Thursday, April 1, 2010

Pencil Sharpeners for Pastel Pencils

When I first started working in pastel, I ruined a couple of electric sharpeners.  The pastel would break off and get stuck, and I either couldn’t access the blades to dig it out, or I couldn’t get it out completely.  I searched for a pencil sharpener that would work well and settled on the Creative Mark MultiPoint.  After a year and a half, though, the blades are dull and don’t work well.  Obviously, I needed a new sharpener.  I was planning on ordering another MultiPoint, but then I saw Roby Baer’s videos on YouTube (if you haven’t seen them, check them out!).  She had such a nice point on her pastel pencils, I had to ask her about her sharpener.  She uses the X-Acto Powerhouse.  I bought one yesterday, and thought I’d share the pros and cons of each sharpener for those who are interested.
First, the MultiPoint:  I bought this sharpener at Jerry’s Artarama for around $25.

  1. It accepts pencils of different sizes and shapes
  2. It gives a decently sharp result
  3. If a pastel breaks off, you can open the shavings receptacle and poke it out with something sharp (I use an unbent paper clip)
  4. It is fairly rare that a pencil would break off 
  1. The clamp is annoying.  I couldn’t get it to stay on anything.  I usually put the sharpener on my knee to use it.  
  2. Their claim of “one hand operation” is, IMO, a joke.  The automatic feeding clutch does work (most of the time), but since the clamp doesn’t, one hand has to hold the sharpener in place.
  3. The pencil clutch chews up the outside of the pencil, which may or may not bother you
  4. It stops sharpening automatically, they say to avoid waste, but you can't get a sharper result than it is programmed to give
  5. No warranty - plan on replacing it every year, sooner if you're a heavy user
Next, the X-Acto Powerhouse:  Purchased from Office Max for $33.
  1.   It gives amazingly sharp results  
  2.   It has suction feet that make it stay put very nicely on my desk
  3.   It comes with a 2 year warranty
  1.   It doesn’t accept different sizes of pencils
  2.   Nothing else, but I’ve only had it a day
I have full sets of CarbOthellos and Derwents, plus a few pencils of different brands I bought just to try (you never know when you might want to get another set, right?).
  1. CarbOthellos fit very nicely
  2. Derwents are very snug, but they’ll go in with some pressure (and it takes pressure to get them out as well)
  3. Pitts go in slightly easier than Derwents, but not as easy as CarbOthellos
  4. Creatacolors go in very easily
  5. General’s go in very easily
  6. Contes will not go in at all
I’m excited about the sharp tip the X-Acto Powerhouse delivers, and the warranty is attractive.  I may buy another MultiPoint for backup, and for the Conte pencils if I buy a set (I really like those pencils!).

Update:  After using the X-Acto Powerhouse for a while, I'm back to the MultiPoint.  The Powerhouse worked well for a bit, but soon pencils were breaking off, and it is difficult to get the pastel tips out when they break in the sharpener.  I tried pulling out the shavings receptacle, but there is no way to poke out the pastel.  I had to use something very thin and sharp (I use a stainless steel BBQ skewer - I asked Roby and she uses an awl) and poke it directly into where the pencil feeds, stabbing the stuck pastel to break it up.  It got to where every pencil was breaking every time, and I just got tired of it.  It's not worth the hassle.  I bought myself another MultiPoint (actually, I bought two because Jerry's had them on sale) and almost cried with relief when I started using the new one.  I was able to get a sharper point on the new MultiPoint sharpener than I did with the last one, easily equal to the Powerhouse.  With nice, sharp points and very little hassle, the MultiPoint remains the best sharpener for me.  

See my review of The Classroom Friendly Pencil Sharpener.


Roby Baer said...

Hi Kari,
Thanks for linking my blog to your comparison post, great information for pastel painters! It took me a while to find this X-acto Powerhouse sharpener but it works very well and certianly worth the $33 especially with the warranty!

Roby Baer said...

Oops! meant to say... thank you for linking to my youtube videos! :)

Kari Tirrell said...

Thank you, Roby, for sharing the info in the first place!

Ida M. Glazier said...

Wow, Kerri, thanks for the info! I ahve a set of Derwents, the 90 piece and they are beautiful--I hardly use pencils, tho, unless its graphite. Still, I plan to try to, and this is great info. Love your blog, too.

Kari Tirrell said...

Thanks, Ida! I'm glad you found it helpful. :)

Another Daydreamer said...

Great post! I've added it to the EBSQ Friday Five.

Gary Keimig said...

great info on the sharpener.
Your daughters cat pastel sure came out nice.

Kari Tirrell said...

Thanks, Gary!

Anonymous said...

another sharpener that I have found relatively reliable is a Panasonic "Auto Stop" which I picked up at Office Max for 25$ I get a good sharp tip for graphite colored pencils, charcoal and pastels. The only time I have found a problem with it breaking or loosing the color inside is when the pencil itself was damaged and broken inside the wood. But the shaving case pulls out easily, and I can easily access the blade for cleaning. It suction cups to my drafting table and is sturdy enough to not need holding. I have had this one for over 6 years now and still love it!

Kari Tirrell said...

Thanks for the comment! I have read that Panasonics are great sharpeners, but I have also read they don't make them anymore. I have searched for them and can't find them, except old ones on ebay. Not sure I want to take a chance on a vintage sharpener. I hope it lasts you a long time, because I don't think you'll be able to replace it. :(

Bob Rhodes said...

I bought my Multipoint at least 5 years ago. I use it mostly for Carbothello's, but others as well. I am primarily a pastel painter. I like to use the pencils occasionally for fine work, and especially for shading (glazing) over pastel stick applications.

Recently, I noticed that the sharpener seems to be cutting off-center, and sometimes breaks the pastel. Time to buy a new one, I think. Judging from the comments posted here, a replacement is probably the best choice.

Kari Tirrell said...

Hi, Bob. If yours has lasted five years, consider yourself lucky! It definitely sounds like you're due for a new one, though.

Carol Castle said...

This is an old post, but I thought I'd add a comment anyway since I have searched and searched (obsessively, LOL) on this topic. I was finally told (after purchasing no less than five - that's -5- - Multipoint sharpeners from Jerry's that the binder in the Conte pencils dulls the blades of most hand-crank sharpeners and there's no way to clean them. That being said, however, I have NOT tried running a #2 pencil or other graphite pencil through them to see if the graphite will push out the binder deposit on the blade. I will have a go at it. I notice that only one or two posters said that they use the Multipoint for sharpening Conte pencils. I have also purchased and used with much success a couple of Dahle sharpeners. I love these and think that they work better than the Multipoint's. Good luck, everyone! :-)

Kari Tirrell said...

Thanks for the comment, Carol! I've been meaning to write an update to this (again!). I now recommend either the Classroom Friendly or the Dahle 155, simply because they're similar to the Multipoint but they offer replacement blades. Much cheaper to replace the blades than the entire unit. As soon as I have some free time, I'll do a comparison for everyone.

Justin Levitt said...
This comment has been removed by the author.