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Before there were pencil sharpeners, people used to whittle their dull pencils to a sharp point using knives. Today some artists still do, but for most of us, there is a world of manual, battery-operated, and electric pencil sharpening options, from tiny handheld versions that you can fit in your bag to desktop and wall-mounted models for your home office. Pencil sharpeners are functional tools that happen to come in a variety of shapes, sizes, colors, materials, and styles to fit your taste, space, lifestyle, and décor.
Below, here are our picks for the best pencil sharpeners.
Best Overall: POWERME Electric Pencil Sharpener
No matter what you need a pencil sharpener for, you won’t be disappointed in the PowerMe Electric Pencil Sharpener, a quick and powerful product that delivers better results and includes all the safety features you could ask for.
This top-rated pencil sharpener runs on AA batteries and can sharpen a dull pencil in just three seconds flat. It has a specially engineered spiral drill that won’t jam up and can sharpen thousands of pencils without getting dull. Plus, there’s an auto-stop function that prevents the sharpener from working if the lid is open, and you’ll always be able to see when the transparent reservoir needs to be emptied. The manufacturer even offers a 100 percent money-back guarantee if you’re not happy with the product.
According to reviewers, the PowerMe Electric Pencil Sharpener is lightweight, compact, durable, and easy to use. Many love how quickly it sharpens pencils, and several note that even young children can use it with no problem.
Best Budget: STAEDTLER Pencil Sharpener
On the hunt for an inexpensive pencil sharpener? The STAEDTLER Pencil Sharpener may be compact and simple, but it has thousands of positive review from students, artists, teachers, and more.
This little 2-inch manual pencil sharpener includes a metal blade attached to a screw-on container. Just stick your pencil in the top and twist, and before you know it, your pencil will be as good as new! You won't have to worry about the shavings spilling out if the product is in your pencil case or backpack thanks to the screw-on top. The design may be simple, but people say it does a “crazy good” job and is worth every penny.
Best Electric: JARLINK Electric Pencil Sharpener
Electric pencil sharpeners make quick work of even the dullest pencils, creating sharp points with little effort on your part. If you prefer the quick, hands-off performance of electric pencil sharpeners, you’ll love the heavy-duty JARLINK Electric Pencil Sharpener.
You can power this pencil sharpener with AA batteries or by plugging it into an AC outlet. It has a helical blade that delivers a sharp pencil in just five to ten seconds, and it has an auto-stop feature that lets you know when the pencil is as sharp as can be. Plus, it also has a safety feature that prevents it from turning on when the lid is open, protecting the fingers of curious kids.
Reviewers say you can’t go wrong with this electric pencil sharpener, which can stand up to regular use without losing steam! Plus, many love that you can switch between battery and AC power.
Best Manual: X-Acto Ranger 1031 Wall Mount Manual Pencil Sharpener
Years ago, this type of manual pencil sharpener was a staple in every classroom. If you prefer a good, old-fashioned crank sharpener, you’ll love the nostalgia of the X-ACTO Ranger 1031 Wall Mount Manual Pencil Sharpener.
You can mount this manual sharpener on the wall, desk, or table, and it features dual helical cutters that get your writing implements nice and sharp. The all-metal construction can stand up to a high volume of use, making it perfect for a classroom or office, and it can even accommodate eight different pencil sizes!
The X-ACTO Ranger Pencil Sharpener is designed to be sturdy and low-maintenance, and reviewers say it’s a great option for anyone who’s tired of electric pencil sharpeners pooping out on them.
Best for Classroom: X-Acto School Pro Classroom Electric Pencil Sharpener
If you’re buying a pencil sharpener for a classroom, it needs to be rugged! After all, it will likely be used dozens of times per day and may very well take a few tumbles throughout its life. For this reason, there’s no better option than the X-ACTO School Pro Classroom Electric Pencil Sharpener, which has thousands of rave reviews from happy teachers.
This heavy-duty electric pencil sharpener plugs into an electrical outlet, saving you from having to change the batteries every week, and it can be adjusted to fit six different pencil sizes. It includes a system that automatically stops when a pencil is sharp, and the blade life is supposed to be more than 30 times longer than that of standard sharpeners. Reviewers love the reasonable price of this product, and many say that it performs effortlessly, even with you’re sharpening a high volume of tools.
