sort of sharpening machines won't hugely except in quality of materials and construction.


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