The 10 Best Electric Pencil Sharpeners
Your Fingers To A Point
Elementary schools have long been outfitted with those iconic manual pencil sharpeners, the ancient-looking, metallic numbers with bodies shaped like flat-edged eggs. They could be bolted to a wall, a desktop, a counter–anything that could withstand the pressure of a young hand cranking away on the handle.
The dangerous thing about children's hands, and the reason I assume that most school systems still prefer manual sharpeners to electric ones, is that they have a few digits that are actually small enough to fit inside the sharpener.
When I was a kid, it was a common dare to stick your pinky–or whichever finger might fit–through the opening and turn the crank. Nobody really ever got hurt because the amount of finger sharpening going on was directly related to the pressure on the handle, and most kids yanked their fingers out the moment they felt the gears turning inside.
Most pencil sharpeners of this grade, be they manual or electric, consist of two corrugated barrels with moderately sharp ridges on them. Your pencil point ends up between these barrels, and their edges carve away at the pencil's wood and graphite in waves, producing a sharper and sharper point to your pencil the longer you spend in the moving machine.
Electric sharpeners have a simple sensor in them that detects the presence of the pencil either by touch or light sensitivity, depending on the brand and model. Pass a certain point with the pencil tip, and the sharpener engages.
Fancier models have adjustable sharpness settings, which are especially useful for artists who want to have a specific point to their pencils before putting them to paper. Some artists may even try to repeat the challenge presented to the grade school students mentioned above, and fill their creations in with a little all-natural red ink–I do not recommend this method.
Pencil Tip Of The Day
If you're a pencil person, you're well-acquainted with the terrible feeling in your body when the point of your pencil breaks. It starts in your fingertips and jumps aggressively up the arm, debilitating the shoulder and making a beeline for your heart. Having a sharp pencil in reserve is often the fastest remedy, but it's not always the case.
Keeping a high-quality pencil sharpener in or around your work space is the only surefire way to keep this anxiety from slamming the breaks on your creative progress. Exactly which electric sharpener you choose to enter into your workflow depends a lot on what the ergonomics are of that space, and your specific use of the pencils in question.
If you're a multi-tasker, liable to find yourself writing or drawing with one hand while mixing coffee and filing papers with your other, you're going to want your electric pencil sharpener to have its hole located on top. Sure, some of the front-facing hole models have suction cups and other gimmicks to keep them in place if you try to push your pencil into them with just the one hand, but, more often than not, you end up pushing the sharpener itself across your desk without shredding a single layer of graphite.
With an upright sharpener, you can let gravity assist you as you press your pencil downward through the sharpener's blades until it's perfectly honed.
You may be a more patient worker, though, preferring to accomplish one task at a time, reveling in the specificity of your moments. For you, a lateral sharpener will do just fine, and will usually be produced by the higher-quality brands on the market, like industrial manufacturers such as Bostitch or fine art suppliers like X-Acto.
Whittling Down The Competition
There are gift shops and stationary stores in the world that will sell you novelty pencils of enormous size. They're particularly difficult to write with, but they are even more impossible to sharpen. You have to reach back to the earliest days of the pencil to find a suitable sharpening method: the knife. The first pencil sharpeners of any kind were knives and hands, used to whittle the edges of a pencil to a crude point, the graphite tip (lead long ago) sticking out just far enough to be of use.
We have the French to thank for the development of the original pencil sharpeners, whose design from the early decades of the 1800s isn't far off from the single-blade, prism-style sharpeners kids still carry around in their pencil cases.
The mechanical pencil sharpeners with which we've become familiar in public schools around the world didn't come about until 1904, with a design strikingly similar to contemporary models, albeit less effective and more intricate in its manufacture.
The first electric pencil sharpeners were right around the corner, advertised by Farnham Printing and Stationary Company in 1917. Several other companies like Swingline and Polar Cub developed their own competitive versions through the 50s and 60s, with a boom in production arriving alongside the explosion of big-box office stores like Staples and Office Depot in the 1990s.