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  1. #1
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    Pencil Sharpening 101

    I know it does not get any more basic then this, but how the heck can you get a good point on a soft lead without the darn thing breaking off. Every time I use a pencil sharpener I get it almost sharp and a big length of the lead breaks off and I have to dig it out of the sharpener. When I use a knife, some times I can get a good point but not very often.

    I have resulted to just using .5 MM lead mechanical pencils, but would like to use regular artist pencils.

    Got any tips?


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  3. #2
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    How soft is your lead?

  4. #3
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    I had the same problem with some pastel pencils.
    Remove some of the wood with a knife and shape the tip with a sandpaper.
    Don't put too much pressure on it when using the sandpaper.

    How big do you want to make your lead tip?What kind of pencil are we talking? Can you show us a picture of what you're trying to achieve?
    Last edited by Uziel; January 16th, 2012 at 01:35 AM.
    "Create like a god, command like a king, work like a slave."

  5. #4
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    Over the years I've had that same problem with just about all color pencils, a lot of Conte pencils and the softer Berol Turquoise leads.

  6. #5
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    Fasten the screw or change sharpener blade.


    You can try a mechanical sharpener - the forces exerted on the lead are orientated differently and you get finer tips compared to standard sharpeners.
    It will pull on the lead instead of cutting from one side. Never had problems with them for artistic color pencils. Downside = they seem to 'eat' pencils a lot faster...
    Pencil Sharpening 101

    Still a hobby knife and sandpaper will do the trick no matter unless your pencils have been treated badly.

    One very important tip - never drop your pencils.
    I keep mine in a cushioned box or pencil wrap.
    Last edited by Uziel; January 16th, 2012 at 03:21 PM.
    "Create like a god, command like a king, work like a slave."

  7. #6
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    Have you tried Staedtler Lumographs? Maybe I've just had good luck with them, but I have never had a lead break, no matter how much I sharpen them.

  8. #7
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    Make sure that the blade in your sharpener is still sharp. Then very slowly twist the pencil holding it kind of as close to the sharpener as you can get. Works for me most of the time.

    If with a knife, I "scrape" the tip very lightly. Someone here mentioned sand paper, I just sharpen on some rough paper (like an old failed watercolor painting), and then use the graphite area for "dipping" my stub in later for shading. Can take a while for it to build up, so just make little squares and stay within them so you don't spread it all over the paper.

    Also if you sharpen from 2B and up, save the graphite for later. Crush it into powder, and you can use it for shading/blurred backgrounds, kind of like with the watercolor paper. For larger areas I use this. Sometimes I even start sharpening my pencils to get some powder, put it on the paper, and smudge it with a paper tissue. In that way I don't feel I have much waste from a pencil regardless

  9. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by Uziel View Post
    You can try a mechanical sharpener - the forces exerted on the lead are orientated differently and you get finer tips compared to standard sharpeners.
    It will pull on the lead instead of cutting from one side. Never had problems with them for artistic color pencils. Downside = they seem to 'eat' pencils a lot faster...
    Pencil Sharpening 101
    I've used three different old fashioned pencil sharpeners like that and they all chewed up my pencils until they splintered and the graphite fell out, along with leaving bite marks on the outside of the pencil. (maybe they were all improperly calibrated... not disagreeing with your success with them, btw). The fine sandpaper that they sell at art stores for sanding pencils worked nicely for me. (but I admit I've switched to mechanical pencils and can't really imagine going back).

  10. #9
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    Thanks for the replies. That is interesting about those old fashioned sharpeners. I can see how the force they put on the lead is a pulling force, where the lead is strongest, unlike the razor type sharpeners put the force against the side where the lead is weak. Maybe the answer is to get an electric sharpener which will keep steady pressure on it.

  11. #10
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    Problem Solved

    Thanks for the response guys and extra thanks to Uziel. I bought an old style Xacto pencil sharpener (Office Max, $21 + $10 off coupon = $11) with two cutting cylinders and it works great. I just went through all my many different kinds of pencils and not one broke. I think the reason is that the mechanism pulls on the lead, instead of pushing it to the side, like the little ones with razors do, and it pulls evenly from both sides.

    Xacto makes a sharpener that has only one cutting cylinder that cost a little less, but I would guess that it would also have the problem of breaking fragile leads.

    Anyway, after years of fighting the problem, I find that way I learned to sharpen pencils in the first grade is the best.


    Pencil Sharpening 101

  12. #11
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    PROBLEM SOLVED!

    I don't know why my post have not been appearing, but I want to I got an old fashioned styled mechanical pencil sharpener like the one Uziel posted and it did the trick. I got an Xacto KS sharpener (Office Max $21 + $10 off coupon = $11).

    I went through all my pencils -- hard, soft, colored, charcoal, chalk, etc. and none of them broke.

    This has been a problem that has plagued me for years and now I know I should have stayed with the equipment they taught me to use in the first grade.

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