Best for Colored Pencils: Prismacolor Premier Pencil Sharpener
Just like regular pencils, colored pencils need to be sharpened from time to time, and one of your best options is the Prismacolor Premier Pencil Sharpener, which is made by a trusted art brand specifically for colored pencils. While compact and simple, this model still gets top marks from reviewers, many of whom are artists.
The manual sharpener is specifically designed to work with prism color pencils, and it includes two separate blades—one that sharpens to a fine point and the other that achieves a medium point. Half of the sharpener’s body is translucent, so it’s easy to see when it’s full, and the compact 3-inch body will easily fit into any bag or pencil case. Reviewers love that it doesn’t eat up their pencils but still leaves their colored pencils super sharp without breaking the point.
Best for Artists: OfficeGoods Electric & Battery Operated Pencil Sharpener
If you’re an artist who works with regular pencils, colored pencils, charcoal pencils, or maybe all three, you’re going to need a reliable, versatile pencil sharpener like the OfficeGoods Electric & Battery Operated Pencil Sharpener. This product can be powered three ways—AA batteries, AC adapter, or USB cord—giving you the flexibility to draw anywhere, whether you’re working from home, the park, or a studio.
This pencil sharpener has a stainless steel helical blade, and you can choose from blunt, medium, or sharp settings, depending on what you’re working on. It can sharpen up a pencil is around 10 seconds, and it has safety features that prevent it from operating while the cover is open, so you can feel safe with your kids using it. There are numerous artists in the comments who say it works perfectly on both charcoal and pastel pencils, getting them nice and sharp without breaking the points.
What to Look for When Buying Pencil Sharpeners
Manual or Electric
To find the pencil sharpener that best suits your needs, first decide whether you prefer a manual or electric device. This will depend on how often you use and sharpen pencils, and whether or not you want a simple portable tool to keep in your bag or something more sophisticated that will sit on your desk or attached to the wall of your office. If buying pencil sharpeners for a shared work space, you may want to pay attention to noise considerations from electric pencil sharpeners, which can be grating on the ears of those who aren’t using them.
While most of us think of standard school-issued No. 2s when the word pencil comes to mind, pencils come in more than one shape or size. Pay attention to this when selecting the right pencil sharpener for the diameter of pencils that you habitually use. There are dedicated pencil sharpeners for every type of pencil, from the most basic to those favored by artists who want to achieve specifically honed points on their graphite or charcoal pencils.
If you are a casual pencil user looking for an inexpensive simple tool to sharpen your No. 2s, a portable hand-held prism sharpener will do the trick. Note that some handheld pencil sharpeners come with built-in reservoirs to catch shavings, while others will require some clean-up after each use. Small details like this can affect your user experience, so be sure to keep them in mind when selecting the pencil sharpener that is best suited to your needs.
How do you sharpen a pencil sharpener blade?
To sharpen a pencil sharpener blade on a manual sharpener, carefully unscrew the top screw(s), turn it over to allow the blade(s) to drop out, and use a sharpening stone to sharpen them before reassembling. To help maintain sharp blades, be sure to empty your sharpener of pencil shavings and use a dry spare toothbrush to keep blades clean and sharp. You can also try cleaning the blades with rubbing alcohol which may do the trick by removing any gunk that is clogging them up.
How does an electric pencil sharpener work?
Electric pencil sharpeners are motorized versions of manual sharpeners that get the job done with minimal effort and lightning speed. When you sharpen a pencil using a manual sharpener, the action of hand-twisting the pencil toward the blades shaves the pencil wood and graphite to a sharp point. With an electric sharpener, an interior motor powers and spins the blades, allowing the pencil to be sharpened more quickly by simply inserting a pencil and holding it in place while the machine does the work. Some motorized pencil sharpeners are battery-operated for convenience and portability.
Who invented the pencil sharpener?
The history of the pencil sharpener begins in France, where the modern pencil was invented in 1795 by Frenchman Nicolas-Jacques Conté. The invention of the hand held pencil sharpener was first credited to Parisian C.A. Boucher in 1822, and in 1828 French mathematician Bernard Lassimore took out the world’s first pencil sharpener patent. In 1847, French nobleman Thierry des Estivaux invented the hand-held pencil sharpener in its modern form. The first American pencil sharpener patent was taken out in 1855 by Walter K. Foster in Bangor, Maine, and in 1897 the Massachusetts-based African-American carpenter and inventor John Lee Love patented the portable pencil sharpener nicknamed the “Love Sharpener.” The electric pencil sharpener is said to have been first produced in 1917 and became widely available in the 1940s.