Thursday, May 14, 2020

The Shorter, the Better

Three hand-crank sharpeners. The one on the right does not accommodate
my favorite colored pencils.

When a pencil costs more than $4 each, you can bet I want to use it all the way down to its shortest stub. At some point, a pencil gets so short that it’s difficult to hold. Until I found a pencil extender that would accommodate my favorite Caran d’Ache Museum Aquarelles, I simply stopped using them at the point of discomfort. Of course, I kept all the semi-stubs, waiting for the day when I would find an extender that fits. Thankfully, I finally did – it’s made by Derwent.

The second issue with pencil stubs, however, is that they eventually become too short to sharpen with a sharpener. My electric Bostitch Quiet Sharp 6, which is my fastest and most efficient for sharpening those Museum Aquarelles, has a long tunnel before the pencil reaches the blade, so a pencil must be at least 3 inches long.

The Uni KH-20 can sharpen a Museum Aquarelle all the way
down to the end cap.
That’s the point where my latest sharpeners come in. I just reviewed two hand cranks, the Uni KH-20 hand crank and the Carl Ein, over at the Well-Appointed Desk, so please go read the review for all the details. One thing I didn’t mention there because I didn’t know it yet is that both the Uni and the Carl Ein can take pencils as short as 2 inches. Now I can use either hand crank (I prefer the red Uni only for esthetic reasons) to get my Museum Aquarelles an inch shorter. And yes, both hand cranks accommodate them!

When they are shorter than 2 inches, my Museum stubs require an M+R brass portable hand sharpener to get them a bit shorter. After that, it’s a knife.

A practical person might look at this progression of sharpeners and suggest: Why not use the M+R brass at any length? Wouldn’t one sharpener be simpler than four? Certainly. But what’s the geeky fun in that?

Four sharpeners (as if I have only four!) are better than one.

Top: the shortest stub I can sharpen with my electric Bostitch. 

The Caran d'Ache Museum Aquarelle and the Derwent extender were made for each other!
Plenty of life left in this little stub.
A few other sharpeners.


  1. This is fantastic. I love using the tiny stubs of pencils, and actually find myself slowing my usage once I get them down to the perfect shortness, just because I don't want to use it up. These sharpeners sound nice, I loved your review at the Well Appointed Desk!

    1. Thank you, Lucas! Glad you are enjoying the reviews.

  2. You can also make a "Frankenstein's pencil" by using a pencil recycler (as linked). I reckon they're best done when reached the Steinbeck stage.


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