How to Sharpen Pastel Pencils





Introduction: How to Sharpen Pastel Pencils

About: Retired, doing art work now. Great. Have the time and the money to spend doing what I want to do.

I have only recently started using pastel pencils, very little in fact. I have noticed already that chalk or pastels are quite soft and do not stand up to being sharpened in a regular electric pencil sharpener. You can use a knife but it does take some practice and time. Small hand-held sharpeners are available, of course, but they have their limitations as well. So I thought there had to be an easier, more efficient way to sharpen them.  Hence this instructable. Before or after a session, I can zip out to the shop with my pencils and within just a few short minutes, sharpen all that need it.  Problem solved.  This is a "re-edit", for some reason the original was removed from my post.?????

Step 1: Materials and Tools Needed

My "pencil sharpener" is simple to make out of two pieces of wood.  I just found some pieces left over from other projects so that was easy. One piece is the base, and is a bout 4 inches long, and is 1/4x3/4x4.  The second piece, the upright, is a more square piece, about 2 and 1/2 in long. It is about 1 x 3/4 inch.
A 5/16 in. drill bit is used to make hole in end of upright piece of wood.
I used a hand drill with a counter sink bit as shown in the pictures to pre-drill the base and upright piece.
The pieces are joined with a single 1x 6 screw.
I made the jig to work with my 1 inch belt sander.  These are fairly cheap, 25 to 50 dollars will get you a fairly decent model.
Basically, that's all the materials needed.

Step 2: Construct the Base Unit

At one end of the piece of wood that serves as the base, drill a hole using the counter sink bit. Then, place the upright under this hole and drill through to mark the place where the screw will go. Join the two pieces by inserting the screw and driving it home with a phillip's screwdriver. Please note hole drilled near top of upright piece. This hole will guide the pencil being sharpened and is made with a 5/16 in. drill bit.

Step 3: Place Unit on Belt Sander Stage

We are ready to sharpen pencils!  Follow pictures to get the general idea.  The holding unit allows for good control of the pencil so that nice sharp points are obtained without an excessive amount of waste.  I was able to sharpen 15-20 pencils in a very few minutes.

Step 4: Sharpen Pencils

Hold base unit with the left hand and use right hand to insert and rotate pencil against the sanding belt. As you can see, very precise and sharp ends can be obtained.

Step 5: Use Pencils in Creating Art!

So in a very short period of time, all pencils are sharpened and you can produce more projects. I use this setup to sharpen erasers and paper stumps as well. Definitely worth the effort, I'd say.



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    21 Discussions

    Interesting and very creative. I don't have a sander so I've been using a makeup pencil sharpener. Makeup pencils are also quite soft.

    This will be a great way to sharpen my kids' coloured pencils, which are chunky and triangular and won't fit in a normal pencil sharpener. Thanks for the suggestion!

    Good idea.
    But pastel pencils of high quality (those which colors do not fade with time) being so expensive (around $1.30 each) I will stick with the basic manual sharpener. On top of that it goes into the box and can be carried with pencils which in turn can be sharpened anytime when drawing.
    And as @ferjanyen says : "what's wrong with a normal pen sharpener ?"
    Electric ones turning too fast I would fear your system would do the same.

    HOWEVER, if not suitable for sharpening pencils (in my humble opinion) I feel your contraption would be very useful for other purposes in the workshop, such as sharpening pegs for instance.
    It's only a matter of adapting a good idea for a better (in my opinion, I repeat) purpose.

    Thank you and enjoy your time drawing. It's a great hobby !…

    1 reply

    Thanks for your comments. You are right, of course, I like hacking things, and finding new ways to do things...even if after time and experience they are abandoned.

    Hi and yes? should have read your intro. I understand now de delicaci of those pencils and so your idea seems very good and practical for the artist. Maybe u could design and sell a new pen sharpner, something like a loop sanding belt and a lever plus what u done so far. Good luck.

    1 reply

    Great instructable! Many good ideas. If I might add one safety suggestion, *NEVER* trim your finger nails with a dremel drum sander. It's extremely painful and a bit bloody!

    2 replies

    You did try trimming your finger nails this way !!… Am I wrong ???
    Yes it is a bad idea !…


    Very good!! but what is wrong with a normal pen sharpener??would like to see some of your paintings! I do watercolours so use the pencils very little. good luck!

    1 reply

    Please see introduction for explanation of method. Since I have only begun using pastels, not so much to show...I have mainly done pencil, some acrylic painting and very little water color. So we do it differently, eh. Thanks for your comments.

    it looks like a lot of hard work to do this when all you have to do is put them in a freezer for a hour then use a normal pencil sharpener

    After just glancing at the pictures i had assumed you put the pencil in the drill to spin it against the sandpaper.

    1 reply

    Wow! And you can sharpen them right down to the end. Like the pencil holder, too!