Sharpeners


Staedtler’s Mars 501 180 – the Wopex sharpener 6

Welcome to a slightly delayed blog post. The video for this blog post was put on YouTube quite a while ago, in February, but the blog post is only out now as a busy period at work meant that I didn’t get round looking for my protractor earlier.1

The Wopex

Unfortunately there’s a lot of Wopex hate going on in some parts of social media where people discuss pencils – and there are very few people defending the Wopex2. Luckily the Wopex can convince in the long term: I was very happy to read Deirdre’s blog post where she turned from a Wopex hater (‘I HATE WOPEX’) to someone not only tolerating the Wopex, but even accepting it and it’s advantages (Some quotes: ‘graphite […] actually isn’t that bad’, ‘point retention is great’, ‘if you are writing on toothy3 paper, the WOPEX really shines’).

Suffice to say4, I love the Wopex.

Just a quick reminder: Unlike normal wood cased pencils the Wopex uses a wood-plastic-composite instead of wood. The wood-plastic-composite consists mainly of wood and is, in my opinion, orders of magnitude better than pencils that use plastic instead of wood. Not only does the Wopex sharpen better, the lead – extruded together with the pencil – is also of much better quality, too.

The pellets before they’re extruded into a pencil

In the vial above you can see how the material looks like before it is extruded into a pencil. I got this vial at the Insights X trade fair. The pellets remind me of a company I worked for during my holidays in the 1990s. They were manufacturing extruded pipes and had similar looking pellets. The recycled pellets smelled very much like washing powder. As far as I remember extruding from recycled material was not easy, the material kept expanding in the wrong place resulting in uneven products. Unrelated – but there must be so much knowledge going into the production of a product like the Wopex…

The new Noris eco pencils in 2B, HB and 2H

The Staedtler 501 180

I first mentioned the 501 180 in a blog post from 2014, but a few months ago I finally got my hands on one – they are not very common and not easy to come by in the UK. The article number has gives some clues to this sharpener’s purpose: Wopex pencils have article numbers starting with 180 (e.g. 180 40). Staedtler has now switched to using the word Wopex to describe the wood-plastic-composite material, and is not using Wopex anymore to describe pencils made from this material, but independent of how the name Wopex is used, the pencils made from Wopex material still use article numbers starting with 180 (e.g. 180 30 for the new Noris eco).

Article numbers for Staedtler’s rotary (i.e. hand crank) sharpener start with 501 (e.g. the Mars 501 20 rotary sharpener) so 501 180 is the perfect5 article number for this sharpener, 501 for a rotary sharpener and 180 for Wopex. The 501 180 was designed by Helmut Hufnagl and is made in Taiwan.

Left to right: Deli 0635, Staedtler 501 180, Deli 0620

The Video

Here’s a video where I compare the 501 180 to two other rotary sharpeners.

Clipping the pencils’ points off at about 7:30 really hurt and felt rather wasteful, but wasting so much good pencil when the auto stop of the other two sharpeners didn’t work was of course even more wasteful (…even though it didn’t hurt so much, maybe because the machine did the crippling of the pencils).

Left to right: Deli 0635, Staedtler 501 180, Deli 0620

Tip: Open the video in YouTube, you can then play it at higher speeds, e.g. 1.5x.

Here’s a little table comparing the different points created by the three different sharpeners.

Sharpener:Deli 0635Staedtler 501 180Deli 0620
Angle:17°19°17°

..and here are the different points made by the different sharpeners.

Left to right: point sharpened by Deli 0635, Staedtler 501 180, Deli 0620

The Auto Stop

There is just so much less material wasted when the auto stop works. If you don’t have the 501 180 and your sharpener’s auto stop doesn’t work, have a look at the end of the video where I show a way of dealing with this problem. I am mentioning this simple trick here because my simplest videos seem most appreciated (e.g. how to refill a mechanical pencil), while my complex videos (e.g. the DelGuard pen force test) remain rather unloved.

Left to right: point sharpened by Deli 0635, Staedtler 501 180, Deli 0620

 


I have added the Wopex Mars 501 180 to the list of sharpeners, sorted by angle.

Many thanks to Benedikt Schindler for his help in getting the 501 180 to me in the UK.

  1. …because I switched to using a protractor when measuring angles I want to stick with this method so that all pencil points are measured the same way. []
  2. …with Johnny being the most determined defender in the Erasable group on Facebook. Thank you for that. []
  3. As expressed previously, for various reasons I am not keen on the expression ‘toothy paper’, but since this is a direct quote it will be one of the few occasions you can find this word in this blog []
  4. Yes, I learned that expression when I watched the English version of Star Trek Voyager. []
  5. I try to avoid using the word perfect, but in this case it is justified, I think. []

The Rolls Royce of Pencil Sharpeners 4

I first heard about the ELM V-71 a few years ago. The person who told me about it has more knowledge about sharpeners than anyone else I know ..and he called the V-71 the Rolls Royce of sharpeners.

