|The hefty Bostitch Quiet Sharp 6
Staying sharp is an issue.
I know this because members of the Facebook Erasable Podcast Pencil Community discuss pencil sharpeners frequently, debating the reasons why they favor one type over another and sharing advice on using a particular type. Most are discussing sharpeners for graphite pencils with conventional-size barrels.
If you bring up colored pencils, it’s a whole ‘nother ball of wax. The pigments and binders in colored pencils can dull the blades and clog the inner workings of hand crank and electric sharpeners. And since many of them are slightly larger in diameter than typical graphite pencils, they often don’t fit in ordinary sharpeners.
To further complicate matters, graphite pencil writers are primarily interested in getting long, sharp points so that their pencils can be used for as long as possible without resharpening. Lethal points aren’t necessary or even desired for colored pencil work.
|My Opinel knife and some hand-carved chisel points.
Augghh! It’s enough to make me sharpen with a knife – which I do quite often when I’m home. But hand-sharpening takes time and care, and in the middle of a colored pencil drawing, I don’t want to stop and get out my knife – I want to be able to stick the pencil into a sharpener and be done with the task in seconds.
While a hand-crank sharpener is acceptable (I have several, and none can handle all my colored pencils), ideally, I want an electric sharpener to save wear and tear on my hands and wrists.
Internet research eventually led to discussions of vintage Panasonic electric sharpeners highly coveted by colored pencil artists. (Years ago, I went to a demo on colored pencils, and the instructor talked at length about the importance of having a good electric sharpener. He mentioned a now-vintage Panasonic model that he hoarded decades ago when he’d first heard that they were no longer being produced. He still had several in storage. When someone asked if they could buy one from him, he literally “Bwaa-haa-haa’d” at the student and said, “Nooooo waaaay! They’re all miiiiiine!” Clearly, that particular Panasonic model is important to him.) These vintage Panasonics are available on eBay, but most are used, and I’m always reluctant to buy used products sight unseen. It was a dilemma.
I read many reviews about contemporary electric sharpeners, but most either fail with colored pencils or the reviews don’t mention colored pencil usage. The past year or so I’ve been using a Westcott iPoint Orbit sharpener that I got at Costco for a good price, and it does a decent job with conventional size pencils, but not the rest – the ones with larger barrels.
|Kum portable 2-hole sharpener
Of course, my very favorite Caran d’Ache Museum Aquarelle is one of the worst offenders. Since it has a slightly larger barrel than most pencils, the only sharpener of any type that sharpens it decently is a portable two-hole Kum that’s probably intended for kids. I carry one in my bag and keep one on my desk. Since I use it so frequently and had to try many, many portable sharpeners to find it, I even put it on my 2016 Top 10 list. However, it’s still not ideal: While it fits my hard-to-fit Caran d’Ache, it doesn’t sharpen some of my other pencils well. And there’s still the issue of wear-and-tear on my wrist (those little portables are even worse than hand cranks). Arggh!
Then one day an artist in the Erasable group mentioned the Bostitch Quiet Sharp 6, a “work horse” contemporary electric sharpener that she has been happy with for a long time. Found for about $30 on Amazon, it seemed like a bargain compared to some vintage Panasonics I saw on eBay – but it would only be a bargain if it worked. I bought one with hesitation . . . was this yet another specimen destined to join my ever-growing collection of sharpeners that work on some pencils but not all?
|Look at the beautiful points on my hardest-to-fit colored
pencils! From left: Derwent Drawing Pencil,
Caran d'Ache Luminance, Caran d'Ache Museum Aquarelle
As big as a bus, the Bostitch makes a formidable presence on my desktop but is surprisingly quieter than the much-smaller Westcott. With six holes of varying diameters, including a triangular one, it appears to accommodate many types and sizes. With trepidation, I sharpened a few graphite pencils to warm it up. Hmmm, not bad at all. Then I started sharpening one each of all my colored pencil brands, including my favorite Caran d’Ache and the even larger Derwent – and they all fit! What’s more, they sharpen beautifully to a clean, smooth taper and sharp but not deadly point.
Could it be that I’ve found my grail electric sharpener? I’ve only been using it a week, so time will tell whether colored pencil binders and pigments eventually wreak havoc. So far, though, I haven’t put a pencil into it that it couldn’t handle.
Now if only I can find a portable sharpener that fits all my pencils, my life would be complete. (But what’s the fun in that?)