Sharpening a Wopex 11


You might have already noticed that the Wopex is one of my favourite pencils. It is the pencil I use most often when writing on paper where ghosting/graphite transfer might be a problem. There is however one problem that makes using a Wopex an experience less exciting than it could be: sharpening this pencil.

Wopex, presharpened

Desktop sharpeners are not good at sharpening pencils with such a hard casing. They won’t stop automatically, too, which means that you might shorten the pencil too much when using a desktop sharpener and you’ll got a less than exciting finish where the blade cylinder stopped.

Wopex, prism sharpener sharpened

Click to enlarge

A normal prism sharpener does a better job when it comes to sharpening a Wopex, but the lead tends to look rather porous after sharpening and the fine point created will break much easier on a Wopex than on a pencil with a traditional lead.The special Wopex sharpeners don’t seem to do a better job than any other prism sharpeners. At least they don’t do for me, maybe I don’t use them the way they should be used. One example is shown here, but the point doesn’t always look that bad. A better looking point, made using a prism sharpener, has been shown in a previous blog post.

Wopex, knife sharpened

The presharpened Wopexes1 are looking and performing best. They are sharpened on an abrasive surface, something that is not necessarily practical for home use because of the time and dust involved. Searching for an alternative, better than a normal prism sharpener, I thought of using a knife to achieve a point similar to the one of presharpened Wopexes.

Unlike most other sharpening techniques, in which blades engage the pencil’s wood (and later, graphite) at an angle more or less parallel to the shaft, the pocketknife’s blade is applied perpendicular to the pencil’s shaft.” (Rees 2012, p.46)2

There is a special pencil knife for sharpening and erasing, but I used a normal knife. In this case one with a high carbon steel blade, but stainless steel blades work just as well. The results are good, better than what I get from a prism sharpener, including the Wopex sharpener, but are slightly worse when compared to a presharpened Wopex.

 


I would like to thank

  1. Wopeges, Wopeces? or whatever the plural may be []
  2. Rees, D., 2012. How to sharpen pencils. Brooklyn, New York: Melville House. []

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11 thoughts on “Sharpening a Wopex

  • Claire

    That’s a nicely knife sharpened point. I like how with knife one can create edges on the lead, which gives a different experience from writing with a smooth surface created by sharpeners.
    Memm, according to your knife sharpening experience, is hard casing easier or harder to sharpen than a normal casing?

  • Matthias Post author

    Claire, on a Wopex the knife sharpened lead seems to be smoother than the one created by sharpeners. The parallel sharpening of the sharpener seems to rip fairly big chunks of the lead out. This doesn’t seem to happen with a knife …or if it does the knife somehow seems to smoothen these gaps.

    In the end the edges on the lead, when sharpened with a knife, are not too different from the ones the presharpened Wopex has.

    Regarding the difficulty of sharpening a Wopex and a normal pencil: it’s difficult to say, but maybe the Wopex is easier to deal with. If you use a sharp knife and if you are using a cedar wood pencil it’s very easy to remove too much wood with one cut. The Wopex material is much harder, so you remove a much thinner slice of material.
    I wonder when the Wopex material will be available for use outside the pencil industry. It seems to be a good replacement for plastic or wood, so things like handles of knives, tools, etc, could be made from it. It wouldn’t be the first time a pencil manufacturer would diversify into an area quite different to stationery (Berolzheimer – fire logs).

  • Kevin

    Well the results of knife sharpening are far better than any rotary or hand sharpener I have so far used for the WOPEX. I still find the material tough and you get occasional jams in the slicing process. To sharpen the graphite portion only I use very swif, short, almost parallel flicks of the knife, with the blade running across the lead at a 45 degree angle so that the knife doesn’t have a chance to dig in to the lead. Sharpening across the lead also allows a neater finish. I still think knife blades are going to dull very quickly with this very dense material.

  • John

    I fed mine into the Classroom Fiendly sharpener (single burr). The point it produced was great. But it required so much pressure that the auto-stop failed; I wasted a full inch of pencil (will have to be careful next time). I’ve really been enjoying this pencil! (And thanks again for sending it!)

  • Bart Cubbins

    “Wopex”, what an ungainly comical name. It sounds like it’s right out of Dr. Seuss. Lorax, meet Wopex. Wopex, meet the Lorax.

  • Gunther

    Thank you for sharing your observations. I haven’t experienced such a poor point on the WOPEX yet; however, using a crank sharpener with this pencil has caused problems for me too. – As far as I know the WOPEX is factory sharpened with rotating knifes (I don’t know how these knifes are designed but a closer look at the point shows flat surfaces).

  • Matthias Post author

    Kevin, I’ll try the 45° sharpening for the lead. Sounds promising. Regarding the blade going dull, that’s why I used a carbon blade. My limited understanding is that carbon steel blades are easy to get sharper and they don’t get dull as fast as stainless steel blades under most conditions. In Europe if a knife is available with both types of blades the carbon steel blade is usually cheaper, too (certainly applies in case of Swedish, German or French steel. Here you can get them for what would be AUD 12 or less).

    John, I also always get an unsightly look where the burr last made contact with the pencil… 8^( Great that you like this pencil.

    Bart, I actually do like the name, but I’m neither a native English speaker nor am I too familiar with the Dr. Seuss stories, so I’ll have different associations with certain names. I remember when Sega’s Dreamcast came out people complained about the name, but I didn’t “get it”.

    Gunther, I just assumed Staedtler sharpens the Wopex like any other pencil. Thanks for the explanation with the rotating knives. I wonder whether this is because the traditional “sanding down” takes too long with the Wopex or whether their abrasive surface isn’t quite abrasive enough for this tough pencil.

  • Mikel

    What kind of knife is that and is there a website where I can order it? I sharpen most of my pencils with a pocket knife but would t love to introduce that beautiful specimen.

  • Matthias Post author

    Mikel, the knife you see is an Opinel N°8. I got it 20 years ago, but the Opinels haven’t changed much since then. It must the cheapest European knife that is easily available. You can get it for under €10. There are cheaper ones, e.g. from SICO (Portugal), but they are difficult to get hold of. The handle is made of French beechwood and you can get it with either a high carbon (French) steel blade or with a stainless (Swedish) steel blade.

  • Mr.wilina suksana

    As to trouble of honing a Wopex and a typical pencil: its hard to say, yet perhaps the Wopex is simpler to manage. In the event that you utilize a sharp blade and on the off chance that you are utilizing a cedar wood pencil its anything but difficult to uproot an excess of wood with one cut. The Wopex material is much harder, so you evacuate a much more slender cut of material.My constrained comprehension is that carbon steel razor sharp edges are anything but difficult to get more keen and they don’t get dull as quick as stainless steel sharpened pieces of steels under most conditions.There’s so much information and varying opinions out there, thanks for presenting the facts and helping me to get a clear understanding of point on the WOPEX yet; be that as it may, utilizing a wrench sharpener with this pencil has brought on issues for me as well.

  • Matthias Post author

    Mr.wilina suksana, I assume this is spam, that’s why I removed the link, but the way spam comments are being generated these days is quite clever, so I couldn’t resist approving this comment.