ELM V71 (Image from 东莞八束易之美五金塑胶制品有限公司)

It’s an electric burr/cylindrical sharpener. Not exactly a very cheap one either – if you want to get one in Europe it will set you back around $150, but you’d probably have to import it yourself as I haven’t seen it for sale in the West. If you are trying to get one: most pages where I’ve seen it being offered are from Singapore.

ELM V5 (Image from 东莞八束易之美五金塑胶制品有限公司)

ELM (Dongguan Yatsuka Yizhimei Metal & Plastic Co.) also offers cheaper, battery operated burr/cylindrical sharpeners – a very different class to the normal battery operated sharpeners you can get, but also more expensive. The ELM V-3 and the ELM V-5 are about $30 each. Maybe we’re lucky and one day someone will import them. I am very tempted to order one, but haven’t done so yet. Maybe writing this blog post can convince me to press the Buy button after all. I think it will.

In the West you might have come across products from this manufacturer under the ACCO brand (one of their electric staplers).

Why do I write about this?

It looks as if it will soon be much easier to get your hands on the V71.

 

Caran d’Ache electric sharpener (Image © lexikaliker.de)

At the Paper World Gunther saw a new Caran d’Ache sharpener that will be available from September for €100. When I saw the pictures I first didn’t notice it, I hadn’t looked at the V71 for many months, but when I saw the ELM V71 again online I noticed that it seems to be the same sharpener. The inside might be different of course, better or worse, but there’s a good chance that this is the Rolls Royce of sharpeners after all.

Caran d’Ache electric sharpener (Image © lexikaliker.de)


I would like to thank Gunther from Lexikaliker for allowing me to use his pictures.

The pictures of the ELM sharpeners have been taken from websites linked to Dongguan Yatsuka Yizhimei Metal & Plastic Co. I believe that the use of the images shown in this blog post, falls under “fair dealing” as described by the UK Copyright service.


Handicraft with Bleistift VI – High tech pencil sharpening: Sharpening a pencil with a hard disk 2

Today: a short video with some high tech pencil sharpening, showing how to sharpen a pencil with a hard disk. It’s Handicraft with Bleistift VI.

..you could use a similar set up for grinding fountain pen nibs.

It might be worth making a backup of the contents of your hard disk before converting it into a pencil sharpener.


Pollux 6

Möbius+Ruppert Pollux

You might remember Lexikaliker’s blog post about Möbius+Ruppert’s new sharpeners Castor and Pollux. Well, thanks to Lexikalier’s generosity I got my hand on half of these geminis, I even got the more interesting half: the Pollux, a brass sharpener that’s producing a concave tip.

Möbius+Ruppert Pollux

Lexikaliker has already covered all important points in his blog post about the Pollux, so I’ll keep it short and will just add a few of my impressions.

A pencil point before the blade treatment

A pencil point before the blade treatment

Out of the box the sharpener did sharpen well, but it was tearing/ripping the wood more than it should. Strangely enough the graphite point was cut very well, so I am not sure what exactly caused this behaviour that only affects the wood, not the graphite part.

You can see what exactly happened in this video:

 

 

 

A pencil point after the blade treatment

A pencil point after the blade treatment

I tried fixing it by sharpening the blade, first on a Belgian whetstone. You might have seen this stone in my videos about the Little Shaver. Unfortunately it wasn’t abrasive enough or I didn’t try long enough. I then tried my luck with Spyderco’s Sharpmaker and I got great results. After soe work on the blade the Pollux sharpened like a dream. Before working on the blade it produced shavings with holes in it, because the wood was torn. The shavings themselves had a thickness of around 0.25mm. After my blade treatment the shavings were thinner, 0.15mm thin – very thin.

Here’s a video I made after I worked on the blade:

Noris shavings from the Pollux

Noris shavings from the Pollux

Like Lexikaliker I measured an angle of around 18.5° for the pencil points produced by the Pollux.

The case drom my DUX DX4322 is a great fit for the Pollux

The case from my DUX DX4322 is a great fit for the Pollux

I have added the Pollux to my list of sharpeners.


Please open the images in a new tab to see them in high resolution.

Please open the videos in Youtube to watch them in 4K.


The Scherzinger sharpener 3

Is this the coolest sharpener ever?

IMG_1468

Scherzinger’s idea

I have recently been contacted by A. F. Scherzinger, an engineer from Massachusetts, who is about to launch a Kickstarter campaign in a few days. Even though his expertise is in the aerospace industry, at weekends he likes to tinker with all sorts of things in his shed and one day he had the brilliant idea that there’s no need for a hole in a pencil sharpener.

How is works

He explained to me that all the hole is doing is guiding the pencil, and that three points would be sufficient to do that. One of these points can be the blade itself, so all that is needed is two more points. After some trial and error he figured out that the best way of spacing these anchor points is to group them as if they form a circle, but to keep them 120° apart.

The material 

After some initial experiments with titanium, which turned out to be too springy to be of any use, he came up with the special alloy he is now using. I was lucky enough to have received an early sample and I have to say: this is great – take my money!!

IMG_1469

Real life experience

The little struts are a but pointy, so I guess you better be careful when you carry this sharpener, but early Kickstarter backers will get a free neoprene carry case with their sharpener.

As his stretch goal he is planning to make a long point version – how cool is that‽