Saturday, January 15, 2011

One For the Pencil People: the Classroom Friendly Pencil Sharpener

Classroom Friendly Pencil Sharpener
For Pencil Revolution's full review with morebetter pictures, click here...

So...I went through an entire NaNoWriMo-by-pencil with just my trusty little brass Kum wedge sharpener, but there is definitely something to be said for the speed and tidiness of the big guys.  Every time I went to Staples or Office Depot, I eyed the big honkin' permanent mount metal sharpeners warily, and the electric sharpeners more warily still.  I remember how many times the old crank type sharpeners ate the pencils of my youth, and while I'm sure the electric ones are efficient, using an electric sharpener for my good old-fashioned wooden pencils causes me mental pain.  OK, not really, but I don't really have a place for one, and I like the idea of the manual crank.

I'd seen mention of these "Classroom Friendly" Pencil Sharpeners awhile back (the "classroom friendly" bit refers to their being very quiet as burr sharpeners go), and I'd sort of tucked the information away for future reference.  When John of the Pencil Revolution blog recently did a very nice full review of them, I was reminded of them again and decided to spring for one.  They're under $20 shipped, putting them in line with most of the basic electric sharpeners out there.

First off, it came *fast*.  Unbelievably so.  Troy, the seller, lives on the east coast, while I live in Western Washington.  I still got it within four days of ordering, and that's factoring in my ordering it on a Sunday.  Wow.

It's pretty plain, as you can see.  The streamlined shape kind of reminds me of a retro toaster.  It's cute.  On the top, there's a sticker that says simply, "Pencil Sharpener."  Gotta love that.  It has a nice hefty feel to it: except for the shavings bin, most of the parts are metal.

How does it work?  Pretty simply.  Here is a strangely mesmerizing rather slow motion video demonstration.

I held off on sharpening most of my current arsenal, so I got to put it through its motions pretty thoroughly when it arrived.

Get the point?
I think this accidentally ended up becoming a "Some of these things are not like the others..." game. first thoughts:
  • First off, it's nicely stable.  It comes with a sort of vice mount (that's what the hole beneath the drawer is for, I think), but it's heavy enough that you don't really need that.  It does just fine free standing.
  • Secondly, whoaaa, it produces a long point.  Yeah, I saw the comparison photo on Pencil Revolution that shows points made by different sharpeners, but it didn't really sink until I saw them in person.  The points it makes are crazy long, yet--as is mentioned in that review--with a very slightly flattened end instead of the needle-point most hand-held sharpeners produce.  It takes a little care to write with such a long, thin point, but I did find I could write for several pages without feeling like I needed to stop and resharpen, quantifiably longer than the usual point.
  • It also does a pretty good job of only sharpening until the pencil has a point.  I did have trouble with a few pencils, but it wasn't the sharpener's fault, I wouldn't say.  The lead in some of the Mirado Black Warriors is off center, and it didn't automatically stop sharpening those as quickly as it should have...not really surprising.
Being me, I had to stop and smell the shavings...and they're cool shavings.

Pencil shavings

Instead of the thick curls I get from the Kum, it makes little curly sawdust bits.  Neat.

Shavings Close-up

Oh, and speaking of neat, I do like how all the shavings just drop down into that tidy little acrylic bin for emptying.  It sure beats the way I used to spill shavings all over the floor trying to empty the twist-on barrel of the old style metal sharpeners.  And, I admit, a lot of the time it's a lot handier than sharpening with the Kum wedge and getting my fingers dirty.

All in all, it's likely to become my primary sharpener unless I need to sharpen something on the go, or for pencils I want to be particularly careful with.  I know some homeschooling moms who might be interested as well.  It's a nice piece of kit.


Anonymous said...


Thanks for the review and reference to John's site. I ordered one just now (Sunday morning) and can't wait to try it. I'm using pencils more often for notes to myself and VERY rough drafts when in my recliner. I prefer to use my Pelikan fountain pens for those times but find it difficult to maintain the proper angle with three toy poodles sleeping and crawling on me. Pencils solve that problem. That makes the four of us happy.

BTW, the topic of pencil writing longevity came up a few months ago. Over Christmas I got a facsimile of the prompt book used by Charles Dickens when doing public readings of A Christmas Carol. It has changes to the text and vocal cues in the margins. These changes were made over several decades in Dickens' hand in pencil (the oldest) and two colors of ink. The pencil markings are the least faded and most legible. A good commentary on some "old" technology. The book is interesting and fun. I haven't done a dramatic reading since college almost 40 years ago but this tempts me to try it again.


Randall said...

I have one of these and I thoroughly concur with your review. While my primary sharpener is an old electric Panasonic sharpener that I love because it makes a perfect long point as well (plus sentimentality thrown in for good measure), you cannot beat the Classroom-Friendly sharpener for the money and for its efficiency.

John said...

Great review, Elizabeth! I particularly like the toaster reference -- spot on! : )

Adair said...

These are marvelous sharpeners---metal versions of the Carl Decade, the best sharpener in the world. They are made in Japan. You might want to buy an extra one at this price! I did. (Ordering from Japanese sites will prove much more expensive!) And it is great to do business with Troy.

Duffy Moon said...

Omigosh, I feel kinda dirty reading (and seeing!) this.
There's an actual taste associated with how much I want one of those.

Elizabeth H. said...

Jeff: I've probably mentioned it a time or two in the course of my blog's history, but I'm a big-time Dickens fangirl (one of those people who's even read The Mystery of Edwin Drood...), so details like that fascinate me! Seems like I've heard he tried out a lot of different inks and papers and things over the course of his life...or maybe it was just what was available at the time. It'd be kinda neat to think it was because he had a certain fascination with office supplies. At least I'd have *one* thing in common with him.

I imagine one benefit of the electric sharpeners is that they wouldn't leave the little "love bites" the gripping mechanism of this sharpener does, as mentioned in the Pencil Revolution review. They're pretty minor, though. And hey, they add character. I loves me some character.

Anonymous said...

The sharpener arrived this afternoon and I've put a dozen pencils through it. IT WORKS GREAT!! Best pencil sharpener I've ever used. Although I only need one, I'm tempted to order a spare for "just in case".

Elizabeth: Thanks for bringing it to my attention. Glad you liked the Dickens info. I'm just starting to read him now that I'm retired.

Duffy: I strongly suggest you place that order to get rid of that unseemly dirty feeling. You'll feel better as soon as it arrives. :-)


Elizabeth H. said...

Pleased that you're pleased!

Unknown said...

I Love this sharpener as I have given a few to schools in my area so to make it really stable and "lost proof" I did this ran a 3/16 " steel round piece 8" long through the bottom holes and the used a 2 X 8 b 10" long and about a 1" from each end used small fence post "U" shaped nails and tacked it down it allows the plastic compartment to slide out easy but most important the teacher and kids can find it easily. One teacher had hers painted red no way to miss that....... Thank you Mr. Decoff for such a great sharpener. Look here.

yours, Loren