A Closer Look at Pencil Sharpeners


First of all, most pencil sharpeners are geared to give sharpen at a 23 degree angle. This gives you a longer point, and is good for most drawing pencils. However, with colored pencils, especially Prismacolors that are more prone to break, a shorter, fatter tip is given with some sharpeners that will sharpen to a 30 degree point. You can sometimes find both of these together in some 2-hole hand sharpeners, such as the Staedlter metal double hole sharpener. The Derwent battery operated one below also has two sharpeners with different angles.

The pencil on the left was sharpened with about a 23 degree angle, and the one on the right at a 30 degree angle. If you use the colored pencil on the side, the longer point is more useful and is sharper.


The X-Acto School Pro has been a real workhorse in our studio for years. It has three different sizes of holes, so it can handle every colored pencil we have put in it. the large container to hold the shavings is easy to remove and dump out. Since this sharpener is electric, there is plenty of power to sharpen pencil after pencil quickly and easily. Newer models have 6 hole sizes to choose from, and a larger reservoir.


This sharpener is wonderful for Faber-Castells, Caran d'Ache, and Derwents.


The school pro motor is very heavy duty. However, being a school pencil sharpener means that it gives you a slightly rounded tip to your pencils, not a razor sharp one.


The Bostitch Quiet Sharp 6 is a heavy duty pencil sharpener. It has a Thermal overload protector built in to avoid over-heating. The sharpener stops when the tip of the pencil is sharp. Our model sharpened off-center, often leaving a long wooden wedge up the side of it.


The reservoir holds a lot of shavings, so you don't have to empty it that often. We don't like the fact that it feels so very much like cheap plastic in the selector knob and the top part. The size selector rotates a bit too easily in our opinion.


The sharpener is very fast, as quiet as an electric sharpener can be, and gets a sharp point, when you manage to get it on center. It sharpens all brands of colored pencils.

The Derwent sharpener is battery operated. It takes 4 AA batteries, not that it tells you this on the box! The instruction manual is printed in tiny print, and is pretty skimpy. So they do not tell you, for example what the difference is between the white sharpener and the grey one inside. But the white sharpener gives you a longer point, and the grey one gives a shorter point. We don't like the wear it causes your hands trying to hold the pencil down while the sharpener rotates. When sharpening a lot of pencils, this can really get cause discomfort.


The sharpener has 5 holes on top, and you press the pencil down to have the internal sharpener (which look like the same sort that you use by hand) rotate and sharpen your pencil. There are adjustment knobs on the bottom for each sharpener.


We like this sharpener for Prismacolors. The trick to sharpening them seems to be to get a point that is not long. So the best thing to do is to use the grey sharpener, which gives you a smaller, less long point. If you use the white one, which gives a longer point, adjust the sharpener so that it gives a slightly blunt end. We adusted the bottom several times and arrived at a resonable degree of sharpness, that would not cause the points to break or crumble immediately for the Prismas.


This is the best sharpener to take to CP workshops. No outlet required!


We are not big on battery operated sharpeners, because of the disposal/ pollution issue with them. However, since voltages are different in different parts of the world, making this sharpener battery operated allowed Derwent to sell them anywhere with no modifications.


Derwent is a UK company, but the sharpener is made in China.




X-Acto Power 3 Sharpener does not have an auto-stop feature, so if you are not careful, your pencils will disappear like magic! This sharpener does give a long, sharp point, but the one sized opening is not not large enough for Faber-Castell colored pencils. Prismacolors will fit in it, and so will Caran d'Ache.


This sharpener holds a lot of shavings, which is nice for long, hard use. It will totally mess up your larger pencils like F-C's if you force them in. The outside of the wood casing will be all mangled up.


iPoint Electric Pencil Sharpener


The iPoint pencil sharpener comes in both electric and batter models. It does not matter which you buy, neither one has a large enough hole on top for anything but the Verithin pencils and regular number 2 type drawing pencils.


The Creative Mark MultiPoint Professional is a hand-cranked pencil sharpener. You need a table with about an inch ledge on it in order to attach the sharpener. This sharpener says that it sharpens 8-12mm diameter pencils, and will take any shape including triangular. It is nice and green since you hand crank it.


However, we found this sharpener to be very odd and difficult to use. While we loved the very easy to use point selection on the back, and the fact that the sharpener does not seem to waste much of you pencil, using it is NOT simply a matter of selecting a hole size, inserting the pencil, and cranking it sharp.


To use this sharpener, you are supposed to pull it open as shown, by squeezing the levers together. Then there is a yellow slide adjustment for the pencil size, which is not easy to determine if you are getting it bigger or smaller. Once you think it is adjusted, it is not clear if you should keep it open or closed (the picture on the front of the box shows the pencil inserted in the sharpener with it open). We tried it both ways. And both ways, the levers have to be pushed to put the pencil in or out. The sharpener grips the pencil firmly (it does not rotate) and this actually damages the pencil, scratching it and causing dents where it is being held.


We thought we were simply getting off-centered cores since that does happen in Prismas, and that it caused the pencil to have more wood removed from one side rather than the other. However, this sharpened even the Faber-Castell and Caran d' Ache pencils the same way. Made in China.



The problem with hand-held sharpeners is that if you sharpen a lot of pencils, as most CP artists do, and keep a sharp point, they actually can cause repetitive hand injuries like carpal tunnel. However, they are great for taking with you out sketching.



The Faber-Castell hand held sharpener works for all of the F-C colored pencils. it opens to have one side that says Color which is used for the colored pencils, and the other side for regular pencils. The angle is about 30 degrees, giving you the shorter, fatter point. This is a great one to take with you when traveling, at workshops, etc.




Staedtler makes this sharpener, which gives a longer 23 degree point for graphite, and a shorter 30 degree point for colored pencils. They also make models that have two holes, both of which work at 23 degree angles. Check the picture on the side. This sharpener is also a good one to take with you. It will sharpen all colored pencils- F-C's, Prismas, etc.



We of course tried the Prismacolor hand-held sharpener on the Prismacolors. In fact we tried two of them in case the first one was bad. But they sharpen the Prismas to a long point, can cause immediate breaking of the points. While this is a nice little portable sharpener to take with you places, it does not do a great job sharpening Prismacolors.

The KUM Correc-Tri sharpener has one half a hand-held sharpener, and the other half an eraser. Both work fine for most colored pencils.