How to Sharpen a Pencil without a Pencil Sharpener

There are a lot of methods on how to sharpen a pencil without a pencil sharpener, but one is the most efficient. 

If you look at how materials react to each other when sharpening you must look just for one thing.
The material that you use for sharpening must be harder than the material you are sharpening.

For wood and graphite in pencil, you can use anything harder like iron or stone. But pencils are delicate tools so we must use fine tools, which are made from those materials.

We need a knife!

Check below for more sharpening videos with knives, Rick Baldwin technique is very creative.

The most popular way and to many artists primary way to sharpen pencils is with a knife.

What kind of knife? 

Learning how to sharpen a pencil without a pencil sharpener is very dangerous, so safety first.

Every sharp knife that has a sharp blade can be used, all you must have is a good grip and a sharp blade.

Among artists, the most popular is the X-acto precision knife, with a perfectly sharp razor blade. X-acto sharp blade is used for many craft things among creative people, not just for sharpening a pencil.

You can also use a normal box cutter for sharpening, probably you have one at home. If you don’t, that is not a big investment to make. 

The technique of sharpening with a craft knife or box cutter

  • The first rule is to go nice and easy, don’t hurry, You don’t wish to hurt yourself or damage your pencil.
  • Hold your knife in your dominant hand for better control during cutting.
  • Use your other hand for a pencil, and make sure to hold it tight.
  • Put your thumb on the blade and push it forward, slowly whittling the wood away.
  • Start rotating pencil to get even shaving all around, once you get to the point that graphite is free it’s time for some sanding.
  • Use a sand block or normal sandpaper, slowly grinding graphite on the surface of the paper. Don’t forget to rotate it all the time.

Benefits of using knife for sharpening pencils

Sharpening with a knife is giving you the ability to sharpen your pencil to a long lead, and that is the best part. Regular pencils are very limited, and you will not be able to achieve some strikes with short lead.

Long pencil lead gives you

  • Better control over the pencil
  • Hold it like a paintbrush and get more motions
  • Use on the side, and that is great for shading. Especially when you have bigger areas to shade.
  • Even tones of shading, which is sometimes a big struggle for beginner artists.
  • Easy to make very thin lines, great for outlines.

Few videos on how to Sharpen Pencils without a Pencil Sharpeners

In the video below Rick presents his technique on how to sharpen a pencil without a pencil sharpening, and I must admit it’s pretty interesting.

It needs time to master it, and you must be careful during cutting but maybe this technique will be perfect for you.

Terence O’Neil has a similar technique of sharpening with a craft knife like in the first video. But he has gone two levels up with speed and precision.