Ode to a Pencil Sharpener

A couple of days Hannah brought worksheets home from kindergarten. They were meant to help each child master printing their name in block letters. The attached note stressed that the worksheets were optional, which is good, because I find the idea of homework for kindergartners to be sort of ridiculous. Also, Hannah is already quite good at printing her name in block letters.

In spite of my opinion, I decided I would give Hannah the option, and she wanted to do the worksheets. If it’s really her choice to practice printing her name, I’m not going to hold her back. But she wanted a pencil to do it with. And we had no pencils.

Hannah prints her name
Evidence that Hannah can print her name in block letters

OK, scratch that. We had dozens of pencils. All of them broken, blunt, or otherwise unusable. And life with kids being what it is, not only did we have many broken pencils, we also had many broken pencil sharpeners. Realizing that I had no pencils for my daughter to practice her printing with, I felt like a less than stellar parent. These are pencils! Why is that so hard?

In my own childhood, we had a wall-mounted pencil sharpener. It was the very same sort of pencil sharpener that was found in my own elementary school classrooms. And probably my high school classrooms, too, come to think of it. It was sturdy, fast, and it kept the shavings contained. Back in the dark ages of the 1980s, when pencil crayons didn’t come pre-sharpened, I could sharpen mine at home before school started. And then while the other kids all lined up to sharpen theirs on the first day of school, I could sit at my desk and colour. I loved that.

Our new pencil sharpener
My shiny new pencil sharpener

The solution to my parenting dilemma seemed obvious. We needed a wall-mounted pencil sharpener of our very own. So we headed to the teacher supply store, because I knew they would have just such a thing. They did, and for only $14.25 I was its proud new owner. I took it home and installed it immediately. Hannah started sharpening pencils. And pencil crayons. And the other end of pencil crayons, making a double-pointed drawing tool. She was in love. I was, too.

Hannah sharpens a pencil
Hannah tries out the pencil sharpener

Our fancy new pencil sharpener makes points that are really sharp. You could seriously injure yourself on those points, if you weren’t careful. There’s something so satisfying about those points. Also, emptying the pencil sharpener is 15 kinds of fun. Hannah sharpens pencils just so she can empty the sharpener. It’s a waste of pencils, but this is all still very novel, so I’m not sweating it too much.

Sharpened pencils
Look at how sharp those points are

Even 2-year-old Jacob’s getting in on the sharpening action, dragging chairs over to the sharpener so that he can reach it. He hasn’t figured it out yet, but he’s doggedly determined to master it. When you have no TV, a new pencil sharpener is what passes for family entertainment. We’re all crowded around that thing, watching each other sharpen.

Trying to figure out how the pencil sharpener works
Jacob attempts to figure out the pencil sharpener

When Jon got home on what I have come to call Pencil Sharpener Day, I was eager to show it to him. He walked into the kitchen, and ooh-ed and ah-ed suitably. And then he asked why I put it on the left side of the sunroom instead of the right side of the sunroom. You see, the left side of the sunroom is adjacent to the fridge. The right side of the sunroom is where the craft table and craft drawers live. I committed an ergonomic sin. Too bad, because I am definitely not moving it now. Not after the amount of swearing it took me to get it up in the first place.

View of our sunroom
You can see the pencil sharpener on the left, and the craft table on the right

Poor placement aside, the pencil sharpener makes me happy. I feel like we have the best tool for the job. A sturdy tool, that will outlast the children, that will keep us all in sharp pencils, and that will remind me of my childhood whenever I see it. I have a pencil sharpener in my own kitchen, just as I did when I was a child, and I have come full circle. Let us all join hands and sing about it.

Do you have a type of pencil sharpener that you enjoy above all others? Or do you think that such affection for a pencil sharpener is a bit … unusual? And have you ever installed something at great effort only to realize you really shouldn’t have put it there at all? Tell me all about it in the comments.

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  1. I remember having one of those pencil sharpeners as a child. It was mounted on the desk in the laundry room. It worked wonderfully ๐Ÿ™‚

    Victoria loves sharpening pencils with the little hand held sharpeners but it usually doesn’t work very well for her. If I could think of a logical place to put it, I too would buy a wall mounted version
    Carrie’s last post … Red Writing Hood- PromiseMy Profile

  2. I LOVE my wall mounted pencil sharpener. I actually works! We stuck ours at the top of the basement stairs. Looks like your kids are having fun with it.
    Pam’s last post … In which we contemplate Remembrance Day with Brownies- Cubs and StuffMy Profile

  3. I grew up with a wall mounted sharpener too. It was mounted in our basement inbetween our pantry area and my fathers work bench. We later got an electric sharpener but it never sharpened as well as that wall mounted sharpener.

