Why buy a pencil sharpener?
A pencil sharpener is a simple mechanical tool that keeps pencils’ points sharp and thus more suitable for writing or drawing. They have a built-in razor that shaves away the pencil’s worn wooden and graphite surface, which keeps the remaining graphite pointy. Pencil sharpeners can be electronic or manually operated. Even tiny pocket models tuck away into desks or pencil cases or even makeup bags for eyebrow pencils. Though they’re a staple of classrooms and offices, you may find it beneficial to keep at least one pencil sharpener at home in case a pencil ever breaks or the point snaps off while you’re using it. This is especially true if you write by hand or draw with pencils as a hobby or professionally.
What should you look for in a pencil sharpener?
- Manual vs. Electric: Both manual pencil sharpeners have benefits and drawbacks. Manual ones are either wall-mounted or handheld and operate by turning a crank or inserting the pencil inside the sharpener and rotating it. They require more effort, and some may require an installation process. However, they’re also much quieter, won’t increase your electric bill, and will still function if you lose power. Manual models that aren’t wall-mounted are also highly portable. Electric pencil sharpeners are highly efficient and easy to use. They are quite noisy and need to be plugged into a wall outlet unless they’re battery-powered and will be more expensive on average.
- Size: You’ll want to consider both the size of the pencil sharpener and the pencils you use when picking out a pencil sharpener. The pencil should fit pretty snugly inside the sharpener to sharpen more efficiently. Naturally, most will be sized for standard, classic #2 pencils. But there are larger and smaller models available if you use littler or bigger-than-average pencils for writing or drawing. Some are designed specifically for smaller pencils, like eyebrow pencils or golf pencils. Also, keep in mind that some models allow you to rotate between different opening sizes to fit various sizes of pencils. Most will list the size of their opening(s) in millimeters; 8 mm is the best baseline option for standard-sized pencils.
- Compatibility: If you’re a recreational or professional artist who uses pencils, you may use standard pencils for sketching, if not for your final product. More likely, you also use colored pencils or charcoal pencils while creating your artwork. Unfortunately, specialty pencils like these aren’t always compatible with pencil sharpeners. Fortunately, some models will sharpen more than one type of pencil, including these types. Check a pencil sharpener’s listing and make sure it mentions explicitly compatibility with colored pencils, charcoal pencils, or any other type of specialty pencils you own.
Is it worth buying a pencil sharpener with a built-in compartment?
Overall, yes. The empty built-in compartments on pencil sharpeners are designed to catch the pencils’ shavings. Once full, you’ll have to empty them into a wastebasket to keep using your sharpener. Most people find them worthwhile because they keep the shavings contained, so they’re much less messy. For handheld sharpeners with compartments, this means you don’t have to sharpen your pencils over a trash can. That said, pencil sharpeners without such a compartment will be much more compact and better to slip into a smaller makeup bag or full pencil case. Most electronic and wall-mounted manual sharpeners these days will come with a built-in compartment, so you’ll mostly have to consider this if you’re after a small handheld or pocket-sized sharpener.
Aogwat Portable Electric Pencil Sharpener
A highly compatible and portable electric pencil sharpener that works with a range of professional drawing pencils and standard ones.
Pros: Unlike many other automatic pencil sharpeners, you’ll insert your pencils vertically instead of horizontally. This allows the blade inside to more efficiently and intelligently dispose of the pencil’s broken tip. Unlike many comparable models, this pencil sharpener works on most pencils with a 6- to 8-millimeter diameter. This includes both standard #2 pencils and professional drawing pencils, including colored, oil-based, and watercolor pencils. Whether you prefer an automatic electric pencil sharpener or a manual, it has you covered; you can choose which power method you prefer. It can be powered by two AA batteries (sold separately) or switch to manual mode for hand operation. The latter feature is handy if the batteries run out or are running low; it allows the pencil sharpener to work even if the batteries die on you. The battery-powered operation means this model is cordless, so you can place this sharpener anywhere and carry it around at will. As a bonus, this pencil sharpener comes with a spare replacement blade and is available in black, blue, or pink, so you can pick whichever color best suits your home office or workspace.
Cons: While this pencil sharpener’s compactness makes it highly portable, its size works against it in a few ways. The shavings compartment is proportionally sized, so it fills up quickly and needs to be emptied more frequently. Also, this model isn’t really up to classroom or widespread office use; stick to this one as a personal pencil sharpener.
Bottom Line: If an artist tends to draw with implements like colored pencils or oil-based pencils, most pencil sharpeners can’t accommodate these types of pencils. Fortunately, that’s where this artist-friendly and surprisingly portable model comes in.
Bostitch Personal Electric Pencil Sharpener
This electric pencil sharpener won't take up more than its share of space on your desk yet is still plenty powerful.
