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How to Sharpen Pencils: A Practical & Theoretical Treatise on the Artisanal Craft of Pencil Sharpening for Writers, Artists, Contractors, Flange Turners, Anglesmiths, & Civil Servants Paperback – August 27, 2013
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Rees, previously known as creator of the brash, deadpan, clip-art comic strip, Get Your War On, has set out to do what few of his predecessors in the pencil-sharpening game have, laying forth not just a detailed practical manual of all of the major sharpening techniques and devices but also a thoughtful discourse on the creative, performative, psychological, and even occult aspects of the sharpener’s art. Bowing to popular usage, he includes a section on the proper use of electric sharpeners (it involves a mallet) and a trenchant (if profane) discourse on mechanical pencils. Although this reviewer was brought up a little short by the omission of chapters on sharpening in the dark or at higher altitudes, it must nevertheless be acknowledged that this is without doubt the most thorough single-volume work on the sharpening of North American No. 2 pencils currently in existence. One is tempted to call it a must-read for anyone who has ever used a pencil. Then one comes to one’s senses and recommends it, rather, to those who possess a home workbench, a dry wit, and/or a healthy appreciation of the absurd. --David Wright --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
As a sheer feat of writerly endurance, How to Sharpen Pencils is impressive. . . . In short, I don't really see the point of this book about points. —Peter Arkle --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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This book is a perfect balance of humor and information and will have you actually excited to learn about pencils. It's fun to realize that something as seemingly mundane as a pencil, something we've gotten so used to we don't think much about anymore... can all be so interesting again!
I definitely feel a bit of a smile on my face now every time I pick up a pencil. :)
I give it a five star though for a job well done on the author's part, and for making me smile while I gained what could be a really boring subject. Thanks to him, I found the sourced to getting an antique remake of a pencil sharpener that I have searched for years for, that will make a great sharpener for watercolor pencils. This book will be saving many of my pencils that would otherwise be EATEN by the average sharpener. Love how he is making a living at doing this ancient craft. Also love the reminder that the contents of a pencil is made of graphite, and NOT LEAD. Thanks David for making me smile!
I was disappointed on a couple of points. As I finished the book, I had some unanswered questions. Firstly, as a lay-carpenter, I am always after the best line, and as such, the best pencil point. Pens/sharpies do not work with such tolerances, and pens will often leave a gash that pencils do not. Some in our trade are willing to leave a gash in their hand cut dove-tails, and planing away a mark might not be a valid remedy when tolerances are so close! Worst, a pen will often be frozen in the workshop when you need it, and not make a consistent mark to follow. Finally, the mechanical pencil doesn't allow a fine enough tolerance as it is run along a straight edge. Just see what happens if you try to take your .7mm lead and run it directly in the corner of your straight edge! You'll find you either break lead with too much pitch, or you'll stand 1/4 inch off the straight edge, +/- whatever variation in angle your hand takes as you draw!
Much to my excitement, my latest batch of "cedar soldiers" came with a sharpener I can put in my drill! Needless to say, this bit of whimsy is the source of endless fun, but I find the points are too sharp, and will break easily when I try making a straight line. I've been experimenting with the use of an exacto-knife for my pointing work, and could have used some instructions on this variant of knife sharpening. Perhaps David felt this might be an endorsement of a brand? I can imagine the licencing of the name could have proven problematic. Anyway, I find it's a great way to get a steeper point, and I get a completely flush side I can use to run along my straight edge and produce a line almost at the exact point of measurement. When you're fitting pieces of poplar exactly together, this can make a big difference.
I was also disappointed by the limited chapter on electric sharpeners. I often see these at stores, and I'm uncertain if their use would be the same as I found in David's tome. Must I wait for some hapless chap to end up with an electric sharpener in their cart? It seems like an ethical grey area, since it is presented as an item for sale in the local haberdashery, and presumably subject to local ordinances regarding property and larceny.
After all this, I was hoping for a sequel to answer my questions, and would have given the work full marks, but finally I decided to knock off a star because of the final 2 chapters, which were not about pencil sharpening at all. The seriousness of refining a point was set aside, and I can't fully endorse this as an artisanal guide, since the basic ethos was compromised.