Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Great Under-appreciated Invention #3: The Hand Crank Pencil Sharpener

I would guess that over the years I have installed between eight and ten hand crank pencil sharpeners in the various houses and apartments where I have lived and in offices where I have worked. For home use, I prefer to place the sharpener on the back of a wooden closet door, set at a height low enough for children to reach. The picture above is of the sharpener in my office. I recently bumped into the device—it was mounted in a bad spot—and knocked it to the floor, so yesterday I reinstalled it in a safer location. This Boston sharpener has served me well, and when I retire some ten years from now, I expect to leave it for the office’s next occupant. 

According to Wikipedia, the pencil was invented around 1500 by an Italian couple named Simonio and Lyndiana Bernacotti, and, also according to Wikipedia, the first patent for a pencil sharpener was issued in France in 1828. There are many designs of sharpeners. The tiny bladed handheld sharpeners used by school children and artists are messy and often break off the pencil’s point, and electrical desk models are noisy, prone to breaking, and require either a steady stream of batteries or a wall plug. Given that the standard wall-mounted hand crank models are so reliable, I cannot imagine why someone would ever purchase an electric model. With its zero carbon footprint, the manual wall-mounted pencil sharpener is both a sentimental and sensible choice.