    I love the smell of freshly sharpened pencils. Ahhhh smells like fall. And it reminds me of the movie You’ve Got Mail. They mention a bouquet of freshly sharpened pencils.

    Oh and I love love love your sunroom!
    Sara’s last post … EyesMy Profile

  4. A wall mounted pencil sharpener just makes me so, so happy.
    harriet Fancott’s last post … Birthmother- firstmother- motherMy Profile

  5. strangely enough, i do have a favourite pencil sharpener – it’s metal, with spare blades and is hidden in my desk draw so no others will run off with it … there’s nothing better than a freshly sharpened pencil for scribbling down new ideas … and there’s nothing worse than not being to able sharpen that pencil

    will investigate wall-mounted pencil sharpener for the family
    pomomama’s last post … lest we forgetMy Profile

  6. One of my favorite classic Sesame Street skits: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A4iw8cMppLM
    Inder’s last post … Eighteen MonthsMy Profile

  7. I do love the wall-mounted variety, but my husband has a square electric one that works well so we haven’t upgraded. Eve can while away an afternoon sharpening pencils too. Actually, when I’m on a big cleaning/organizing kick I like to sharpen all the coloured pencils in the bucket too — the sharp points are so satisfying.
    allison’s last post … Balls to you if you dont think this is funnyMy Profile

  8. I WANT ONE! I used to love using those things in school.

    Don’t you just love the smell of a freshly sharpened pencil too?
    *pol’s last post … Another walk in the woodsMy Profile

  9. Your love for your pencil sharpener is truly contagious and adorable. My folks have one like that too – we take all our pencils over to them to sharpen. And I love the smell of pencil shavings.

    However, I hate pencils. They’re so scratchy on the paper. And so non-permanent. When I was applying for a job with the government, they made us write a five page essay IN PENCIL and I nearly walked out of the exam room. Except that it was a really good job. Which I later got. As part of the job I sometimes had to help with HR/hiring stuff and I would always make sure the candidates got their choice of pencil OR pen.
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  10. “Or do you think that such affection for a pencil sharpener is a bit รขโ‚ฌยฆ unusual?” — well yes, it is unusual… but then what fun would the usual stuff be? – lol

    Your post brought back lovely memories for me too. There was nothing better than writing with an extremely pointy [and dangerous] freshly sharpened pencil. I also loved emptying the sharpener and seeing all the beautiful colourful shavings fall out of the sharpener. My mom worked in a daycare at a local school and she had one of those at her house for my son to play with. It was great to see him with him… he even started using it in his role playing (it became his pasta maker).

    Thanks for sharing ๐Ÿ˜‰
    Aida’s last post … Wheres that DisposableMy Profile

  11. I love that you went out and bought one! Our house came with one already mounted in the garage – which is my art studio and it is an ancient one. Still works like a charm.
    Amber’s last post … Compost Post Hijacked by SpidersMy Profile

  12. There are a few great tools that make a difference in life, and I can see that that particular pencil sharpener is one of them. But my husband is not going to be happy with you Ms Strocel. He’s in North American at the moment, and he’s not going to be thrilled when I ask him to find the time to go shopping for a pencil sharpener – just a year ago, after reading your blog, I sent him on a quest for felting needles! By the way, why did you put it on the left side of your sunroom:)?
    Francesca’s last post … Four splendid olivesMy Profile

    • I have no idea why I put it there. I think I just looked at the wall and thought, “That wood would be secure,” and didn’t even consider that there might be a better spot. I rush in and get things done at the expense of weighing my options rather a lot.

  13. We have a wall-mounted one in the basement/ garage, And I sent my husband to use it tonight for my Sephora eye-liner pencil. “Just a very little, please. I don’t want a sharp tip.” And he did. And then we went out for margaritas at the local Mexican restaurant. How clever was that? So let’s hear it for pencil sharpeners …they are good for all things, at all ages.

  14. I love pencil sharpeners too!

    One thought about the sunroom location. Do you have actual crayon shavings in the sharpener than might melt in the sun? Just thinking ahead to the warmer months . . .
    Lady M’s last post … Second Careers and More TravelMy Profile

  15. Ooh, I think I might need to have one of those pencil sharpeners as well! It was always such a big deal to get up to sharpen your pencil at school. i remember thinking often about how to get that point just right, not too sharp so it might break, but not so dull you will have to get up and sharpen again right away… It is funny because now all my kids’ classes have electric sharpeners. As a kid I always wanted one of those, they seemed so exotic. Now I am looking at your new old-fashioned one wistfully. ๐Ÿ™‚

  16. this makes me want a pencil sharpener, you may have started a trend!
    Jenn’s last post … Menu Planning MondayMy Profile

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