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.
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.