The Classroom Friendly Supplies pencil sharpener is a hefty desktop pencil sharpener. The old-fashioned design and weight gives you a sense it has been built well with quality materials. Functionally, the manual crank single-burr sharpener carves a long, slightly concave, sharp point.
As a designer I prefer to draw with a pencil; the simplicity of putting lead on paper helps me focus. For at least a while.
The main disadvantage of using a pencil is the sharp point doesn’t last as long you want. All too soon the pencil gets dull and needs a sharpening. This is when a good pencil sharpener makes a considerable difference. A pencil sharpener that gives you a long, sharp point lets you draw, write, color for a bit longer. The Classroom Friendly Supplies pencil sharpener gives you just that.
A GOOD PENCIL SHARPENER
Finding a good pencil sharpener is not easy. I searched a while. I looked through eBay for old Panasonic automatic pencil sharpeners that were made in Japan. I think older Japanese products are of the highest quality because of the work ethic that was prevalent in Japan and because most Japanese brands manufactured in Japan. Still I never bought an old Made-in-Japan Panasonic because none had a warranty and if they broke there was little I could do to fix it. I could contact my electrical engineering and mechanical engineering friends.
I searched through Amazon, but most were US brands that were made in China. Let me just say not all products made in China are of low quality. Apple’s iPhones are made in China, but I hear there are legions of Apple engineers who stay at Foxconn factories for months at a time to ensure manufacturing quality is of the highest quality. Both Apple and Foxconn are also aggressively automating the manufacturing process to maximize quality. That being said, the made-in-China pencil sharpeners are probably not the result of similar efforts by brands such as Westcott, X-Acto, Bostitch, Prismacolor, OfficePro, Linkyo, etc. There is also double-burr crank sharpeners like the El Casco M-430, considered to be the finest pencil sharpener in the world, but that requires a hefty investment of about USD 200, and up. Not for everyone.
I needed something affordable, reliable, and easily fixable or replaceable. So, a couple of years ago I purchased a Staedtler tub pencil sharpener from Amazon. It’s a manual sharpener with two holes: one for regular pencils and the other for larger diameter pencils. It works okay for the most part, but the leads of lower quality pencils will easily break. I’ve even used my Swiss Army knife to whittle my pencils, old school style. I eventually gave up and went back to a couple of my favorite mechanical pencils: a Parker and a Pilot.
One Saturday I wanted to organize all the leftover and unwanted pencils and color pencils lying around the house. I asked my kids to help and all together we found about 50 unloved pencils. Most of them had dull leads and needed a good sharpening. I tried sharpening a few of them with the Staedtler, but I decided I didn’t want to torment myself. I needed a good pencil sharpener.
Like I do with everything I purchase, I googled “best manual pencil sharpener review” and on many of the lists the Classroom Friendly Supplies pencil sharpener showed up, so I hopped on over to their website. Thankfully they were looking for folks to review their pencil sharpener so I signed up. A few days later my black Classroom Friendly Sharpener came knocking on my door.
Here are some specs:
- Burr Grinder: Single
- Opening: 8-mm
- Material: Metal body, mechanics, handle; plastic tray and small parts.
- Clear plastic shavings tray
- Point Type: Long, concave, sharp
- Clamp: Metallic
SHARPENING YOUR PENCIL
A little primer on how to sharpen your pencils with the Classroom Friendly Sharpener:
- Use both hands. Hold the sharpener with one hand and with your other hand pull out the metal plate.
- Pinch the black clamps while holding the sharpener. Insert a pencil through the hole in the metal plate, all the way in.
- Hold the sharpener and start turning the crank, clockwise.
- Stop cranking when there is little to no friction.
- Pinch the black clamps and pull your pencil out.
UNICEF Colored Pencils, Sharpened
I sharpened all 50 or so of my pencils: regular and color. The sharpening experience was overall very pleasant. The metal burr grinding against wood felt and sounded really nice, but not too loud. The experience depends on the quality of the wood and the lead. I had quite a few Crayola color pencils and the leads tended to break in the middle of sharpening; the wood was quite stubborn, too. Taking the handle off and removing the broken lead stuck inside the burr didn’t make for a pleasant experience, but after I had removed broken leads several times I was able to do it fairly quickly and get back to roughing it with the Crayola color pencils.
The UNICEF color pencils you see above, made-in-Japan Shinkansen color pencils by Sanrio (a gift from my friend Itaru), made-in-Korea Natural HB by Dong-A, and made-in-Germany Art Grip Aquarelle color pencils by Faber-Castell were all smooth, easy to sharpen and not one lead broke while sharpening.
