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November 23, 2010

"Would you pay $12 to get your pencil sharpened?"


Some people would and do, according to The Observer's Euan Ferguson, who interviewed David Rees (above and below) for a story which appeared this past Sunday, and follows.


When Only a Really Sharp Pencil Will Do

An enterprising New York cartoonist has started a bespoke pencil-sharpening service — at $12 a pop

Would you pay twelve dollars to get your pencil sharpened? Hand-sharpened, admittedly; lovingly so, and it comes posted back (including overseas) with a certificate, and its own shavings in a bag, and careful little rubber protectors. But, still … that's something like £8.40 in Limey-money.

If you do David Rees, a New York state-based cartoonist for, among others the Nation and Rolling Stone, is your guy, blade at the ready. He describes himself as a "craftsman" who "practices the age-old art of manual pencil sharpening". We called him to check if he was for real.

A pencil-sharpening business. You'll have to excuse this, but … what's the point?

I forgive you. Well, in late spring of this year I had a temporary position with the US Census, and on the first day we all had to pull out our No 2 pencils and have them hand-sharpened. I had such a good time, I wondered if there wasn't a way to make money by sharpening pencils. I've had a great deal of encouragement and enjoyment, and while it might not be entirely serious, it's not done at all as a joke, and I'm delighted to answer any questions on it.

Obviously, I want to ask: 2B or not 2B? But I should probably change that to: is it making money?

Oh God, no. I've sold about 100. But that's around the world. And it is, slowly, taking off. Someone heard about it in Germany recently, and I've had a sudden run of orders from there. Anecdotally, I hear people don't like to use them: often they're given as a present, and just sit there, sharp forever. 2B? Well, I'll do pencils sent me, but more often now I'll prepare my own, which are the standard yellow No 2 – I think that's HB2 over there – with the metal band, the iconic childhood pencil. And I do do it lovingly. Sometimes with a box-cutter, but I've been given a nice German single-blade hand-sharpener, and take great care with the packaging, and it comes with a poster. And it gives me happiness, because at that stage life had just become a little bit …


Something like that indeed. And since then I have, honestly, had satisfaction, and people have said good things about artisanship, and individuality. Is it art or is it stationery? Bang in the middle, I would hope.

And no one accuses you of sharp practice?

The reaction has said, I think, more about the US than about me. The LA Times ran a piece recently and the reaction, the many comments, were split completely along the lines of what it means to be an American now. Half of them celebrated the fact that, in their words, anyone could have the inventiveness to make a go of anything, and thus they should abolish the welfare state. The other half professed despair that there are people rich enough to spend 12 bucks getting their pencil sharpened.



Rees' website, artisanalpencilsharpening.com, now offers a hand-sharpened pencil (he provides the pencil so you need not mail yours in) for $15.

[via Milena]

November 23, 2010 at 02:01 PM | Permalink


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Ha what a goof!

Next thing you know people will be paying for water in a plastic botttle!

Posted by: Nick B | Nov 24, 2010 1:09:49 PM

If I equipped you with a hammer, can you then provide artisanal anesthesia?

Posted by: 6.02*10^23 | Nov 24, 2010 12:40:32 AM

I was (playfully) stabbed on the top of my hand with a very sharp pencil many years ago in Junior High.

Tattoos have nothing on it's permanence under the skin!

Posted by: Joe Peach | Nov 23, 2010 7:16:35 PM

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