Introduction: Gas Powered Pencil Sharpener- for Students That Spend the Entire Class Sharpening a Pencil.

Picture of Gas Powered Pencil Sharpener- for Students That Spend the Entire Class Sharpening a Pencil.
Every now and then, a student will spend a big chunk of class making sure his/her pencil is SHARP.  For some reason, after a particularly long day, I was vegging at my desk staring blank-eyed at my pencil sharpener.  It was one of those *LIGHT-BULB!!!!* moments.

You, too, can have a gas powered pencil sharpener.  All you need is a weedeater, a pencil sharpener, and a few scraps of wood and metal.

This weedeater was left in pieces after one of my students decided they didn't want to fix it.  I managed to mix and match enough parts to get it running and piece this together.

Still isn't running quite right yet because the carburetor isn't correct, but it runs enough to sharpen a pencil and get real hot!

Step 1: Gather Materials

Picture of Gather Materials


A running weedeater.  If you can find one that has a clutch, it would work MUCH better than the one I used!
A useable pencil sharpener
Scrap of wood to mount to
Scraps of metal for motor mounts
Misc. nuts and bolts
Duct tape.  VERY important...


Screwdrivers for screws
Saw for wood
Metal cutting tools- snips, shears, saw, whatever
Metal punching tools- pin punch, turrent punch, knockout punch, whatever
Bolt cutters
Tap and Die set

Step 2: Destroy a Perfectly Good Weed Whacker

Picture of Destroy a Perfectly Good Weed Whacker

Weedeaters are pretty simple machines.  Remove the engine and throttle from the shaft of the weedeater.  Usually there are a few pinch bolts that clamp it to the shaft.  Loosen them and slide the engine off the back. 

Inside of the shaft will be a long thin flexible rod.  Pull it straight out of the shaft and set it aside.  Careful, its greasy.

Set the shaft back in the handle, mark the shaft roughly where it sticks out of the handle, and then take it back out.  Using the hacksaw, cut the piece of shaft off.  There is a plastic bushing inside the shaft, cut through that as well!

The rest of the shaft will not be used, you can toss it in the trash or save it for the next hair-brained idea you come up with.

Set the cut piece of shaft back in the motor housing.  Take the long thin rod and slide it through the plastic busing until it seats inside the engine- make sure it is seated!  The end of this rod is squared, twist the rod a little to make sure it goes into the square hole inside the engine.

Mark the rod roughly 1/2" past the end of the shaft, then remove the rod and cut it with the bolt cutters.  The rod is made of tightly wound wires, so it may take some clean up cutting with a pair of wire cutters. 

Set the cut rod and shaft aside.

Step 3: Mount the Motor

Picture of Mount the Motor

This step can be a little more tricky. Theoretically, you don't really need to mount the motor to anything, but you need a way to hold the pencil sharpener still while the engine is running.  Find a scrap of wood that is long enough to hold the engine, handle, and sharpener.

Decide how best to mount your engine.  I built to mounts out of sheet metal, screwed them to the wood, and bolted them to existing bolts on the engine.  Every engine is going to be different, so its really up to you how to get it mounted.

Step 4: Attach the Drive Rod to the Sharpener

Picture of Attach the Drive Rod to the Sharpener

Here's where the welder, tap and die, and misc nuts and bolts come in.  First thing to do is to take apart a pencil sharpener.  The cap on the back by the handle needs to be pried off, then the handle comes off and the blades will pull out from the other side.

Find a die that will fit over the piece of the shaft on the back of the blades where the handle goes and thread it.  I believe I used a 5/16-20 die. 

Now the tricky part- weld the drive rod to the nut that will thread on to the blades.  My first attempt was off-center so the pencil sharpener shook pretty bad.  The second attempt went much better- I found a nut that just barely fit over the drive rod and welded it together with about 1/8" of the rod sticking out.  Then I welded the correct nut to the nut and rod.  MUCH better!

Step 5: Put It All Together.

Picture of Put It All Together.

Start with the pencil sharpener.  Grease the shaft where it goes into the housing.  Insert the blades, and screw on the drive rod.

If you havent already, mount the engine to the base.

Insert the shaft into the handle and tighten the pinch bolts.

Slide the drive rod into the shaft, again making sure the rod seats into the square hole inside.

Screw the pencil sharpener down.

PUT THE BLADE COVER BACK ON!!!  ****VERY IMPORTANT**** - put a piece of duct tape on the blade cover.  If you don't, it WILL vibrate loose, hit the blades as they are spinning, and get FLUNG clear across the shop.  Speakin' from experience here...  :)

Step 6: Fill'er Up and Let'er Rip! (and Some Safety Advice)

Picture of Fill'er Up and Let'er Rip! (and Some Safety Advice)

Gas it up and try it out! 