Pros: At only 8.38 x 4 x 4.25 inches in size, this model won’t clutter or take up more than its fair share of space on your desk. It’s explicitly designed to be a space-saver. Yet despite its small size, this pencil sharpener will still provide a precise and clean point to your pencils. The motor is powerful and designed not to stall as it operates. Despite this device’s small size, the shavings tray is high capacity, spanning the entire width of the sharpener. When it is full, you’ll always be able to tell, thanks to the transparent bin. All you have to do is pop out the tray and carry it to the trash to be emptied. A handy safety switch is built-in, preventing the sharpener from functioning while the tray isn’t inserted. You can buy this sharpener in one of three colors to better match your office space.
Cons: This will make a great option as a personal sharpener for a family of four to five people, but not for an entire classroom or work office. It’s also compatible with standard-sized #2 pencils, so it’s not a great option for artists.
Bottom Line: Finding the right pencil sharpener can be tricky if you don’t have a good place to put it or if you have a smaller desk with a limited amount of surface space. If these situations sound familiar, this small and compact but powerful pencil sharpener may be the solution.
X-ACTO Wall-Mount Manual Pencil Sharpener
A classic manual pencil sharpener with eight different pencil-size settings that can be mounted just about anywhere you want.
Pros: This model is commercial grade, perfect for busy, high-volume environments. Despite its strength and durability, the operation is easy. Even young school children will not have trouble turning the crank to sharpen their pencils. It’ll be less noisy and disruptive than an electric model, and the dual helical cutters inside ensure a sharp point for your pencils. As a bonus, this sharpener can be adjusted to fit eight different pencil sizes and comes with screws for installation. This allows you to mount it directly on your desk, to a wall, onto a table, or even upside down under a desk’s top if desired.
Cons: This wall-mounted model is a bit pricier than quite a few electric models. Since it’s not electrically operated, it doesn’t automatically shut off when the pencil is appropriately sharp, so the risk of oversharpening is high, especially with young kids in a classroom. It may also take some trial and error to figure out the best grip, depth, and angle for this sharpener to be as effective as possible.
Bottom Line: Many classroom teachers like these because they’re quieter and thus less disruptive than most electric models. Some people feel they have more control and prefer a device that doesn’t use power or requires constant battery changes to function. Whatever your reasoning, you can’t go wrong with this manual pencil sharpener.
Prismacolor Premier Pencil Sharpener
This ideal handheld pencil sharpener is easy to toss in your purse, pencil case, or makeup bag and bring on the go.
Pros: Many people forget about tiny handheld versions of pencil sharpeners, but they’re surprisingly useful to bring on the go, and this little model is among the best. It’s nice and compact, easy to slip into a pencil case or purse, or makeup bag to have on hand. Unlike many handheld models, this one has a compartment that catches the shavings as you turn and sharpen your pencils. The body is also transparent enough that you can tell when it’s full and needs to be emptied. The dual blades and two different-sized pencil holes, small and medium, allow you to use this with a wider variety of pencil types. It’s great for standard #2 pencils and colored pencils, eyeliner pencils, eyebrow pencils, and more. The dual blades ensure a surprisingly sharp point for such a smaller model, and last but not least, it’s relatively inexpensive.
Cons: You may have some trouble figuring out how to pop off the lid of this little pencil sharpener when it comes time to empty it, as there isn’t a good or obvious point to grip and remove it. You’ll also need to be careful not to jam your pencils and twist them too hard. A more delicate, deliberate touch is required for this pencil sharpener to create the sharpest possible points.
Bottom Line: A portable, handheld pencil sharpener can be useful if you’re a writer, artist, or student. It’s also great in a pinch if you need to reapply your eyebrows or eyeliner, but your makeup pencil has gone dull.
X-ACTO TeacherPro Electric Pencil Sharpener
Specifically designed with classrooms in mind, this premium electric pencil sharpener has just about every feature you could want.
Pros: One of the best features of this pencil sharpener is its quiet motor for minimal interruption and disruption. Never again will you have to worry about your students drowning you out or disturbing your co-workers in the office when a pencil needs sharpening. The internal helical steel cutter sharpens pencils to a perfect point in mere seconds without oversharpening. Thanks to the flyaway cutter system, the pencil sharpener will stop automatically once the pencil is appropriately sharp. This electric pencil sharpener has a durable construction designed to withstand wear and tear, including the long-lasting interior blade. The extra-large shavings bin is see-through and placed at the front of the sharpener, so you’ll always be able to tell by a glance when it’s full and needs to be emptied. Even though there’s only one pencil hole, it automatically adjusts to the size of any wood case or colored pencil.
Cons: As is almost always the case with premium quality products, this pencil sharpener is quite expensive compared to most models. The blades are also, unfortunately, a bit prone to getting clogged, so you may have to open up this device and clean out the blades regularly.
Bottom Line: This premium model will fit the bill perfectly if you need a strong device that can hold up to daily use, especially if you have a classroom with young children. This is especially great if you prefer the quick efficiency of an electric pencil sharpener for your classroom or office over a manual one.
If you use pencils of any sort as a traveling artist or as a homeroom teacher, a pencil sharpener is essential. They’re the fastest and most efficient way to keep your pencils as sharp and pointy as possible to deliver the best results.