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June 1, 2024

Would You Pay $100 For a Sharpened Pencil?


Some people would and do, according to The Observer's Euan Ferguson, who interviewed David Rees (above and below) for a story which appeared back in 2010: it follows.

When Only a Really Sharp Pencil Will Do

An enterprising New York cartoonist has a bespoke pencil-sharpening service — at $100 a pop

Would you pay one hundred 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.

If you would then 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 U.S. 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. But 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 in the U.K. — 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 U.S. than about me. The LA Times ran a piece 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 that much money for a sharpened pencil.


Rees' website, artisanalpencilsharpening.com, currently offers a hand-sharpened pencil (he provides the pencil so you need not mail yours in) for $100.

N.B. At the time the 2010 Observer story was published Rees charged $12 for one of his artisanally sharpened pencils: that was then, this is now.

[via Milena]

June 1, 2024 at 08:01 AM | Permalink


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