Pencils - Easy long points


I have slaved over bins for too long with a blade paring back the wood until the lead breaks. After ten or fifteen minutes all you have left is a reasonable point on a short lead on a short pencil and a bin full of shavings.

Would you like to get a deadly point in about ninety seconds? Try this technique:

This is 180 grade sandpaper, but any grade will do fine. Use thumb and index finger atop the head of the pencil and stabilise the back of the pencil with the heel of your hand. The blue the blue pencil is a rest to maintain a constant grinding angle, also on the sandpaper to stop it skidding away. As shown in the finished points at top of the photo l like to grind three faces to give me nice flat edges for sketching and a great point for detailed work.
Tap the dust into the bin and your done. 

The same technique can be used with color pencils or pastel pencils, though go more gently with these.




  • That's a good tip. In Art Supply stores they have a neat little tool that looks like a short paint stir stick with a stack of sand paper stapled to it. Works great and you don't have to look around for a flat surface to lay your paper on. Super easy to make your own and save the $5. Sharpen your scissors cutting sanding sheets to size by turning the sand paper over between snips too. You can also use these like a file to clean stubborn paint off pallet knives.

  • Ah yes, a reminder of my old drafting classes!
  • Very interesting.. Thank you Denis
    I find the results of sharpening my pencil to be a reflection of the mood I am in.
    A sudden loss in patience and I'll snap the pencil in half.
    Long deep breaths do the trick for me. I was able to get a two inch long charcoal tip the other day

    However that moment of Glory didn't last long. I sat on it yesterday. Need I say what happened after that
  • Twitch away! @dencal the punster. Twitch to heart's content.
  • I also find the dust particals left behind to be useful for smudging, individual color and color mixing too! Easily seperates from the wood particles, can save it in jars. Just don't sneeze!!!
  • Folks

    I forgot to mention in my last post, the picture with the long pastel points - these points are done using a plastic ruler in place of the blue pencil shown in the graphite picture.

    However, if you find this to be too much of a grind, ( three minutes per pencil) there is an option called "wood less graphite". I can long point these in about a minute.

    The Koh-I-Noors are 3.5mm lead holders, bit of a restricted range available here 2B, 4B and 6B. Rarely, I find black, white and bister. 

    The Derwent and Mont Marte are the wood less graphite. With peel off paper labels. Again hard to find, but lasts for years.


  • Great tip!  Thanks!!

  • dencaldencal -
    edited April 2017

    Technology update:

    The above manual sand paper method takes about three minutes per pencil not fast but slow and steady.

    With about eighty CarbOthello pastel pencils and about six or eight graphite markers, the search was on for a faster method,

    Tried coarser sandpaper - a few more lead breaks but no more speed.

    Tried a Dremel grinding wheel - worked well for the first few, small surface area clogged and glazed. Time saved was then spent cleaning the grinding wheel. New wheel every fourth pencil. Too expensive.

    Tried my 18 volt random orbital sander - hand manipulated with the Inverted machine on my lap, takes about a minute per pencil, bags the waste and requires a pair of noise cancelling headphones and some great music. The things we do for art.


  • Brilliant @denis - reminds me I should be doing a lot more sketching. 
  • rstallrstall -
    edited February 2018
    I found a handheld sharpener that just removes the wood ill post more info and a picture when i locate it - the KUM masterpiece...can make the point as long as you want but isn't that bullet shaped taper I want. but figure its a good starting point....found these for like $15 on

    .here is a great sanding block to take around with you as well, the nitram one, cost me like $7 at my local art store. also have seen at
  • @dencal, I believe your Koh-I-Noor lead holders are actually 5.6’s, (judging by their number and looks). If so the Koh-I-Noor leads for them are available - in the US at least. I bought mine from Amazon in a variety of hues and regular black hardnesses. They are called “Gioconda”.

    They take less than 5 seconds to sharpen in my X-Acto School Pro electric sharpener. Long points, too.

    This electric sharpener also works on round compressed charcoal, General’s charcoal white, colored pencils, and even Nitram H charcoal sticks. It has holes for six sizes of pencils. It’s awesome. Huge bin for shavings, too.

  • @decal I got this suggestion from a video of a drafter on sharpening pencils … he used sandpaper folded and ends stapled then tucked into a “snack” size ziplock…..
    I use it for sharpening and the dust for shading when needed. I just stick the pencil head in and shape with sandpaper working both sides . It’s working great for all my pencils and better than my fancy sharpener. I’ve been doing a Bargue drawing class so needed it to be fast and clean. 
  • @Suez, thanks for the "lead" on the Gioconda "leads"!  (English is a wonderful language!)  I just ordered a set from Amazon.  

    I've been using the Cretacolor 5.6mm leads for my charcoal portraits and love them!  I also found lead holders for them on Amazon in a set of three for $10.  AmazonSmile : 3 Pieces 5.6 mm Holder Mechanical Pencils Sketch up Automatic Mechanical Graphite Pencil for Draft Drawing, Shading, Crafting, Art Sketching, Wood Working : Office Products

    Interesting that you X-Acto School Pro is working so well for you.  I bought one on Amazon and it did a horrible job on my pencils!  Chewed them up or broke the leads.  I ended up throwing it away.
  • @mstrick96, Sorry to hear about your sharpener catastrophe. 

    Early on, before I invested in good pencils, I had a pencil with a misaligned lead mangled with it’s lead broken off and jammed into the works. Followed a YouTube video and per instructions dissembled and cleaned the debris out of the blades. Took all of five minutes and the machine has been a workhorse for two years so far with no further problems. Still leaves the wood around the leads smooth as silk. Even works flawlessly on my Pitt Pastel pencils.

