Sharpener Review: Deli No. 0668

Before I was a pencil nerd, I was a film photo nerd. Taking photos on film was my original analog pleasure. Of course, I remember when I was a kid and all photos were taken on film. Then things started going digital when I was a teen in the late 90’s and early 00’s and I was quick to jump onboard, first by getting my film scanned to CD rather than prints, later by buying a scanner so I could have the “best of both world”, then finally by becoming the first among my friends to own a digital camera. Eventually things kind of came full-circle in the 2010s. At one point I noticed that people had started putting bad filters on digital photos to make them look more like film. It kind of hit me how silly it is to make poor imitations of film photos when I can just take photos on film to begin with. (Believe it or not, I’m going somewhere with this).

So, even though pencils are my latest analog nerd craze, film photography has a special place in my heart (and as an aside, the lack of good sunlight for taking blog photos now that it’s winter in Alaska is killing me, so please excuse the crappy office lighting in these pics). Needless to say that when I saw the Deli 668 sharpener — cleverly disguised as a small twin-lens reflex camera — I kinda had to have it. But, cuteness aside, is it a viable replacement for the Deli 610 or the Carl Angel 5? That was the question on my mind as I dug in for this review.

The 668 is a hand-cranked helical-blade sharpener, meaning it’s the type where the pencil is clamped into place and a spinning cylindrical blade with spiraled cutting faces rotates about the pencil as you turn the handle with your hand. The old-school type, like the ones us old folks used to have in our elementary school classrooms. The entire cutting mechanism, except for the handle and the portion that mounts it to the casing, is made of metal and seems to be sturdy and solid.

The sharpening mechanism works like most pencil sharpeners of this type: pull the face out, open the chuck (in this case, with a single push-button), insert the pencil, and crank away. The face clamps onto the pencil and provides steady pressure to feed it into the sharpener until it is whittled into shape and the blade stops cutting.

The quality of the resulting point is great. Regardless of the type of wood a pencil is made of, the Deli No. 0668 grinds the business end down to a smooth, perfectly finished, slightly concave taper every single time. The sharpening action is a little rough, meaning that it seems a little loud and shaky.

Unfortunately, I was a little disappointed at the point length that results from this sharpener. I had my hopes up that it would make the same long point that the 610 does, but was bummed to find out that it makes one that’s a little more run-of-the-mill. I tried to get creative and take the cutting mechanism out of my 610 and insert it into the body of the 668; although it fits in the casing the same, it didn’t work when it came to actually sharpening pencils.

The photo below shows a pencil sharpened with the Deli No. 0668 (bottom) vs. the Deli No. 0610B (top).

The Deli No. 0668 has a few features that set it apart from other pencil sharpeners of this type. To be honest, even though I think the camera body design is clever (including the ever-so-charming poorly-translated English slogan on the side), the main selling point for me was that the clamps in the chuck have rubber “feet” on them that prevent them from biting into pencils. You may have noticed in some of my review photos that pencils I’ve recruited into frontline service usually have clamp marks up and down the barrel; that’s why. It’s a minor pet peeve of mine, and I thought maybe this would solve that problem. In practice, it appears to be a trade-off: the rubber feet do prevent the clamps from biting in, but it seems like the pencil tends to slip a little bit during sharpening, although probably not enough to outweigh the benefit of not having your pencil mangled.

Another cool thing is that the 668 has an adjustable point mechanism. In the center of the crank handle is a finger screw that you can tighten or loosen to dial in the desired point sharpness. This is a really cool feature, although one that will probably be most useful for pencil artists. The sharpest setting doesn’t actually get pin-point sharp, which is fine with me, but I know some people are into that (so if you are, be advised that you won’t get it here). The most blunt setting is geared more toward softer, thick-cored pencils; if you try to sharpen a typical writing pencil with it you won’t get any exposed core at all! It’s so blunt it stops a skinnier pencil at right about the point where the core starts to emerge from the wooden collar. I sharpened up a General’s Sketch & Wash, though, and it turned out pretty good. I also appreciate that it allows you to dial in a specific shape directly, rather than clicking through a few preset options. You can turn the finger screw to set it anywhere within the range that you prefer (although it might be hard to recreate an ideal setting without any sort of a reference).

Below you can see the adjustment screw (the label doesn’t help much if you don’t read Chinese, but righty = tighty = moves the stop inward = blunter tip). The photo to the right shows a few of the settings, including the most blunt and the most sharp.

There is one other “plus” I discovered about No. 0668, which is that the opening where you insert pencils is larger than most of its counterparts, and the chuck opens nice and wide, meaning that you can sharpen a variety of pencil sizes. I never use “jumbo” pencils, but it’s nice to know that I could if I wanted to, and I sharpened up a jumbo old-school Ticonderoga Laddie I’ve had kicking around my desk just to verify that it works.

The Deli No. 0668 sharpener is kind of a mixed bag, in my opinion. First and foremost, it does the job it’s designed to do: it sharpens pencils, and creates a nicely-finished point. So, bottom line is that it’s a “good” sharpener at bare minimum. Whether or not you prefer it as a sharpener, I think really depends on what you’re using your pencils for and what your alternatives are.

On the plus side: it is aesthetically pleasing, accepts a variety of pencil sizes, has an adjustable point sharpness, and doesn’t leave bite marks in your pencil. On the other hand: the act of sharpening feels and sounds kinda rough, and the point length is shorter than other helical sharpeners. Although the rubber grips on the pencil chuck are a plus overall, they come with a slight trade-off in their ability to hold the pencil securely.

For artists who do pencil work, I think that the Deli No. 0668 sharpener would be a solid choice — the fact that it accepts a variety of pencil sizes and allows you to fine-tune the tip shape should be a great benefit for those creating artwork. Plus you’re probably going to be cloistered in your studio screaming along to angsty pretentious music at full blast anyway, so who cares if it’s noisy? In my case, though, I’m just a writer. While I might gift the 688 to an artist, or keep it around for the rare jumbo pencil I acquire, I think I’ll stick with the Deli No. 0610B or the Carl Angel-5 for everyday use — and keep searching for a sharpener more along those lines that doesn’t gnaw my barrels to bits!

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