I just got back from a sketching trip to Montreal. I’ll talk about that once I get a chance to scan my sketches but today I want to show you what I found while wandering around Mile End. I went into a tiny store called Boucle & Papier. l didn’t have high expectations as the place is full of greeting cards but they had Blackwing pencils, which was a pleasant surprise.
The BIG surprise, though, was that they had the hot topic in the pencil world right now – the Blackwing sharpener. I was hot to get one of these but shipping costs really limit my ability to do so. But I have one now.
Before I talk about it I need to provide a bit of sharpener history for those who are saying “it’s only a sharpener.” In the pencil world, particularly the people that carry pencils wherever they go, have never been satisfied by the cheap sharpeners you can buy anywhere. There are reasons for this but the big one is that these sharpeners produce a very short, high-angle tip and if you want to write/draw with a fine line, you’re constantly sharpening. The long tip you get from a wall sharpener is what we want in our portable sharpeners.
There have been several solutions but the reigning favorite is the Kum Masterpiece sharpener, a 2-step sharpener that requires you to remove wood in the first step and then carefully sharpen the point in the second. It works great, though the 2-step approach isn’t convenient. More important, however, is that the shavings aren’t captured by the sharpener.
The Blackwing sharpener has come to the rescue. If you haven’t been convinced by the cost of the thing, the packaging should give you the idea that you’re holding something special. It impresses when you hold it in your hand as well. Very solid and the black anodizing is beautiful.
The sharpener disassembles into three pieces. You unscrew the top and then you can pull the actual sharpener out of the housing to empty the shavings. The sharpener hole is offset to allow shavings to easily flake away from the blade. Sharpening is done by simply holding it and twisting the pencil as you would with any simple sharpener.
Here’s a comparison of the results from the Blackwing and Masterpiece sharpeners. Note that the exposed graphite length is very similar but the Masterpiece removes more wood. The reason is that the Blackwing sharpener cuts the pencil into a curved shape similar to the Pollux sharpener that is popular with some, though the Pollux has a reputation of being picky about what pencils it will sharpen. I haven’t exhaustively tested different pencils but I’ve tried Ticonderoga, Blackwing, Tombow, Mitsubishi, Mars Lumigraph and even Col-Erase pencils and the Blackwing sharpener handles all of them well.
This is just a close up of the results.
In the end, this sharpener is now part of my sketching bag and I just love it. A happy surprise from Montreal.
Edit: Tina Koyama asked for a comparision to the Blackwing 2-step sharpener. Here it is. Top pencil is a Mars Lumograph sharpened with the new Blackwing and the bottom pencil is a Tombow Mono 100 sharpened with the Blackwing 2-step sharpener.