    I sharpen my graphite pencils at least every five minutes when drawing. Even though I’m very light handed I’ve found the lead burnishes down quickly and the constant resharpening solves that problem. The sharpener stops when the pencils are sharp so the reshaping stops in about a second and doesn’t take off more than the burnished tip so pencils last as long as they would if I didn’t sharpen so often.

    I think you will like the Giocondo’s qualities.
  • @Suez, I had a few Prismacolor pencils with misaligned leads that I later learned were manufactured in their plant in Mexico.  They've solved the Mexico manufacturing problem now and I've been happy with Prismacolor lately. 

    After I read how good your School Pro sharpener has been, I did some investigation and found that the model I got off of Amazon was about two models back and has a defective design.  (It's still being sold on Amazon)  The current model is more expensive than what I paid but is supposed to be very good.  I ordered the latest model this morning from Amazon and it was delivered around 2 this afternoon!  I'll be giving it a good testing over the next few days!

    I also ordered a set of the Giocondo leads.  They'll be here Thursday.
  • @mstrick96, Great! Please let us know what you think about them once you’ve had time to evaluate!

  • @Suez I've run a few pencils "through" my School Pro sharpener.  I've seen something that has me puzzled!  

    A standard #2 graphite pencil sharpens to a beautiful point and stops when the sharpening is complete.  However, when I sharpen a Prismacolor Premier colored pencil, the sharpener won't stop.  It just keeps sharpening as long as I feed the pencil!  

    It makes a beautiful point!  Just won't stop sharpening.  That's not a big deal because I can just feed a little bit and then check.  I tried a couple of Prismacolors in two pencil holes.  First the #2 pencil and then the next smaller hole.

    Have you seen this?
  • @mstrick96 Just before my phone went from gentle warning to frantically shrieking for me to immediately take shelter in the basement (tornado warning)I got out some of my old Prismacolor pencils to test. They are so old they were made in the USA. They barely fit in the next smaller hole but sharpened 
    perfectly with a slight chip off the outer painted area on each one in both holes. Their wood is probably pretty dried out so I don’t know if that’s a factor. Their wood seems to be pretty soft and lightweight compared whit the quality of stuff I use now. 

    OK- now I’ve actually moved to the lower level to type this as it’s gotten scary quiet outside. Anyway, my sharpener didn’t stop revolving either with these Prismacolor pencils but even though I kept pushing them in they didn’t sharpen any further. Pretty weird but fine with me so long as they they stop sharpening.

    Have you measured before and after sharpening for, let’s call it “too long”? Maybe it’s not as bad as it seemed. 

  • @Suez What I did was to push the pencil in a bit at a time.  I got a "scary sharp" point pretty quickly and then kept pushing.  It just kept eating the pencil while maintaining the same beautiful point.  

    Like yours, my pencils barely fit in the next smaller hole.  

    One other thing I noticed is that the #2 graphite pencil's point wasn't quite as fine as what I got on the Prismacolors.  

    I wonder how the sharpener decides when the point is sharp?  Is it an electronic circuit that works with electrically conductive graphite but not with other materials?  

    Except for that, it's doing a great job!
  • @Suez, has the storm passed?  We get storms like that here fairly often. (Near Atlanta, GA)  Right now, we're having dangerously hot heat indexes.  
  • @nstrick96, storm passed. Still under tornado watch, flood advisory, and heat advisory. Happens all the time here too (northern Illinois) The phone alerts are more annoying than the weather usually. 
  • @mstrick96, Sorry I somehow was distracted and missed your post with your questions till now. I don’t have any idea about answers to either of them. I’m as puzzled as a herd of virologists.

    My sharpener isn’t the latest model like yours is. Think it’s a previous generation build - once removed from this weird new decade’s alternate timeline stuff. As are my graphite pencils.

  • edited June 16
    What's the purpose of having long points? Is it the sharp point that you use or the side?

  • @Suez, I wrote to X-Acto's "customer support" with my questions.   Zero response so far.
  • dencaldencal -
    edited June 16

    I use every point, edge and surface of a pencil in every hand hold I can imagine. My aim is well expressed by Darryl Tank ( when talking about his tapered stroke says he is looking for grace and flow in clean to edge skin tones, hair flow and the turning of the human form.

    check out this perfection in pencil….

  • @heartofengland, there are several reasons I like a long point.  Since this was originally @dencal 's post, he may have others.  A sharp point is good for fine details.  The sides can be used for smooth shading.  And having more exposed lead lets me shape the point if I want something in between.

    I haven't tried @Dencal 's sanding technique, but will probably use it for my wood-cased charcoal pencils because I haven't been able to sharpen them by other means without breaking the soft charcoal lead.  It also looks good for the woodless graphite pencils, although I haven't used them much.  

    For my wood-cased graphite pencils, I generally use a regular pencil sharpener.  I also use the 2mm drafting leads in a mechanical holder.  I used them during a year of mechanical drawing classes in engineering college.  I sharpen and/or shape them using the sandpaper sharpeners.  

    I recently started using the 5.6mm leads in a mechanical holder and love them!  I use the Cretacolor charcoal leads, but just got some of the Koh-i-Noor Gioconda leads to try.

    So, to answer your question, the reason for having more exposed lead and all of these different shapes and sizes it to enable different shapes and sizes of marks.  
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