Sharpening pencils by hand seems like one of those life-skills that has nearly vanished. It’s easy to understand why—pencil sharpeners are (mostly) inexpensive, can be found anywhere, and they get the job done. But there’s something very self-reliant about sharpening a pencil by hand, and there’s no denying that there is a sense of craft to it as well.
But it’s not without its drawbacks, namely the danger of having sharp instruments near your fingers. Now, I know what some of you might be thinking: that because I’m a musician, I’m just overly precious about my fingers (actually, I should probably be much more careful about how I treat my hands than I currently do). No, my concern goes back to my time in the Cub Scouts:
I honestly don’t remember if my misadventure was in service of a whittling badge per se, but I can tell you that I was in fact whittling for some project, and my left index finger is the proof (badge notwithstanding). I didn’t learn much about whittling, but I did learn that T.V. blood looks nothing like real blood.
It’s a very rewarding feeling, sharpening a pencil by hand, and it’s one of those things where the reward isn’t in the arrival—it’s in the doing. I’ll never give up using a pencil sharpener, especially when I have some detailed notation to do. But for those times when I only need to sketch something out or jot something down, I may just reach for my pencil knife instead.