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.
Pencil sharpeners seem like they’re a dime a dozen. That is, until you begin searching for that coveted ultra long point. The urge to find the ultimate long-point sharpener is kind of like Hepatitis B: some people get it and it just never goes away. A sharpener that reliably generates an elegant, long taper is even more elusive in hand-blade format.
Esteemed German manufacturer KUM has attempted to solve this issue with their Automatic Long Point sharpener. I purchased this sharpener without necessarily intending to review it, and have been using it off and on for several months now, so I reckon I’m highly-qualified to give you the dirt on it. In this case, I’ll be reviewing the Blackwing-branded model, although I’m pretty sure that there is no difference between this and the “white label” model other than the screen-printed Blackwing logo. So keep reading, long-point enthusiasts; because herein lies an in-depth look at one of the most popular long-point hand sharpeners on the market today.
Getting a nice, long point on a pencil without having to use an elaborate or bulky sharpener is kind of a rare joy for writers. On the one hand, there are lots of desktop sharpeners that give a long point, but that would be kinda dumb trying to carry one of those around in your pencil case. On the other hand, there are tons of high-quality compact wedge, bullet, and canister-type sharpeners, but most of those make pretty short points. Among those that leave long points, many of them involve some sort of multi-step process. Of course, if you happen to be an artist with different types of pencil requiring different shapes of point, then things get even more complicated.
Kutsuwa’s STAD T’Gaal Multisharpener takes a crack at solving these problems by combining the flexibility of adjustable point length and the compactness of a bladed canister sharpener in one small package. With the turn of a dial, the position of the blade adjusts to allow for point angles ranging from “fancy long” to “mascara pencil small”.
I picked up one of those nifty-looking sharpeners to test out and see how effectively it manages to pull all of that off!
I first came across this little bugger in a book shop in the Anchorage airport. They wanted $7 for it. I almost bought it. Then I found the same model in Seattle for $3.50. Moral of the story: don’t buy things at the airport.
Nonetheless, the Ooly Mighty Sharpener stood out to me for some reason. Maybe because it’s cute. Maybe because it has a long-point sharpener. Maybe because it gives you options. Whatever the reason, when I came across it the second time (and the price was reasonable), I snagged it and brought it home for a review.
I’m sure you can imagine what a quick trip to the grocery/big box/etc. store looks like for me. “Yeah babe, I’ll run out and grab some bread, be right back!” I tell my partner as I run out the door. An hour later I return with the bread…and a handful of random crap from the art and/or office supply aisles.
That’s more or less how I ended up with the X-Acto Vacuum Mount manual helical pencil sharpener (sidenote: I’ve also seen this or a similar product marketed as the “bulldog”). A quick pop into Wally World for some Oreos to comfort my beloved after she sprained her ankle necessarily included a trip down the office supply aisle. I’ve pretty much picked that joint clean of anything that looks promising or even interesting, but occasionally new surprises pop up, and I’ve been curious about hand-crank helical sharpeners as a happy medium between noisy electrics and bladed hand sharpeners. And there she was: the X-ACTO vacuum mount manual sharpener for the low, low price of eight bucks. Sold!
It may be somewhat of a faux pas for a pro-analog pencil snob to use an electric sharpener, but I’m not trying to hear all of that negativity. For one thing, I push pencils for a living. Sometimes I’m working with a pencil and I just need the damn thing to get sharp. It doesn’t have to be an “experience”. Yeah, yeah, stopping to smell the flowers and all. Try telling that to the people I’m billing by the hour. Better yet, tell that to my brain that will wander off into the weeds if I break my focus for more than a nanosecond.
It also occurred to me that a reviewer of pencils should strive for consistency in methods. I put a lot of thought on ways that I can remove variables from my reviews and make my testing more objective. Although I do a hand-sharpening test for every pencil I review, I conduct the rest of the process using an electric sharpener. Electric sharpeners simply make a more consistent point than I can by hand, and that way I’m making apples-to-apples comparisons.
OK, now that I’ve hopefully talked my way out of being ostracized by the pencil community, let’s get down to meat and potatoes. My go-to electric sharpener is the X-ACTO Mighty Mite, which I own in two versions: one that plugs in to AC power (model 19520), and one that is battery-operated (model 19510). I’ve been using these on the daily for a few months, and think I have a pretty good handle on the pros and cons of each. And, because it’s the thing that I do, I’m going to share my thoughts on the Mighty Mite with you, dear reader.