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Finding a decent Pencil Sharpener

09/16/07

Permalink 01:38:18 pm by guy, Categories: Random Stuff

I have 3 grade school age children. At that age they are still using the old #2 pencils that I used as a kid. The problem that I have been having for the last couple years is that the pencil sharpeners that you buy these days just stink. Maybe I’ve just been buying the cheap models, but every sharpener that I have had recently just inhales the pencils without getting a decent tip. The sharpeners sharpen off-center, break the tip off long before the pencil is sharp, and never get a decent tip. Once in a while I’ll get a sharp tip only to find when you try to use it that the lead is broken off inside the pencil. Initially I thought that it was just poor quality pencils, but recently I found otherwise.

For some reason I have a vivid memory from my 7th grade classroom at Lakeshore Middle School in Mequon Wisconsin of sharpening my pencils to a perfect point. Why I remember this, I don’t know, it certainly was not an otherwise significant moment in my life. Anyway, I even remember that the sharpener was a Berol Giant. Again, no I idea why I would remember that. I did some research and found where I could get one. EBay of course. I found and purchased an APSCO (American Pencil Sharpener Company) VacuHold V-8 on Ebay a week or two ago. I looks essentially like the one in the image below except it has a vacuum base instead of bolt down. I couldn’t be happier with the results. It is not brand new of course, so it isn’t as smooth as I remember, but it sharpens to a perfect point every time. It isn’t electric, but it can sharpen that pencil from a stub to a needle point in about 10 seconds.

I did a quick test of our electric sharpener vs. my new old APSCO sharpener. The electric sharpened in 22 seconds to an ok point but was uncentered so the wood on one side extended all the way to the tip so the quality was low. I did the same with the APSCO and was able to sharpen in 9 seconds and could tell without removing the pencil that it was sharpened because it stops grinding when sharpening. Perfect point. The electric will grind until I have a stub in my hand if I let it.

Does this picture bring back memories to any other middle aged people like me?

I figured there had to be someone still making this or something similar so I did some research. I found a website called The Pencil Pages that showed that APSCO was purchased by Berol in 1969 and then by Sanford in 1995. Sanford actually appears to still make essentially the same sharpener today that I remember from 25 years ago! You will all be pleased to know that you can actually buy one of these at Costco! Who’d have thunk?!? I could have bought a brand new one for the same price that I paid on ebay for the sharpener and shipping.

I’m not sure how this turned into a crusade for me, but it may have had to do with the beginning of the school year when the supply lists for my children called for 2 boxes of SHARPENED pencils. With our old electric sharpener it took quite a while to sharpen each pencil and consumed more of the pencil than necessary.

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I'm a generalist, at least if I'm honest. In my job I am primarily a developer, but also a sysadmin, and (as little as possible) technical support. I know a little about a lot of things, a lot about some things, and everything about nothing. Here I will post random learnings...

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