How do you take care of your lowly pencils? The pencil must be one of the humblest and most taken for granted yet foundational in the carpenter’s world. Without the pencil, a lot of a carpenter’s work becomes futile and messed up. Since it’s necessary to cut once and measure twice, how sharp is your measurement-marking tool? Do you know know how to sharpen carpenter pencils appropriately?
There are proper ways to sharpen a carpenter pencil. It takes more effort and finesse than sharpening your school pencil. It requires more than just slicing the pencil with a sharp blade and hoping it will come out nice, sharp, and useful.
Why Should I Bother Sharpening My Carpenter’s Pencil?
Why do you need to sharpen your pencil? Sharp, precise, and accurate lines are what you should want and expect from your pencil. In a construction site, a carpenter’s pencil serves as a marker for measurements. And if your carpenter’s pencil is dull, it makes a broader line than necessary.
A dull pencil means a wider line which makes a more inaccurate mark. For a professional builder, such a mark will not do. You need to sharpen your carpenter’s pencil.
Challenges of Sharpening a Carpentry Pencil
Because of its difference from a regular pencil, a carpenter’s pencil is more challenging to sharpen. It is either rectangular or elliptical, unlike a regular pencil, which is round or hexagonal. A carpenter’s pencil is shaped that way to prevent it from rolling away. Also, its shape affords more surface area for you to grip, making it easier to use.
But the irregular shape of a carpenter pencil makes regular sharpeners useless. Though you can probably buy a carpentry pencil sharpener in a local hardware store, you want to learn how to sharpen carpenter pencils anytime, anywhere.
How to Sharpen Carpenter Pencils
Carpenter pencils are primarily sharpened by hand using a blade. Here’s the best way to do it.
The only equipment necessary is a utility knife or a chisel. Blades are the primary tools used to sharpen carpenter pencils. Optionally, you can also use safety gloves to protect your hands from the blade. But if you know your way around a blade, you should be careful enough not to hurt yourself during a simple pencil-sharpening operation.
Hold the Pencil Tightly
Grasp the pencil tightly in your hand. Make sure that you have a few inches between your fingers and the end of the pencil you want to sharpen. If you are right-handed, hold the pencil in your left hand (vice versa if you are left-handed).
Holding the Blade Properly
Hold the blade with your dominant hand and point it towards the blade at around a 45-degree angle. Make sure that it is at least half an inch from the end of the pencil you want to sharpen.
Important safety tip: always keep the blade pointed away from you!
Slicing the Carpenter Pencil Sharp
Slice the pencil’s wood carefully. Start with the narrower sides and slowly work your way towards the lead core of the pencil.
Place the pencil against the wood of the pencil. Push and whittle your blade into the pencil and away from yourself. Keep whittling until the lead is exposed. It’s best to stop whittling the wood away once about a fourth of an inch of lead is exposed.
Pro tip: don’t try to slice huge chunks of wood from the pencil. Whittling is more about letting the blade do the work. Slide it across the wood, slowly chip small pieces of it.
Sharpening the Lead
Based on my experience, the best way to sharpen the lead core of a carpenter pencil is to use fine-grit sandpaper. My preferred sandpaper roughness is about 800 grit.
To sharpen a carpenter pencil lead, place the sandpaper on a flat surface. Hold the pencil with one of its flat sides facing the sandpaper. Lean the tip of the pencil towards the sandpaper and drag it across the rough surface. Turn the carpenter pencil over and drag the other side of the lead across the sandpaper. Repeat this step over and over until your reach your desired sharpness.
Final Thoughts on How to Sharpen Carpenter Pencils
It is necessary to keep your carpenter pencils sharp. They are used to mark measurements, and in the professional builder’s view, measurements must be accurate and exact. A dull pencil does not make those precise marks. They have to be sharp.
But due to their unique shape, carpenter pencils take more effort to sharpen. The step-by-step guide I enumerated here is the best way on how to sharpen carpenter pencils. It’s easy, convenient, and effective. And if you are a decent carpenter, you should be able to pull off the techniques required without breaking a sweat.