My New Pencil Sharpener: What a Tool!

Bonni Brodnick
Dec 1, 2016 · 3 min read
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I once attended a lecture by novelist John Irving. He talked about the mechanics of writing The World According to Garp, The Cider House Rules and his other masterpieces of fiction. He also discussed how he writes the end of a novel first, then writes his way back to the beginning, and that he likes to write by hand. This immediately inspired me to purchase a box of №2 pencils and lots of legal writing pads.

Through the years, my writing tools have morphed from yellow Ticonderoga pencils (elementary school) to ballpoint pen (middle school) to Flairs (college) to Rapidographs (art school) to nib fountain pens (post-wedding) to rollerball pens (a little later) and back to pencils (now). Rereading an interview with Irving, I am inspired to write first drafts in long-hand and return to my first grade writing tool: the lead pencil, which I have upgraded to a swanky high-density, lacquer-coated graphite pencil in a set that contains gold, silver, black and pure graphite. This all beckons the need for … what else? A pencil sharpener.

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In taking this step back in time to Luddite Town, extensive research for the perfect pencil sharpener was conducted. And since I was going retro, the pencil sharpener had to be manual.

After getting distracted on Amazon and surfing for things I didn’t need, I eventually landed the perfect sharpener. The description called it commercial-grade for “high-volume environments, with dual cutters to sharpen with precision.” It also had a ”unique auto-stop feature to prevent over-sharpening” and was adjustable to eight pencil sizes.

Sold! Sign me up. Here’s my credit card. How fast can it get here?

When the sharpener arrived two days later, I unwrapped it with anticipation and glee. With the provided screws, I mounted it in the closet in my office. I was proud of my selection and, even prouder, that I wouldn’t be draining the grid with an electric pencil sharpener. Feh!

Before long, I was sharpening every single pencil in the house. People (my husband) thanked me for being so helpful. The sharpener was great … until every time I cranked it, the thing jacked out of the wall. I was certain the man at the local hardware store would know what to do. (Anyone who works in a hardware store is a brilliant problem solver. I mean it.)

The guy said I would need a butterfly screw to latch the sharpener into the wall but “even that might not work.” I would have to find a stud, which for me, is never an easy thing.

When I returned home, I packed up the manual pencil sharpener, shipped it back to Amazon and, decided to go electric. “Two AA-batteries will hardly deplete the environment,” I said to myself (knowing full-well that I was backtracking on an earlier declaration.)

Another two days later, the electric pencil sharpener arrived. No more cranking! No more fuss! No more mess! And the touted auto-stop mechanism took away the fear of gnashing my prized pencils to the nub.

With the acquisition of this new tool of the trade, another point works in my favor. As I harvest every pencil in sight, the mighty whir of the helical steel blades in action make it sound like I’m actually doing something here in my office. With a full shavings tray in need of being dumped, one can see that I’ve been working. Really hard (on sharpening my pencils).

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