“Just because something makes you smile or laugh … doesn’t mean it’s a joke.”
Word to the skeptical: don’t be. Artisinal pencil sharpening is a very real thing. You may have heard of David Rees, a political cartoonist who also runs ArtisinalPencilSharpening.com, a site where you can send in a pencil (or David can provide one) and he’ll sharpen it by hand, for $15.00.
Now, David has released a book How To Sharpen Pencils: A Practical & Theoretical Treatise on the Artisanal Craft of Pencil Sharpening for Writers, Artists, Contractors, Flange Turners, Anglesmiths, & Civil Servants (with a forward by John Hodgman), and is currently on tour with workshops and sharpening services, often on the same bill as some awesome comedians.
If you get the idea of a hand sharpened pencil, but aren’t quite down to pay $15.00 for the service, David has graciously provided his technique. For free.
It’s the kind of thing you simply gotta see.
Of all pencil-sharpeners, the humble single-blade pocket model is perhaps the most ubiquitous. That doesn’t mean our little friend is easy to master. On the contrary, its unassuming appearance gives no hint of the potential frustrations, pitfalls, brambles, dead-ends, and heartbreaks that lie within.
I approach every use of a pocket sharpener with guarded optimism. As far as I’m concerned, it offers the most intimate encounter with a pencil. It’s my favorite sharpening technique precisely because, like all intimate encounters, its ideal outcome is so obvious yet its practical application is so fraught with peril.