Look sharp (ish)

by Scribble Monboddo

We do try to give honest reviews on this site and today, well, that commitment to candour is going to be put to the test. It would be lovely to claim that every product is perfect in its own way, of course it would. But this one is perhaps best described as excellent if you put the work in.

If you're a regular visitor to these pages you'll already know that everyone's a fan of Blackwing pencils. They're long, they look good, they work beautifully and because you'll enjoy using them they're always good value for money, relatively speaking. A Blackwing sharpener which collects all the shavings should, in principle, be an irresistible addition to the pencil case.

Get it right, and this is a real asset - which we'll come on to. But let's be unflinchingly up-front first. Quality control is not infallible, and the occasional unit which kills writing tips still gets through. It happened to your reviewer, dear reader. Fortunately, that experience proved the benefit of buying from a retailer like Nero's Notes, who takes customer service seriously; it was sent back and replaced with the minimum of fuss.

With a better unit in hand, there's still a bit of a knack to making this work. The number one top tip is to never, ever, push. No pressure is required; just twist. Secondly, if you can it helps to avoid any lateral forces. When a Blackwing gets short, the wide ferrule is best removed to avoid any additional wiggle. It's worth a bit of practice with a less valuable HB if you're getting used to it.

The reward for all that effort is a sharp, rakish tip which looks the part and does the business. For a fully paid-up graphite fan, that's maybe worth a moment or two of hassle. Better still, the shavings are all collected by the barrel, and can be used for fire-lighting if you happen to be combining, say, sketching and bushcraft. If you want completely bulletproof functionality at a tenth of the price, try Viking's Alfa sharpener. But if you're a Blackwing fanatic, this is the absolute cat's pyjamas.