Sharpeners


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‽


Lee Valley’s Little Shaver 5

Introduction

I recently bought Lee Valley’s Little Shaver. According to their website the sharpner this replica is based on

was patented by Edward L. McDivitt of Belvidere, Illinois, in 1904. Sold until 1910 under various names including “The Handy Sharpener” and “Little Shaver”, it was offered for a price of $1.00 U.S. ($1.25 for a nickel-plated version); replacement blades were available for 25 cents. (Lee Valley web site)

If you have come across this sharpener before it was most likely in How to Sharpen Pencils by David Rees (p. 103), but it also mentioned very briefly in episode six of the Erasable podcast. My interest in this sharpener got reignited when Sola mentioned it recently. My wife was kind enough to buy me this sharpener for my birthday.

Price

The official price is just under 50 Canadian Dollars, but unfortunately we chose the UPS delivery and I have to tell you, UPS is not exactly modest when it comes to fees. UPS shipping was about half the price of the sharpener, which is fine, but they made a really nice profit when they charged for handling customs clearance, plus they only take cash and don’t provide a receipt(!). It all felt quite dodgy (with no receipt), but otherwise they would have kept the parcel with the sharpener, which got really expensive by now. In the end, including all other costs, I paid quite a bit more than £70 (~$100; €100).

Lee Valley's Little Shaver

Build Quality

The sharpener feels built like a tank. It is quite heavy and as far as I can judge it is very well made. Lee Valley described it as “cast steel with a black gloss powder-coated finish”. Lee Valley started offering the Little Shaver Pencil Sharpener in 2011

Lee Valley's Little Shaver

How to sharpen

To sharpen a pencil you place your pencil in the support notch and move the hinged lever arm, similar to sharpening with a knife, to shave wood off. The lever arm is constructed in such a way that the blade cannot cut into the cast steel by mistake, as it will slide along what I can only describe as a sledge, the sledge will ensure you always keep the minimum distance from the cast steel. You then rotate the pencil, I think the official recommendation is you rotate it by 1/8 and repeat this step.

Not easy to use

To be honest, I’m not the most skilful person on the planet, but I am not exactly dexterously challenged either. I have no problems sharpening a pencil with a knife in a few seconds, producing a fairly nice point, but I really struggled with the Little Shaver. By now, several butchered pencils later, I achieve better results, but I still find sharpening with a good knife easier.

Problems

I think my problems stem from three different sources.

  1. The blade either wasn’t anywhere near as sharp as a knife’s blade or this saver’s blade got dull very fast
  2. Pencils don’t stay in place in the support notch. When you try to shave wood off with the blade the pencil will be pushed forward which means the newly created point will be shaved off next time you use the blade. Instead of sharpening the pencil from all sides towards one point every move of the blade will shorten the pencil and create a new point further down
  3. You might very well think that the sledge is there to keep the blade at the correct distance, when you sharpen the pencil, but it is (probably) only there to prevent you from ramming the blade into the cast steel support notch. You have to keep the right distance for optimal sharpening yourself.

Solutions?

The first problem can be fixed by sharpening the blade.

To prevent the pencil from moving forward, which was the second problem I listed, you can grip it very tight near the border of the sharpener. This will help to stop it moving forward. If you have a very sharp blade and don’t take too much wood off in one go it should be possible to hold the pencil in the right place and to prevent it from moving forward1.

I guess dealing with the last problem requires some practice. Somehow I find it not that easy to keep the correct distance with the Little Shaver’s blade, even though I have no problems doing something similar with a knife. Based on other reviews of the Little Shaver I would say it can’t be too difficult, but then, if you think of buying the Little Shaver, keep in mind that these reviews are by people whose hobby is woodworking.

Conclusion

It’s one of the most interesting and unusual sharpeners that is still being produced today. As this is not a mass produced product the price can’t be very cheap, but there are much more expensive sharpeners out there, e.g. from Cara d’Ache, El Casco or Graf von Faber-Castell. I think I’d definitely buy one again if it wasn’T for all the fees associated with importing goods into Europe.

What Lee Valley say in their YouTube video is certainly true: this sharpener has nothing to do with efficiency and more to do with fun and nostalgia. It is fun to use and there’s also the challenge of trying to produce a better and better point using the Little Shaver.

Lee Valley's Little Shaver

If you liked or disliked this blog post, why not leave a comment? I’m always happy to read or reply to comments.


Price: October 2015

Exchange rates: November 2015

As usual, please open images in a new tab to see them in high resolution.

To watch the videos in full resolution please watch them on YouTube.

You can find reviews of this sharpener at Popular Woodworking and Full Chisel.

Since this blog post comes with videos: At Lexikaliker you can enjoy what I think must be the world’s first ever pencil blog post with a video.

  1. as moving forward would result in the next cut of the blade shortening it again instead of shaping the existing point []