For the most part I don’t hand-sharpen the pencils that I use. But I have a few—such as the A.W. Faber Lay Out and the Eberhard Faber Van Dyke chisel point—that most sharpeners can’t accommodate. It seems the trick to sharpening pencils by hand is to let the blade do the work, and while it takes some practice, you might be surprised at how much you begin to appreciate hand-wrought points.

Prior to the convenience of pencil sharpeners as we know them there were all manner of creative sharpening solutions, such as this one from 1902:


Since it seems that relatively few people likely hand-sharpen their pencils anymore, I was surprised and interested to learn about this clever sharpening stand made by Derwent:


Before I continue though, just a few words about words. “Derwent” is an interesting place-name of Welsh—and by extension, old Brythonic—origin. It is a corruption of dwrgwent from dwrgwyn, where “dwr” = water; “gwent” = a fair or open space; “gwyn” = white, clear or beautiful (Charnock, Derivative Dictionary of Geographic Names). Translations range from “clear water” to “fair stream”, but all essentially suggest an open area alongside a winsome river.

The stand is made of sturdy plastic and has rubber strips on the bottom to prevent slipping (you can see a demonstration here). The stop at the end allows you to have some control over the length of the sharpening stroke:


The best ideas are often the simplest ones, like this sharpening stand. I mean it as a complement when I say that this item could be mistaken as a gadget from the turn of the twentieth century (though perhaps it would have been made of bakelite)—when there was once great competition and an endless variety of time-saving tools related to pencils and writing.

Thanks to Derwent U.K. and ColArts U.S.A. for their help and for sending the sharpening stand.

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2 Responses to Dwrgwyn

  1. Matthias says:

    I didn’t know that the name Derwent is of Welsh origin, thanks for the explanation and for showing us this pencil stand. I didn’t notice this stand when I was in the Derwent shop (that’s part of their pencil museum) and I also didn’t notice it in any shops here, even though they tend to stock Derwent products. I’ll keep my eyes open, as the price seems to be reasonable, too. Thanks again!


    • Sean says:

      Welsh is such an intriguing language if for no other reason that some words appear to be just a string of consonants (e.g. dwr, cwm), only to learn that the letter “W” is called a double-U for a reason.

      Maybe this is a new product, one that came out after your visit? Derwent has quite a few small accessories that few if anyone else is making these days.


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