The sharpening mechanism is quiet enough, but is not silent. The noise depends on the wood — nice, soft wood emits a nice burring sound, but not with low-quality wood — but overall sharpening pencils with the Classroom Friendly Sharpener has a satisfying sound to it. I might like the grinding experience more than the regular Joe: I prefer and enjoy manually grinding my own coffee beans with a Hario manual burr grinder, a gift my brother-in-law and sister graciously gave to me.
As you can see the point is long, slightly concave, and fairly sharp, but not so sharp at the end that with the slightest pressure it will break off. Just sharp enough for you to use, though I think it would be best for those who have a lighter grip on their pencils. I do, so this works well for me.
Going back to the sharpening mechanism: the sharpener loses friction and beckons you to stop cranking once the perfect point has been achieved. The Classroom Friendly Sharpener won’t chew through your pencils unnecessarily; only low-quality wood with brittle lead will end up being chewed through. The pencil grip holds your pencil at a constant pressure and pulls the pencil in toward the burr grinder. When you stop cranking the result is a consistently long and sharp point. Bear in mind the sharpener works best with standard-width pencils.
About holding the pencil. The Classroom Friendly Sharpener has a metal plate that comes out and inside that plate is a set of metal teeth you open and close with a clasp. The teeth grip the pencil; it doesn’t slide around or go in at an angle; it goes straight in. The plate pulls the pencil — held firmly by the teeth — into the burr grinder. That’s good, but the not-so-good part is the teeth leave tooth marks.
As you can see the tooth marks are visually unpleasant, especially if you enjoy looking at and feeling your pencils. As you continue to sharpen your pencil tooth marks will unfortunately have thoroughly blemished it. At this point you’ll need to decide whether the relatively long and fairly sharp point is important enough to sacrifice the look and feel of your pencil. I don’t have many expensive pencils save for a few, but I think I’d end up minding if my pencils had tooth marks all over it. There is a solution, though it will require an additional pencil sharpener.
From Pencil Revolution’s article Frankenstein’s Sharpener I found out the burr from the Classroom Friendly Supplies pencil sharpener can be transplanted into the the Carl A-5 and Carl CP-100A pencil sharpeners. What makes this interesting is that both the Carl A-5 and the Carl CP-100A have rubber clutches without wood-damaging teeth. I might actually do this; if I do, I will follow up with an update to this article in the future.
Single Burr Grinder
I prefer manual over automatic. Automatic pencil sharpeners eventually break and when they do there’s little you can do about it, especially if there’s something wrong with the electronics. The one exception would be if I had a very helpful electrical engineering friend nearby. On the other hand, a manual pencil sharpener like this one lasts a long time, but if it does break there’s a good chance you can fix it. You can pick up replacement parts and supplies directly from Classroom Friendly Supplies. If you are in need of instructions to help you maintain your sharpener here are some photos and videos at Classroom Friendly Supplies
The Classroom Friendly Sharpener is a single-burr pencil sharpener that leaves your pencils with a long, sharp point. I’ve not ever seen a point so long; it’s best for those of us who hold our pencils slightly on the lighter side. As a designer I enjoy putting ideas unto paper with a pencil. All 50 or so of my pencils have been sharpened with the Classroom Friendly Sharpener and all are beautiful with long, sharp points.
One caveat though: the metal teeth that firmly hold your pencil will leave tooth marks on your pencil’s lacquer. I know some of us want our precious pencils to be as pristine as can be, and leaving tooth marks might be a deal breaker. I personally don’t have many expensive pencils, but I would have preferred if my favorite pencils were left unmarred. If you don’t mind tooth marks on your pencils, but do appreciate the long, sharp point, the build quality, and how easy it is to sharpen your pencils, then the Classroom Friendly Sharpener may be just the right pencil sharpener for you.
- A certain level of dexterity required, but you’ll get used to it quickly.
- Smallish shavings container; need to empty often.
- Shavings container not super secured.
- Single, not double burr, grinder.
- Teeth leave tooth marks on pencil lacquer. (It is possible to transplant the burr into other pencil sharpeners with rubber clutches.)
- Long, sharp point.
- Build is generally solid, inside and out.
- On the quieter side.
- Experience of putting a metal burr to wood is great.
- Almost impossible to over-sharpen.
- Works with both left-handed and right-handed folks.
- Easy to fix and easy to replace parts.
- Easy to unstuck a broken lead inside.
I hope this review helped you make an informed purchasing decision. Priced at USD 24.99. Check out the pencil sharpeners from Classroom Friendly Supplies.