Saturday, 10 January 2015

Part 2 Beginning Drawing: Sharpening your pencils

One of the questions I get asked regularly, 'What do I use to sharpen my pencils?'.  My answer is, 'It depends on what you want to do with the pencil'. There are two ways to sharpen a pencil: a machine (manual or electric) or by hand with a sharp knife. I will cover sharpening a pencil with a knife in part three.

Personally, I don't like electric (mains or battery) pencil sharpeners. I don't like them because I don't have control over what the sharpener does when I operate it. Some battery operated ones are just awful. The only manual machine I like is the Jakar 5160.

The Jakar 5160 is relatively cheap but extremely versatile. I can control the length of the pencil tip accurately and precisely. This point is very important when sharpening soft core pencils like Derwent's Coloursoft. With soft pencils you have to go easy with the sharpener else the tip will just break. The 5610 enables you to control the sharpening action because you are the one who is turning the cutter and not a motor which has no feel of the what the cutter is doing.

The 5160 dismantles easily for cleaning and replacement of parts, no special tools are needed. Its easy to clear any pencil tips if they break inside the sharpener. Replacement parts are available and not expensive. The whole sharpener is well made.

The 5160 has stood the test of time. Not only I use it but my students do too. Its in the studio and has been in use for nearly 18 months and all I had to do to it is clean it. I have a spare cutter but not felt the need to replace it yet! A good practice to get into is sharpen graphite pencils through it regularly. Some artists do this before every session.

One of the advantages of the 5160 is I can take it with me on my travels as I don't need electricity or batteries to keep it going.

A manual sharpener is the safest bet if you work with or teach children. There is no risk of electrocution of accidental injury; battery and electric sharpeners work automatically when a pencil is inserted, little fingers are no wider than a normal size pencil.

Lets have a look at the 5160:

The Jakar 5160 - This is my own that I use

A front view which show the self locking sliding pencil holder note the pencil grippers visible in the pencil holder. These open up to allow the pencil through and grip it while the cutter sharpens it.

You pull out the slider by holding the two wings at the top and slid it out until it locks in the open position. The left wing when pressed inwards opens the hole with the grippers

This is the rear view. The knob in the middle of the cranking arm is what controls the length of the pencil tip you want. For longer tips turn it anticlockwise. To sharpen a pencil turn the handle clockwise. Note the inner ring, turn this anticlockwise to remove the cutter for cleaning or replacement

The cutter removed

The helical cutter is a single item including the turning handle. The replacement cutter comes as whole. It retails around £5. You may come across single helical cutters on the Internet, don't buy them thinking it will be cheaper, they will not fit!

The Jakar 5160 in action. The pencil gripper slides out then the grippers are opened and the pencil inserted until it stops. Turn the handle at the back until you don't feel any resistance or VERY little resistance to the turning action, Release the grippers and slide the pencil out. If sharpening soft core pencils stop and check the length of the tip after a couple of turns of the handle. 

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