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How to Sharpen a Pencil
Sharpening a pencil correctly can be important, especially if you are an artist or just want your handwriting to look smooth. In fact, it can be an artisanal skill. There are several different ways you can sharpen a pencil.
Use a portable, manual sharpener. These usually come with two holes in a small plastic square. One hole is for a smaller pencil, and one is for a larger one.
The benefit of using a manual sharpener is that they are cheap and portable. Again, if you're not careful, you can create an irregular pencil point.
Simply put the pencil into the sharpener’s hole, and turn it several times to create a point. Sharpen over a garbage can, unless the sharpener has a plastic bubble designed to capture the shaving remnants.
Try using an electric pencil sharpener.
Try using an electric pencil sharpener. An electrical pencil sharpener will create a pencil that makes a very neat line. Push the pencil into the hole in the sharpener. The sharpener will make a whirring sound as it sharpens the pencil.
A downside of electric pencil sharpeners can be irregular sharpening. However, they are the easiest to use. Choose a pencil that is worth sharpening. The pencil’s lead (the graphite core) should not be off-center or it will be hard to shape into the normal conical point shape. Make sure the pencil is not bowed.
Use an old rag in order to wipe the residue off the pencil after you sharpen it.
Hold the pencil right. You want to grab the pencil near its point if you are sharpening it with a knife, about 1 ½ inches from the end of the pencil. This will stabilize the pencil. Hold the pencil in your non-dominant hand, and the knife in your dominant hand.
You want to make sure the utility knife is sharp. You can sharpen your knives (carefully) with a knife sharpening stone or steel. Position the knife about ¾ of an inch up the shaft of the pencil. Start to remove the wood. Expose the graphite that is within the pencil itself.
Push the blade of the knife through the pencil’s wood with your thumb holding the pencil. Push the knife toward the unsharpened end of the pencil as your non-dominant hand rotates the pencil. A thumb knuckle’s length away from the end of the pencil is how deep you want to go. Once you’ve exposed the graphite, you can shape it into a point.
How Does an Electric Pencil Sharpener Work?
An electric pencil sharpener is a small motorized appliance for sharpening or refreshing the points on lead pencils. Inside the hole, a small electric motor turns a blade assembly at high speed. The blades shave wood and lead from the pencil’s end, bringing it to a point. Most electric pencil sharpeners are powered through a 120V electrical cord, though some are battery operated.
What Can Go Wrong with an Electric Pencil Sharpener?
The most common problem with electric pencil sharpeners is clogs from wood and lead shavings. In addition, the electric cord can fail, the blade can become dull, and the motor can malfunction. Preventive maintenance (cleaning and lubricating) can dramatically extend the life of an electric pencil sharpener.
How Can I Identify an Electric Pencil Sharpener Problem?
If the unit does not operate when a pencil is inserted into the hole, make sure power is on at the outlet, then test the electrical cord and replace if faulty.
If the unit still does not operate, the problem could be in the motor. Test the motor and replace it or the device if necessary.
If the unit operates but does not cut a sharp point or seems very sluggish, the shavings tray may be overfilled and the unit plugged up in other areas. Disassemble the unit (see below) and use canned air to clean it out.
If the unit still operates sluggishly or does not sharpen well, the blade may be dull. You can try disassembling the unit and using a small file to sharpen the blades–or you can replace the unit.