Let's say you've read up on the merits of woodcase pencils and you've decided to become an inveterate pencil carrier. You've sorted your B's from your HB's, you've picked your favorite finishes and ferrules. You've bought your dozen (or two) and are scribbling smoothly... until one day you find yourself with a dull point and no sharpener.
But if you've got your pocketknife, you're just a few minutes from a fresh point! Let's take a look at how to sharpen a pencil by hand.
Sharpening a blade at home - whether a pocket knife, a chisel, a kitchen knife, a hand plane blade, a pair of scissors - is a relatively simple process. In theory. In practice, it can be a bit difficult, since the essence of sharpening a blade is less about the ability to remove material and create/straighten a new edge. Rather - the trick is removing that material at the right angle to create the bevel that makes up a blade's sharp edge.
In case you've never looked into it, a set of steak knives is, like, super expensive. Even a reasonably priced, high-quality set, like these six rosewood-handled knives from Victorinox, will set you back $130. Which, to be fair, works out to about $22 a piece, but, c'mon, if you were gonna spend $130 on some knives, would you really want to get a speciality tool you'll only you five or six times a year when you cook up some serious protein for guests?
Check this one out: Scott, a maker and woodworker from Vancouver Island, BC, figured out a way to hack an old, busted breadmaker into a turntable-based powered sharpening system. He says,
"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.