The Death Knell of Artisanal Pencil Sharpening?
Those of you who routinely send me e-mails when I write about something “not woodworking related,” stop reading. You will not be amused – even though this involves a sharp blade and tiny shavings. No, really. It’s not about woodworking. You won’t like it. Go away.
A few years ago, Christopher Schwarz stumbled across David Rees’s “Artisanal Pencil Sharpening” site. For $15, Rees sends a sharpened pencil in a plastic tube with a protective tip over the hand-sharpened point, along with a certificate of authenticity and the bagged pencil shavings. Plus, at the time, for $50 your order would include a limited-edition print on acid-free paper, signed and numbered by the artist (the prints are now sold out).
It sounds like a colossal joke. It is not. As it says on Rees’s web site: “If you think it’s a joke, why don’t you poke yourself with your newly sharpened pencil? Or better yet, don’t – because it’ll really hurt.”
Chris went whole hog and ordered the pencil plus the print, and he gave them to me as a gift. I’ve yet to take the pencil out of it’s protective wrappings, because I’m afraid I’ll immediately break off the hand-sharpened point – which I could, of course, then send back to Rees for re-sharpening. (Plus, seeing that tubed pencil and print atop my bookcase simply makes me smile.)
But I fear Lee Valley Tools may put Mr. Rees and other artisanal pencil sharpeners out of business with the “Little Shaver” pencil sharpener – a contemporary version of a 1910 product for which Edward L. McDivitt held the patent (you can read more about it on the Lee Valley site).
When the Little Shaver showed up on our conference table this morning, I had the same reaction I had upon first seeing Rees’s site: This has to be a joke. It is not.
As we sat in our weekly Monday morning meeting, I found myself using the oddly addictive tool. It’s pretty simple: Slip a pencil into the support notch, then slide the blade down the point, rotate the pencil and repeat. It does get a pencil far sharper than any other method I’ve used. (So of course I poked myself with my newly sharpened pencil. It really hurts.)
Still – it comes with no certificate of authenticity, and the shavings aren’t as pretty. I think there’s still room for the David Reeses of the world (his site is well worth a visit).