***PLEASE KEEP IN MIND!***  A pencil sharpener is designed to run at maybe 100 rpm's for very short periods of time... At idle the sharpener will be spinning at roughly SEVEN HUNDRED rpm on the low side, and at full throttle could be more like SEVEN THOUSAND. 

What I'm trying to say here, is safety glasses are a VERY good idea, and y'all should stay well away from the moving bits.  I've only run mine for about 30 seconds at a time, at just a little higher rpm than idle, and the base of the sharpener gets pretty warm.  Planning on adding a grease zerk to hopefully help that, but it still is a shaft spinning at a high rate of speed inside a metal sleeve- no bushing, no bearing, no nothing. 


bob3030 (author)2015-04-02

Cool, more power!

Dr.Bill (author)2012-08-15

Ah nice belt drive reduction would make things interesting.

zomfibame (author)2012-08-13

awesome sharpener. too funny.

ToolboxGuy (author)2012-06-29

Time for an upgrade - Teach your kids that PTO doesn't just mean Personal Time Off...
It mean Power Train Option!

Get them to come up with how to interconnect something else to a PTO engine.

burnerjack01 (author)2012-05-13

Any plans for a diesel model for the hard core industrial pencil pushers?


DoctorDv (author)2012-05-15

Are you allowed to use this in your classroom?

dorkpunch (author)DoctorDv2012-05-15

Sure! I don't let my students use it... It's more of a demo just to show them whats possible. More of a make-sure-you-stand-well-back and have-your-safety-glasses-on type of thing. They always want to try it out, so every now and then we'll fire it up and chew a few pencils down to the eraser.

My "classroom" is fairly conducive to this sort of thing- several vent fans, a large roll-up door, and lots of space


DoctorDv (author)dorkpunch2012-05-15

Ohhhhhh I was thinking that was unsafe, but now I understand. Thanks!

OpenSourceBrain (author)2012-05-27

car powered :)

nfalduto (author)2012-05-15

this is the best instructable of all time.

kenbob (author)2012-05-15

This is art. Love it.

lemonie (author)2012-05-08

Do you have plans for collecting the pencil-waste, or is this finished?


dorkpunch (author)lemonie2012-05-08

This is more of a pencil disposal tool... I tend to pick up all of the pencils left on the floor in my room. I've got quite a stack of pencils. As far as collecting it goes, anyone know any good uses for pencil dust? Fire starter, packaging material, or?!

lperkins (author)dorkpunch2012-05-10

I carry a pencil and a small, hand sharpener in my emergency kit when I go camping. It's both something you can write with and, as long as you use a real wood pencil and not one of the recycled pulp and glue ones, it works quite well for tinder.

Taimur (author)lperkins2012-05-11

@lperkins: seriously u have a pencil sharpener in your emergency kit?!

when I was a kid I used to sharpen the pencils with a knife x)
actually sometimes I still do it!!

@dorkpunch: about the dust of sharpening the pencil (if it is really dust if you let them airborne in a small space you could provide a explosive situation just like happens in cereal silos) if you have splinters of wood you could pile them soap them in flammable liquid and aggregate with glue or resin to produce fire-starters.

Again with the dust it is explosive.. but! there is still use for the dust as a filler with wood glue to repair some holes or you could use it dry to heat up a biomass boiler (the coal power-plants use dust of mineral coal) with that principle you can produce heat in a boiler with the dust. If you want a way to do so just ask.

lperkins (author)Taimur2012-05-14

For sharpening pencils for use I often use a knife as it's faster than rooting around for a sharpener. The sharpener in the kit is one of the ones which has a container to catch the shavings. Stick the pencil in, turn five or six times, presto, instant tinder that's not scattered all over the place. It lights and burns rather nicely.

Tommunbeig (author)lperkins2012-05-11

If it is not V-8 powered then it is not a pencil sharpener. On the other hand, it is handy to have one in your emergency pack so you can ride it home if it gets too unpleasant for camping.

handyman1940 (author)dorkpunch2012-05-12

You might try putting the shavings around your Blueberry.
Especially if their made of Pine.

Sorry, was supposed to say "Blueberry Plants"

Kinnishian (author)dorkpunch2012-05-10

so, pencil graphite might not be as good lubricant as pure graphite (pencil has clay mixed in), but i imagine it still might be offering some decent lubrication throughout the sharpener.

