Can you use a Pencil Sharpener with Pastel Pencils

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faber-castell pitt pastel pencilThis is a common question when it comes to using pastel pencils. Because they feel like a familiar tool, it is natural to try to use a sharpener as you would with other pencils.

Because the pastel lead is stronger than those used in colouring pencils, the wood casing is also stronger. This means that ordinary pencil sharpeners can sometimes blunt quicker under the strain.

Pastel Pencils also vary in their size, Derwent pencils for example are slightly thicker than the Faber-Castell brand that I prefer.

You can see therefore that I have struggled to find a decent sharpener over the years to accommodate my needs.

Those familiar with my work know that I choose to use a safety razor blade to achieve a very sharp point. I can also achieve different angles and thickness depending on the effect I am trying to achieve. For me, this is much better than using a sharpener and this is my preferred method.

sharpening pastel pencils step 2

I understand that this is a technique that requires practice and not all will be able to do this if they are suffering from a debilitating condition such as arthritis. Below I outline some of the options I have explored over the years.

Manual Sharpeners

Handheld manual pencil sharpeners are an option for use with pastel pencils. We tried the Swordfish Ikon Desktop sharpener but after a little use the blades already start to become blunt and the manufacturers have since told our students that they are not ideal for the pastel pencil. Their research team have told us personally that they are looking into a blade that can handle the ongoing use of the pencils.

Electric Sharpeners

These are great time savers however there is one down side. If you’re not careful, they can chew a little too much of the pencil so even though you’re saving time, you might be running down pencils quicker!

Craft Knifes

You can use craft knifes in the same way that I use razor blades. This is a popular alternative that many of my students use.

stanley knife

Safety Blades

Handheld safety blades are of course my preferred method. They are small, lightweight and easy to control the shape of the lead you require. One blade will probably sharpen around 20 pencils before they start to blunt. As we encourage students to use this method, we sell the blades in packs of 5 in our shop.

single edge safety razor blades

What method do you find best for sharpening pastel pencils? Let us know in the comments below. To get started with my free pastel pencil courses, click here.

By | 2018-03-15T15:13:11+00:00 June 13th, 2016|Materials & Pencils, Tips & Techniques|2 Comments