Perfectly sharpened pencils

I use soft pencils and I bear down hard when I write. As a result, I have to resharpen the pencils frequently. A few years ago I came across this pocket-size two-hole pencil sharpener and now swear by it. It produces very sharp points and does so efficiently.


Hole 1 shaves just the pencil’s wood casing , exposing (but barely touching) the graphite. You are left with a cylinder of graphite sticking out of the pencil tip, as shown below.


Hole 2 sharpens the graphite to a point, but does not shave the wood.


You can easily control the sharpness.


When it’s time to resharpen, I try hole 2 first. I can usually get a few sharpenings this way before I go back to hole 1. Because of the way it sharpens, pencils last much longer. -- Mark Frauenfelder

Kum Two Hole Automatic Long Point Pencil Sharpener $7 Also available from as a Blackwing-branded sharpener.


  1. There is only one way to perfectly sharpen a pencil.  This is the specific tool I use.

    With circular sharpeners you wind up with a tip that cannot be modulated to choose broad or narrow lines, you never get lines narrow enough, and the tip doesn’t stay consistently narrow for an appreciable amount of time.

    1.  If one of my colored pencils proves brittle, I’ll resort to a a pocket knife. The trouble is, I’m not very good at getting a consistent point. It takes a lot of work, and colored pencils wear down fast.

    2. Right up to the point TSA takes it away from you because you thought you lost it and it was in your bag the whole time.

      1. I’m sure they’ll take away a pencil sharpener these days too, but yes, I’ve lost about 5 that way.  Actually, lost the last one going to jury duty.

        I’m old, but I can remember when they were about $20.  Absent-mindedness is costing me substantially more now.

        On a side note, I did this once in Brazil.  My connecting flight was going to leave in about 30 minutes; I swung by the Varig desks just in case, but the line was about eighty long.  I stood there for a moment, dejected, and a staff member came up who had apparently been checking every person in the line to see what it was in particular they needed.  They took down my flight number, took the knife, and it was waiting for me in an envelope in Sao Paulo.

  2. I never realized that’s why so many portable pencil sharpeners have a bigger and a smaller hole. Holy cow, I’ve been doing it wrong all this time.

    1. Those have 2 different sized holes for 2 different barrel widths.  Think skinny adult pencils and fat Kindergarten pencils.

        1. You mean carpenter pencils that are typically flat (or elliptical) and can’t be used with a round-holed sharper?

    2. I felt like that the first time I found out too. For many years I thought it was for chunky novelty pencils like the ones my brother would get when we were little.

  3. One of the advantages of using a soft, dark pencil is that it is not necessary to bear down to make a distinct mark.  A  lightly held pencil used with minimal force may make for a more pleasant hand-writing experience. (For 45 years I was doing it the wrong way.)  Pencils, such as drawing pencils, come in a variety of hardnesses so the same pressure can produce a variety of marks.

  4. This is a great sharpener — but I REALLY wish the hinge to open the sharpener to empty is wasn’t simply a thin point in the plastic. It breaks way too soon and makes an otherwise well-designed item seem cheap. For a sharpener well designed enough to take replacement blades, I wish I didn’t have to keep putting packing tape on it to act as a hinge. Not to nit-pick, it comes from a place of love.

  5. i’ve sworn by staedtler’s mars 780 drafting pencils for many years.. 2b graphite and a square of ~300 grit sandpaper and i’m set. it takes 3 seconds to mod the tip however i need.

    (pic is from a prospective beer label.. didn’t pan out =p)

  6. “I use soft pencils and I bear down hard when I write.”
    You’re doing it wrong. The beauty of a soft lead is how little force is required to make a mark.

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