That said, when very fine, it is also going to be somewhat explosive :p [like basically anything else flammable when it gets small and has a high enough surface area it can flash fire], i hope it never gets too bad. Maybe you should add a shrapnel shield around the whole device?

lemonie (author)dorkpunch2012-05-09

Build a removable-hopper perhaps? (swarf needs to be collected.)


yoyology (author)dorkpunch2012-05-09
Willy Wonka claimed that's what breakfast cereals were made from. You could use the shavings to add additional interesting layers to your homemade Micarta:
sdobbie (author)2012-05-10

Now, if it were hydrogen gas you were using to power the engine, I would be interested.

Dickerson888 (author)sdobbie2012-05-10

Wouldn't work if it's a two cycle.

lperkins (author)Dickerson8882012-05-10

Sure it would. Substitute a gas mixer for the carburettor, put a flame arrestor on the exhaust port, and make sure it doesn't get hot enough to auto-combust the hydrogen. Overheating would probably be your major concern since most small engine designs use fuel vaporisation to soak up a lot of heat.

Dickerson888 (author)lperkins2012-05-10

Where does engine oil go?

Now if it a four cycle it wouldn't be a problem. I've converted several mowers over to propane.

Anything than runs at a specific RPM for it's job is simple.

lperkins (author)Dickerson8882012-05-14

It depends on the design. Some two cycle engines do have separate oil systems. Otherwise you have a few options depending on how heavy-duty the engine is and its internal geometry. You can inject oil with the fuel as usual, you can find a spot to add oil ports, or, since a gaseous fuel doesn't wash the oil off of the cylinder walls like gasoline will, you can replace the oil with a high temperature, high pressure grease. There are pros and cons to each approach.

lloydrmc (author)Dickerson8882012-05-11

Many, more sophisticated two strokes don't use premix, but regular gasoline with a separate oil injection system. Shouldn't be too hard to come up with something that's "good enough" for this application.

not true it takes some modification

How would you get the oil into the combustion chamber to lubricate the internal workings? I'm confused. Explain please. I have several two cycles I'd like to convert to propane.

I am working on a new dezine but so doing a dripe sistume

carusoml (author)2012-05-12

If you really wanted a "V-8" powered version, there is a company that machines miniature versions for RC Cars. Crafting a coupler for the transmission output shaft wouldn't be hard at all. And for the truly insane, there is even a supercharged version.

foreverdisturbed (author)2012-05-10

This would be great for my son. He has a battery opperated pencil sharpener and he has more fun sharpening the pencil then he does writing with it.

spiritwalker6153 (author)2012-05-10

This is for the person who has everything. So cool.

awsomehighvoltage (author)2012-05-10

You just gave me an idea. A gas powered razor.

be careful don't shave your head off but have fun

awalls (author)2012-05-10

Alot better then The version we did at school, We made a video on youtube(On the youtube channel NickLTR) and we couldn't find one picture or topic related to a weedeater powered pencil sharpener. I would of loved to have atleast had something to go off of. I am going to say your idea is better then what ours was.

annarosesc (author)2012-05-10

You could have have it automatic , where it takes the pencil, sharpens it for .2 seconds then ejects it. You could sharpen 1000 pencils at once.
You made the Instructables newsletter which is how I saw this.
This is worthy of a Tim the toolman award for sure

I can turn letters into words, , but you are the real deal. But please don't try to upgrade to a jet engine powered pencil sharpener.


mkeith54 (author)2012-05-10

Nice 'Ible.

Have you considered using a vacuum food saver machine to make a cheap vacuum press to clamp the parts together without the need for clamps. The machines can be bought cheaply from goodwill and second hand shops. The bags are available from wally world and the box stores.

bLiTzJoN (author)2012-05-10
Guys on Top Gear would approve as well:
Antzy Carmasaic (author)bLiTzJoN2012-05-10

I do as well... Or we could make a V8 pencil sharpener... :D

yoyology (author)2012-05-08

I would think that a human-powered one would be more likely to discourage the sharpener-addicted student. Got any old bikes? :-)

i thought the whole freakin point was to be gas powered!?!?!? haha :)


Sure. That was the point of THIS instructable. The next one...

dorkpunch (author)yoyology2012-05-08

lots and lots... Hmmm.....

Quickrick 51 (author)2012-05-10

I'm PS118.
The only way this could be better was if it had a blender attachment, so when not sharpening pencils, you could make 'ritas with it.
5 stars all the way!

imatoymaker (author)Quickrick 512012-05-10

Actually saw on in the pits at a race track. The guy called it "The Daiquiri Wacker". Needless to say he was very popular.

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