Monday, October 21, 2013

Quick and Dirty Review: Kum 1-Hole Long Point Sharpener


I really wanted to like this pencil sharpener.

Since I primarily use my pencils for writing, long points are my preference. They allow more precise writing, and let me write for longer stretches between sharpenings. This is why I like the Classroom Friendly Pencil Sharpener (CFPS hereafter): it gives you seriously long writing points, without breaking the lead or leaving it ragged. It has me very, very spoiled.

Get the point?
This photo brought to you (mostly) courtesy of the Classroom Friendly Pencil Sharpener...

There are a few reasons I wanted the Kum as an option:

  1. The CFPS leaves bite marks on your pencils. If you look up close at my pencil photos, you'll notice all the little pinprick holes left by the gripping mechanism*. I've learned to live with them, since I've found no other pencil sharpener that does as nice a job on the writing points (including a fancy Carl), but it would be nice to have another option for the most premium pencils.
  2. The CFPS isn't exactly something I can toss into my book bag for coffee shop runs.
  3. You can be a bit more conservative with a hand held sharpener: only shaving off juuust enough to give you a point and no more. Granted, the CFPS is pretty good about stopping as soon as you have a sharp point, but again, for the most premium pencils (or stubbies), I thought a good hand held sharpener might be nice to have.

I've tried Kum's two step long point sharpener. It's a pretty neat concept: the first step clears some of the wood away, the second sharpens the exposed lead to a nice long point. practice, I found it finicky and a bit unpredictable, and broke more lead than I could happily live with. I hoped this new sharpener would be the answer to my wishes, especially since I really like my simple little brass Kum, and this seemed to be almost the same thing but with a longer resulting point. hates me. I either mangle the lead or break it off entirely. Every...single...time. Even when I do get a semi long point, it's warped and brittle and snaps the instant I try to use it. Wah. So I guess I continue with my current approach, which is to sharpen only at home or at the office, and carry a boatload of pencils with me so I don't need to sharpen on the go. Bonus of this approach: validish excuse to carry a boatload of pencils.

But I'm saddened, nonetheless.

Attempted close-up of an attempted long point...

*One thing that helps a smidge with the aesthetics of the bite marks: I try to always face the pencil the same way when sharpening, e.g. with the text upright, so at least the holes line up...


Johnny (Pencil Revolution) said...

"Bonus of this approach: validish excuse to carry a boatload of pencils."

This is a sentence written by a serious pencil devotee. :) Less devout folks might pick up one of those fancy-new-fangled mechanical pencils for times on-the-go.

I don't have to tell you that I am NOT being sarcastic, either. :)

Elizabeth H. said...


I do have a few Pentel mechanical pencils of various stripes that I use under certain circumstances (the Pentel Graphgear 1000 and Pentel Sharp Kerry are the favorites at the moment), and there are some cool older mechanical pencils out there as well...but there's something nice about the particular weight and warmth of wood, and hefty pencil lead that doesn't have the weird silkiness of mechanical pencil lead.

Rob Bowker said...

As a rare user of pencils (except for carpentry and occasionally even that is a square section carpenter's pencil) so I'm blown away by the attention to detail not just in preparing your pencil points but in the thoroughness of the sharpener review. I have one sharpener (somewhere) but usually end up with a chisel pointed lead having whittled it with a penknife or scalpel. Is that why some sharpeners have two holes? I'd always assumed it was for fat and thin pencils. Thanks for sharing your enthusiasm and results!

Anonymous said...

Sorry that Kum sharpener disappointed you. But, as you mentioned, it does give you an excuse to bring a BUNCH of pencils. That CFPS is the best sharpener I've found and it gets a lot of use at my desk.

When away from the house I now use mechanical pencils and really like the Pentel Graphgear line you mentioned. I can use a pocket knife (always have two on me, razor sharp) to put a good point on pencils but it took some practice.

Jeff The Bear

Elizabeth H. said...

When I was a kid, I got fairly decent at using a pocket knife to sharpen pencils because we didn't have a decent pencil sharpener around most of the time. (Cue sad violin music.) But it's been a long time...not sure I could manage it again without a refresher!

Anonymous said...

I've never tried doing this myself, but have you tried adjusting the tension on the blade (a jeweler's screwdriver or one you buy in the drugstore to tighten the screws in your eyeglass frames will do the job)?

I'm really tempted to buy the Class Room Friendly Sharpener, but have demurred so far for the reason you state. I wonder if some strategically placed bits of electrician's tape or some such might mitigate the damage caused by the jaws, or are the tolerances too tight?

Definitely agree, though, long points are the bomb. A strong long point is not a needle point, as your picture shows (be still my greedy pencil heart!)--the tip is flattened and the taper is ever so slightly concave. As an aside, a personal favorite hand-sharpener for everyday carry has been the Prismacolor elongated egg sharpener though it gives only a medium point. Not much breakage, and you can do a complete sharpening and a few touchups before you have to empty the shavings half. It's compact, and non-messy.

Elizabeth H. said...

I haven't messed with the screw on the Kum. It might be worth a shot, but I guess I'm also realizing I'm not going to get the same beautiful flat long point as I get with the big sharpener no matter what.

I'm guessing the tolerances are a bit too tight to really add padding to the CFPS, though the fancier Carl pencil sharpener is very much the same mechanism with padding included, so it seems like it'd be possible to manufacture. If only I could blend the two!

But since pencils are, after all, primarily tools, I guess I can live with it. I just feel a little guilty whenever I display photos of my poor abused pencils.