My Whiny Little Friend

The past few years I have been using a little battery powered pencil sharpener. There, I came clean; the skeleton is out of the closet.


I have been grilled by a few students about why someone who teaches hand tool woodworking uses an electric pencil sharpener. When I am teaching at The Woodwright’s School, it drives poor Roy nuts.

So why do I torture Roy and aggravate the purists with this thing? The sharpener puts a perfect point on a pencil in about half a second. I can also keep it in the tool tray of the workbench within arms reach. Being so close and quick I can keep a perfect, sharp pencil at all times with almost no effort. This makes my layouts faster and more accurate.

— Will Myers

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33 Responses to My Whiny Little Friend

  1. says:

    More importantly you drive Roy nuts. Priorities should be maintained

  2. I agree with driving Roy nuts…Keeps him on his toes…LOL…

    Me I like my mechanical 0.7mm soft lead and/or 0.5mm…both rooted in the 1791 version of Mechanical Pencils…

  3. johncashman73 says:

    If you want to see Roy apoplectic, bring a battery powered tape measure to go with your electric pencil sharpener.

  4. I’ve used one of these for years and consider it one of the handiest tools in my shop. Being a purist is one thing, but this simple pleasure is worth risking Roy’s disapproval. I also prefer such newfangled indulgences as sliced bread, horseless carriages, and fresh corn cobs in the water closet.

  5. Richard Mahler says:

    Nothing is more useful than an exceedingly fine point on a pencil!

  6. WOODSKILLS says:

    I have a similar if not the same pencil sharpener (Radio Shack?). Use it often, but also use small hand-held sharpeners. The battery powered one works great although you need to be careful not to push the pencil in or it will simply eat it…lol

  7. Noel Hayward says:

    They are also perfect for chamfering the ends of dowels as well. 60 years ago when I was attending the Technical School in Australia, we all used a pencil sharpener to remove the dags off of dwells before glueing up.

  8. Noel Hayward says:

    They are also perfect for chamfering the ends of dowels as well. 60 years ago when I was attending the Technical School in Australia, we all used a pencil sharpener to remove the dags off of dowells before glueing up.

  9. Thomas Scott says:

    I use an engineering/drafting lead holder and I’m willing to wager that I can get just as fine point, just as fast and more consistently with a hand powered lead sparpener.

  10. potomacker says:

    Sharp pointed pencils aren’t conducive to marking on wood. Since my days in timberframing, I carve my pencils with a long exposed flat and a diamond point.Maybe an everpresent electric pencil sharpener wouldn’t be so necessary if one learned to properly make a marking edge for woodworking usage.

    • Holy crap, we’re going to fight about pencils?

      • johncashman73 says:

        I’m glad this is your circus, and your monkeys.

      • Chris F says:

        …and this is why I’m no longer in any Facebook woodworking groups…

        • mike says:

          I hate to say it, but the hand tool corner of any FB group or forum is usually the nastiest. For whatever reason, hand tool groups attract the pinkie in the air, overly prescriptive crowd who call lumber “timber” even though they are American. I am also certain a meaningful percentage of this crowd have NEVER BUILT a piece of furniture. anyone who cares what kind of pencil sharpener I use, if I mark joinery with a pencil, or if I choose to smooth with a #5, needs to find a partner of their attraction and rolll around naked to burn off some frustration, lol.

    • Greg Flora says:


  11. tpobrienjr says:

    Where’s the video on sharpening the sharpener?

  12. Rachael Boyd says:

    I have an old hand crank sharpener mounted on the students sharping bench in the back of the shop.

  13. davevaness says:

    I use my pencil sharpener to whittle one end of my dowels before I drawbore.

  14. Pretty sure I’ve spotted the wiener…

    In a fit of nostalgia, I bought an old hand crank pencil sharpener at an estate sale that was like the one screwed to the frame of the chalk board in 3rd grade. It looked cool, but sucked as much as it did in 3rd grade. Now I use an electric one. It doesn’t look as cool, but I get fine points for when I need them. If I’m going to be sawing or chiseling at that line, of course, I generally use a marking knife.

  15. Cordell Roy says:

    I’ve had a hand crank pencil sharpener in my shop for decades. It does what its supposed to with pencils and that is useful. Also useful, as others have mentioned, is chamfering dowels…wish the sharpener would accommodate 1/2″ dowels. About pencils, like any other tool, they work just fine where their application is appropriate. For other applications, use a different tool…its not very complicated.



    ps. Will, can I borrow that?

  17. Mueller says:

    I am currently midway in a 10 year development project to create a water wheel powered pencil sharpener which satisfies the need to have both a powered sharpener and yet does not call for the use of batteries. Also considering a windmill version.

    • WOODSKILLS says:

      And if there isn’t enough water or wind in the area, a solar powered version. Or better still, power it through a treadmill or stepper so you can exercise and sharpen your pencils at the same time…lol

      • Matthew Holbrook says:

        Get the exercise by making a platform that you can clamp in your front vise, stick some 220 grit sandpiper on it.

        Hold the conical tip of the pencil on the sandpaper, lock your arms and rock back and forth on your legs while you rotate the pencil on the sandpaper.

  18. Texasconlons says:

    I used one of these lead pointers 30 some years ago as a draftsman and recently found one in an antique store for $20. Brings a smile to me every time I use it.

  19. weyrichwood says:

    I also use an electric sharpener (an old plug-in Boston model). It’s been noted as pretty incongruous by several visitors to my shop, but, as you say, it does the job perfectly and with no fuss.

  20. jenohdit says:

    Some minds are going to be blown when they discover electric planers.

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