Guide to Pencil Sharpeners

A good pencil sharpener is key to keeping your wooden pencil in tiptop condition. Not only does it shave the wood away to reveal the lead underneath, it gives you the perfect sharp point to bring your thoughts to paper. Whether you prefer a small portable sharpener or an old-school hand crank, here are some recommendations.

What to Look For in a Pencil Sharpener


Pencils come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. 8 mm is the most common diameter with bigger pencil diameters running all the way up to 10.5 mm. Most of the sharpeners we’re featuring today accommodate standard 8 mm pencils.


Pencils are also available in hexagonal, circular, or triangular shapes. All sharpeners can handle the different shapes, though some are designed specifically for a particular shape.

Sharpening Angle

Different sharpeners offer varying degrees of sharpening angles. Pencil tips with larger angles can show more lead and let you use the pencil a bit longer before having to sharpen again. However, pencil tips with smaller angles tend to be sturdier with less lead breakage.

Lead Point

Another thing to consider is how pointed the lead is after it’s been sharpened. Some people prefer super sharp tips for their leads, while others like a blunt, rounded tip.


Some sharpeners are too harsh on lead or wood, and end up compromising the integrity of your pencil. This results in lead breakage and wasted product. Even though you want the sharpener to sharpen well, make sure that it’s gentle on the pencil.


Another common concern is the graphite marks the sharpener leaves behind on the wood. We’re not too bothered by this, but those who like a pristine look to their pencil may want to choose sharpeners that don’t leave this residue behind.

Product Lines

Tombow Ippo Pinch-Point

The Tombow Ippo Pinch-Point.

Sharpening demonstration.

This portable pencil sharpener is a great all-around sharpener that handles any shape of pencil with ease. What sets it apart is actually not its sharpening ability, but how easy it is to clean. Your fingers don’t get dirty at all with the sharpener’s “pinch-point” mechanism. Simply unlock the “mouth” of the sharpener and on the opposite side, pinch the two tabs together. The mouth will open, dumping out all the pencil shavings.

Sonic Ratchetta

3 models of the Sonic Ratchetta.

Sharpening demonstration.

The Ratchetta has an innovative technology built into it that allows you to twist the pencil back and forth instead of having to re-grip the pencil as you twist and sharpen. The One is the most basic version and demonstrates the back and forth action the best. It also has an automatic open and closing mechanism that keeps pencil shavings from falling out. The Notification model has a push in button that pops out when your pencil has finished sharpening. The Capsule version features a cap that is perfect for gripping short, stubby pencils, and also has two different settings depending on if you want a blunt or sharp tip.

Kum Special Diameter

The Kum Special Diameter.

Sharpening demonstration.

This basic pencil sharpener works remarkably well with both triangular and hexagonal pencils. It conveniently comes with two holes to accommodate larger pencil sizes (up to 10 mm). Its simple circular design is not the best at keeping your desk clean–we found that pencil shavings had a tendency to fall through the cracks. Be sure to empty it each time you use it to keep your desk in spit spot shape!

Kum Automatic Brake Long Point

2 models of the Kum Automatic Brake Long Point.

Sharpening demonstration.

This 2-step sharpener is one of our favorite sharpeners. You use one of the holes to sharpen the wood, then poke it through the next hole to sharpen the lead. We’re huge fans of the two step sharpener, because we can get a clean, even, and super sharp point every time. There are those who might find the extra step an unnecessary hassle, but we promise you, the result is well worth it. If you like a shorter pencil tip, this may not be for you, since the sharpening angle is quite long. The blue sharpener also comes with two extra holes to sharpen your 2.0 or 3.2 mm lead.

Kum Masterpiece

The Kum Masterpiece.

Sharpening demonstration.

If the Automatic Brake Long Point didn’t produce a long enough point for you, the Kum Masterpiece certainly will. This sleek, hand-crafted sharpener features the same two-step sharpening system as the Automatic Brake Long Point, but creates an even longer, sharper, and more precise point. The blue plastic stopper can even be removed from the sharpener, which allows you to expose more lead for shading or other techniques. We recommend this sharpener to those who love a long point and want a truly customizable pencil tip.

Kutsuwa Stad K’Zool and KW’Zool

The K’Zool and WK’Zool.

Sharpening demonstration.

The K’Zool features a dial that you can use to adjust the length of your pencil tip. The more bars it shows, the longer your pencil tip will be. It’s a nice concept; however, we’re not sure if anyone would find the shortest length (1 bar) useful. However, it sharpens very well, and if you like the different options, this sharpener is perfect. It also comes in a color pencil version called the WK’Zool that features a similar dial mechanism using numbers instead of bars.

Kutsuwa Stad T’Gaal

The Kutsuwa Stad T’Gaal.

Sharpening demonstration.

The T’Gaal has a similar mechanism as the K’Zool, but instead of sharpening the length of the tip, you can adjust the sharpening angle. It is slightly bulkier, but the dial is much easier to use and more intuitive with numbers rather than bars. It’s cool to see the pencil tip change with the different angle settings. It goes from a very short angle to a longer angle with just a turn of the dial.

Uni KH-20 Hand Crank

The Uni KH-20 Hand Crank.

Sharpening demonstration.

This sharpener reminds us of the old-school crank sharpeners we used to use in grade school–except a lot sleeker and more efficient. To use it, pull out the top front portion of the sharpener to stick the pencil in. The clutch grips the pencil firmly and pushes the pencil in as you turn the crank. The result is an extremely long cone with a rounded tip, so if you’re more used to shorter shapes and sharper tips, this is a skip! However, its ease of use and ergonomic design makes it a win.

Uni Color Pencil Sharpener

The Uni Color Pencil Sharpener.

Sharpening demonstration.

Color pencil lead is made of mostly wax and colorant, making it more delicate than the graphite and clay mixture you find in regular pencil lead. Some pencil sharpeners may even shred the colored lead into an indistinguishable mess. Made specifically for color pencils, this Uni Color Pencil Sharpener is gentle on the color pencil lead even while sharpening it to a fine point.

Final Thoughts

A good sharpener is an invaluable companion to your pencil. You should always have one handy in your pen case or on your desk, so that you will never be without a nice, sharp pencil. What kind of sharpener do you like? Let us know in the comments below!

1) Tombow Ippo Pinch-Point. 2) Sonic Ratchetta. 3) Kum Special Diameter. 4) Kum Automatic Brake Long Point.
5) Kum Masterpiece. 6) Kutsuwa Stad K’Zool. 7) Kutsuwa Stad T’Gaal Setting #1. 8) Kutsuwa Stad T’Gaal Setting #5.
9) Uni KH-20 Hand Crank.

Model Pencil Size Sharpening Angle Special Feature Best For
Tombow Ippo Pinch-Point 8 mm 77° Easy to clean On-the-go
Sonic Ratchetta 8 mm 78° Twist mechanism On-the-go
Kum Special Diameter 8, 10 mm 76° (8 mm) 2 diameter sizes General Use
Kum Automatic Brake Long Point 8 mm 79° 2-step sharpen Customization
Kum Masterpiece 8 mm 80° 2-step sharpen Customization
Kutsuwa Stad K’Zool and WK’Zool 8 mm 77° Different lengths of sharpened point Customization
Kutsuwa Stad T’Gaal 8 mm 70-79° (Settings 1-5) Different degrees of sharpened point Customization
Uni KH-20 Hand Crank 8 mm 80° Easy to use General Use
Uni Color Pencil Sharpener 8 mm 74° Gentle on lead Color Pencils