Friday, August 4, 2023

Mini Reviews: Two Pink Sharpeners and One Transparent One

The Carl Coloris

Most of the hand-crank and all the electric pencil sharpeners I own are strictly utilitarian work horses that serve my day-to-day needs. But others have simply whispered my name late in the evening (when I am at my retail-weakest) and watched my eyeballs turn into hearts; these may or may not have utility as their primary feature. Today I’ll show you three that fall in the latter category (all of which happen to be Japanese).

First up is the one I’ve owned the longest, the bright magenta Carl Coloris (which also comes in blue). I already knew that I loved the Carl Angel-5 Royal sharpener, one of my daily work horses, so I was reasonably confident that it would function well. I bought it because I had heard that it would accommodate larger-barreled pencils (like my beloved Caran d’Ache Museum Aquarelles, among others) and has an adjustible point switch, just as my Royal does.

A fun, modern shape

Beautiful Carl points on both standard and larger barrels.

Indeed, it functions as well as the Royal, except that it’s more clackety and feels rougher. Less expensive than the Royal by quite a bit, it may look cuter and more modern (not to mention pink), but its build feels a little less refined. Its benefit over the Royal is that it’s smaller and lighter, so I have come to think of it as my “portable” hand-crank. In fact, I have taken it to colored pencil classes where I knew I would be sharpening constantly, and I thought that using my portable electric Ruiya would have been frowned upon. The clackety Coloris is noisy enough that it may have been frowned upon also, but it gets the job done beautifully.

The adorable but so far useless Nakabayashi
Second of the pink sharpeners is the adorable Nakabayashi (also available in lime, blue and white). That link goes to Amazon, but I got mine at JetPens, where it was being closed out at a significant discount a while back – and maybe that should have been a clue.

Unfortunately, I have never successfully sharpened a pencil with this cute thing that looks like a Japanese wastebasket. It’s impossible to use without holding the pencil while also cranking. It comes with a desk clamp, which would free one hand, but I don’t like to attach sharpeners to my desk, because then I can’t move it out of the way when I’m not using it. Cute but currently useless. If I ever decide to clamp it, I’ll find out how well it sharpens.

The most intriguing of the three is also my latest acquisition: the Sonic Toga Return. It’s not pink but, almost better, it’s completely transparent. Sonic is the maker of the Sonic Ratchetta sharpener, which I included in a review of several handheld sharpeners at theWell-Appointed Desk. The Sonic Toga Return evokes the transparent Ratchetta with all of its visible gears and mechanical parts.

Enthusiastic Sonic Toga box

Before I get to those mechanical parts, though, I have to comment on the box, which has not one word of English. Without even being able to read it, so much excitement is expressed! It’s like a comic book or 1960s print advertising. I appreciate that this product is being marketed strictly for a Japanese audience. (I have a similar experience when I’ve visited a foreign country and found a restaurant with no English on the menu: It’s a signal that mostly non-tourists eat here, which usually means better, more authentic food, and I will have to work harder to get what I want, which usually means that interesting interactions with native speakers will ensue.)

A protective sliding cover conceals the hole when not in use.

Sadly but not surprisingly, larger-barreled pencils won’t fit into the Sonic Toga. I first tried sharpening a Blackwing. Pushing the pencil in as far as I thought was necessary, it required a deeper push, which felt a bit uncomfortable. That’s when I realized that the Sonic’s mechanism sort of sucks the pencil in – and then I instantly learned why it has “Return” in its name. When sharpening is complete, the sharpener’s innards spit the pencil back out! The Blackwing barely needed sharpening, so it kept spitting it back out repeatedly. I thought I was doing something wrong, but that’s the way it works.

This Blackwing wasn't dull enough as a sharpening experiment... the Sonic kept "returning" it repeatedly because it was sufficiently sharp.

Next I tried a new, unsharpened Mitsubishi “Matured” pencil. As before, I pushed it in and started sharpening. When it was fully sharpened, the Sonic Toga “returned” it. Of course, it’s fun to watch the colorful plastic gears going around! (I should make a video showing the movements, but I don’t have anywhere to post a video.)

A short but respectable point.

Taking only standard-size pencils, the Sonic has less utility for me, but it gets bonus points for its unique appearance and very cool visible mechanism.


  1. I love that the Sonic is clear and you can see the cool!

  2. I love my pink Coloris, and my Royal Angel! The Sonic looks like it could be good for coloring pencils in my collection.

    1. I believe you were my enabler for purchasing the Coloris in the first place! ;-)


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