Factory-Sharpened Pencils

I love love love factory-sharpened pencils. They are so exotic. In most cases they come sharpened quite short, with these funky sandpaper grooves, in a way crank sharpeners at home cannot hope to emulate. Some pencils, such as Staedtler, seem to have been sharpened with something other than sandpaper, but it’s still very precise. A mystery.

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Pencils in our part of the world don’t usually come presharpened. To me this is commonsensical. They are a commercial product that the customer will eventually pay for, so shouldn’t he be entitled to it in its entirety? Why take a knife to something that will belong to someone else eventually? Who knows how s/he would like them to be sharpened? And the box gets dirty because of the graphite dust, and on top of that the lead may break, so the shop owner may get stuck with unsalable pencils or the buyer ends up with something he is less than satisfied with. In other words, Asians like their products pristine, unused and cellophane-wrapped, and the customer often assumes the risk in buying products he hasn’t had the opportunity to try out before the purchase. I’ve lived in countries where CDs were displayed unwrapped and without their discs, to be played at the customer’s request and bought afterwards. This would never happen in countries like Korea or Japan.

So it was refreshing to learn that the point of presenting pencils pre-sharpened in the West was to highlight how strong the lead was. The sharpened tip of pencils like the Faber-Castell Steno 9008 is indeed amazing! On another note, the differences in shape are interesting too. I don’t have enough factory-sharpened American pencils to provide an adequate sample size, but my theory is that in the past they used to be sharpened to a much longer cone than their German counterparts. Would it be too much to extrapolate from this that they may have been held or used differently – e.g. regarding pencil angle, pressure or writing speed? Hmmm…

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8 thoughts on “Factory-Sharpened Pencils

  1. An interesting observation! I like the photo and the arrangement of the pencils in the order of their point’s angle. The points of the two Eagle pencils look dangerous ;-) I’m not familiar with the tools which are used to sharpen the pencils at the factory but the bevels on some pencil points give me the impression that they have been made by rotating knifes, i. e. machine-whittled into shape.

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    1. I think you are right, but I didn’t know there were sharpening machines fitted with blades! It would be very interesting to see them in action. I love the way the Stenofix is sharpened :)

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