Thursday, July 30, 2015

New "Old School" Pencil Sharpeners, Part II

Xacto KS 8-hole, wall-mounted manual pencil sharpener

As I have explained in Part I of this set of posts, my vintage Panasonic Panapoint electric sharpener gave up its ghost (may she rest in peace). This was really hard on me because, no lie, it was part of the family before I was! Built back in the early 70's, this was a powerhouse machine made to last, and last she did for more than forty years. I have located other vintage Panapoints on the webs, but they all cost more than 100 bucks, which I cannot spend right now even though it would be worth every penny. As an artist, I sharpen pencils all day, almost every day- big ones, small ones, triangular, colored, graphite, woodless, all kinds imaginable, and I do not believe that any electric made today can come close to the vintage Panapoint. The $60 Bostitch lying at my foot is a good example. It works when it wants to, but slowly, and it sounds as if it is in pain.

Get to the point, Lady! Hurrhurr “point”

amazon pic of X-acto KS pencil sharpener
pic from listing
The Xacto KS got my attention because it is literally "old school", made of heavy metal, and does not have a motor that will die or have unpredictable fainting spells. Basically, this sharpener works on the same premise as the Panapoint (dual helical blades) just without the motor. Even better, I can sharpen pretty much any size pencil in it as well (Panapoint accommodated only standard or slightly smaller).
I bought mine at Office Depot, but you can get one at Amazon and a plethora of brick and mortar stores.

How does it work?

Let me tell you, once I got this little dandy mounted on the wall, I tried every type of pencil I own. I sharpened soft and hard colored pencils including Derwent Artist, Studio, and Drawing pencils, Prismacolor soft core, Verithin, and Scholar pencils, FaberCastle Polychromos, and Koh-i-Noor Woodless types. I also tried it out with woodless graphite pencils from Prismacolor and Koh-I-Noor, Staetdler, Derwent, Ticonderosa (the biggie and triangular versions), and Prismacolor wood graphite pencils in varying degrees, and 5.6 mm leads that go in the Koh-I-Noor metal lead holder. (I told you I had a lot of pencils!) All of these pencils came out with gorgeous sharp points. Where applicable, the wood was smooth as marble. My beloved Panapoint use to do that, so I had high expectations, and Xacto KS seems to meet them. happy with it!

A couple of caveats

You have to mount this particular model on a rigid surface like a wall or table to use it. I mean, it will not work if you try to hold it in your lap, squeeze it between your knees, or duct tape it to a flat surface (yeah I tried all three things- I hate using the drill). It has to be screwed into stable wood or other equally dense material.

Depending on the brand, pastel pencils may break off in the mechanism. I was able to get excellent points on a few of my Conte pastel pencils, but not all of them. However, I have found this to be the case if I use them in any sharpener, even the little blade ones. Koh-I-Noor and Generals pastel/ charcoal pencils fared better, but I still had some breaks. I think I'll stick to the craft knife for some of those.

The KS is great for making really sharp little wooden stakes out of cake pop sticks. This may or may not be useful to you, but there you are. You're welcome.

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