If you use wooden pencils, what's your choice on pencil sharpener?

I don’t use wooden pencils, but it seems there are a lot of people who still do. That’s a whole other genre of pencil-dom. There’s “vintage wood” that is sought after. I do have to admit there’s a certain pleasing nostalgia with the smell of wood and graphite from sharpening a tip. At my parent’s house years ago, we had an old Boston 3-hole sharpener made of steel with a hammertone finish on part of it. The rotating grinding gears were impressive.

Anyway, by chance I stumbled upon a hand-crank Mitsubishi sharpener and it’s so cool in design. It reminds me of a gas station pump!


I live in the town where most of pencil sharpeners are made :wink: so if I would be in need of one, I would chose a Granate.

But I took an old Dahle sharpening machine from the office, so I don’t need one of the local products…


I think wood cased pencils are wasteful and should be phased out in favor of leadholders! But if these become the only game in town, I’d probably be using a knife to whittle the point down.


True, they are wasteful… but they do have uses. There are some wooden lead pencils that are really wide, specifically for drawing. You can’t get that kind of effect with a lead holder. And I don’t think they make lead holders for that kind of specialty lead.

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Wider than 5.6mm?

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Mmm… Let me think… It really depends on how much wider than 5.6mm you mean. There are alternatives, actually — not many, to be fair, but still.

For instance, there is a nice leadholder by Caran D’Ache (Caran D’Ache 12, mine is made of black plastic with a black pushbutton and the clutch made of 5 sections gripping the writing end) which according to my vernier calliper presents a diameter starting at 8.7mm and reaching up to 1.4cm when fully opened. I don’t think it is designed for regular chalk, because the cylinders of standard blackboard chalk I have tend to remain stuck at the opening, so it is somehow destined to a slightly different, smaller size of drawing media.

Then, if you want to go full throttle, you can buy a holder for standard chalk (no need to provide reference here, the Web is full of such stuff), or even one for bigger sizes (my Lyra 4766120 is designed to hold their humongous 1.13cm “railroad chalk”, sold in hexagonal pieces with impressive diameter if compared to pencil lead).

As for your opening question, when in a rush I usually sharpen my wooden pencils using a two-steps KUM Automatic Long Point (a similar item is sold by Palomino for their recent reissue of the Blackwing line), or a Staedtler Noris 511 120 with automatic stop, which also nicely keeps the debris in a dedicated chamber, or a M+R single-burr desk sharpener with spring-loaded advance. However, when I want something truly nice and special, nothing beats my champions:

• M+R Castor (long point, no curvature)
M+R Pollux (long point, nice taper, slightly concave point)
Faber-Castell 4046 “Janus” (both aluminum and brass, curved blade secured by a screw gripping the blade itself, from below; very long point, amazing tapering, “gothic-cathedral-like” point)
Faber-Castell 4048 “Janus” (both aluminum and brass, straight blade curved by the pressure of the screw gripping the body, from above; very long point, amazing tapering, “gothic-cathedral-like” point)
El-Casco M-430 double-burr desk sharpener (needs a lot of care, patience and ability, but the results compare to the ones obtained with any of the FC Janus’).



Fascinating. I never knew there were so many options in sharpening pencils. Quite true, a chalk holder could be a substitute for a lead holder if it’s sufficiently dynamic for the inner diameter.

This is the kind of pencil I had in mind. A flat style of lead:

And this is but one size. I remember visiting Pearl Paint art supply in Manhattan (now closed… alas, like so many legendary stores, overshadowed by the two big chains – Michael’s and Dick Blick) and gawking at their pencil section. Enormous wooden pencils with gargantuan lead, both cylindrical and flat. One was even triangular.

Well, that’s challenging. And interesting.

If the size of lead you are thinking about is comparable to that of the “old” flat lead made for instance by Faber-Castell or Fedra (e.g. FC 9045 lead), you can still find mechanical pencils able to hold that lead and allow you to use it regularly; case in point, pencils like the Fedra Constructor, or Faber-Castell’s own TK 9600. If, however, the flat lead is just a little bit bulkier, than the situation gets slippery.

One possible way out is to find a — not particularly common — Faber-Castell TK 9400 FL (FL standing for “flach”, presumably), which combines the usual clutch of a TK 9400 with a soldered pair of flat prongs gripping the flat lead, and transforming an otherwise ordinary pencil into the advanced clone of the outdated TK 9600 flat-lead twistaction pencil dedicated to lofting and other specialised forms of drawing; given the higher level of freedom in the clutch (which still opens wide thanks to a pushbutton in the back of the barrel), you can accommodate even a larger piece of flat lead in the mouth of the pencil.

I have a few “abnormal” slate refills here, supposed to be cased into a strange, plastic “worker’s pencil” more similar to a snap-blade cutter; they are around 2-2.5mm in height, and they ought to fit in the clutch of the TK 9400 FL, but if you need precise measurements you’ll have to wait for me finding the lead and my calliper, and test the capability of the pencil.

This solution, however, does not cover the case when the piece of lead is truly massive, and looks more similar to a parallelepipedon with square base than to a slate with one dimension almost negligible with respect to the length of the lead.

If your lead is very bulky, I can only think about a metal holder made by various companies (Holbein being one, the model is 1570-H), dedicated to square-based pastels, and more similar to a pencil extender with sharp edges, than an actual leadholder. Probably great for sketching, but writing or drafting are entirely different stories.

Finally, for a triangular lead… Well, I too miss the good old days of the grand shops specialised in art materials, which stored any sort of uncanny marvels and impossible-to-find rare oddities — here in Italy only a bunch of them still fight hard to say open, but they’re gradually changing, and one after the other they’ll probably go extinct like the dinosaurs, replaced by ever-present discount shops where quality is debatable to say the least.

But I digress. For a triangular lead, as I was saying, maybe better contact a talented artisan, one mastering the niceties of metals, lathes and machining techniques, and have a custom-made holder built to suit your needs; maybe something slightly fancy, with ornamental grooves, and knurling on the grip; aluminum body with brass accents… It’ll be not only the best possible solution, but also a delightful addition to any serious collection. :wink:



You have to push around the car to sharpen the pencil? That’s genius!

I don’t use wood pencils since college, but my oldest girl does, she inherited my hand cranked Caran D’Ache. Sounds and smells like a sawmill in her room when she’s at it…