For everyone following along at home, you know that there's a tournament of pencil and pen madness upcoming on Inkpothesis this month. Any March tournament requires preparations, and preparations for upcoming analog insanity involve one important repeated task: sharpening pencils. For the purposes of repeatedly sharpening 32 pencils in a row, there is only one tool that I own that is up for the task: The Classroom Friendly Sharpener.
I received the Classroom Friendly about a month ago, and I have been putting it through the paces nearly every day since. I broke down some of my favorite features below, but the most immediate thing we need to address is this: The classroom friendly is an old-school looker of a hand-crank sharpener. It takes a certain aesthetic to earn a permanent place on my desk, and this sharpener has not left it since I took it out of the box.
If you've never used a sharpener similar to the Classroom friendly, it might take a minute or two to get acquainted with exactly how use it correctly. The moveable face plate comes directly out from the sharpener by using the two black knobs on the top of the sharpener, and those same knobs move the pencil gripping gears out of the way so you get get your pencil into the sharpener. The Classroom Friendly site includes really good illustrated and even video-based instructions. Alternatively, those that are as anxious to try it out as I was can use your intuition and 30 seconds to figure it out on your own. Safe to say it's simple enough to be used by elementary school children after basic instructions are provided.
I can certainly see how the features of the sharpener make it ideal for a classroom setting. It is decently quiet, and the automatic stop feature makes it easy to know when the pencil is finished sharpening. It's hard to explain an automatic stop unless you have used one yourself, but essentially you reach a point where there is no resistance when you are cranking the sharpener, and the pencil will not continue to sharpen. For me, that automatic stop provides the most important benefit of all: consistency.
When I'm comparing pencils, I want a tool that will allow me to level the playing field as much as possible. The scientist in me is all about controlled environments. This is where the sharpener really shines in my opinion. Without any effort or thought, I can put pretty much the exact same point on every pencil. In case you are wondering, it takes about 20 quickly paced cranks on average to go from unsharpened to long point, and about 5 on average to go from per-sharpened to long point. It's simple and it's fast. I whipped through all 32 pencils for the bracket of madness in a matter of minutes.
Some considerations for using the sharpener:
- The point is SHARP on these pencils, which for someone who likes to write with small clean lines-is great. I also tend to be a little heavy-handed, and on occasion the very tip of the point will break off when I am first using the pencil because it is just that sharp. I'm not even mad, I'm impressed. Also of note: I must have subconsciously adapted to the long point pencil, because this doesn't happen nearly as much now as it did four weeks ago.
- The sharpener leaves little tooth marks in the pencil where the gears held it in place during sharpening. Certainly, these marks are much more noticeable on some pencils than others. I wanted to show pictures of exactly what these marks looked like in the most noticeable case I have seen so far: The Blackwing 530. I also wanted to show the marks left on the pencil after using the simple trick of wrapping a Post-It note around the pencil during sharpening. Honestly, these marks don't bother me a bit on most pencils. In some cases, I even find them charming. But I'm also the kind of person that opens rare, collectible Field Notes and happily exposes them to the elements. Perfection is overrated.
- The sharpener works on mini-pencils and half-used pencils. In my tests, you can continue to sharpen a pencil using the Classroom Friendly down to about three inches long.
- The sharpener works great on all different shaped pencils I tried including triangular, circular, and hex. It also handles some pencils that are a little wider than your average pencil such as the CW Pencils Blackwood. It does not fit mini-jumbo or jumbo sized pencils. Turns out they have another sharpener specifically for those.
- I also tested the sharpener on softer core pencils such as colored pencils. I'm not sure that colored pencils were really meant to have long points, or that the sharpener was created for that use case. (Real artists cover your eyes.) But for all intensive purposes, it worked! After I sharpened these up, I was able to easily remove the crank handle and take the blade out of the sharpener for cleaning.
- Finally, other intangibles I appreciate about the company include bulk discounts with orders of multiple sharpeners and most importantly their donations with every purchase to the charity Pencils of Promise.
- My sharpener was provided free of charge for this review, but it's safe to say I will likely be purchasing another one soon with my own funds to keep on my desk at work. You can purchase the sharpener on the Classroom Friendly website for $24.99 with free shipping.
Don't forget to enter the first Inkpothesis giveaway by leaving a comment on this post before April 1st.