Is this manual crank-style sharpener the best long-point pencil sharpener for artists? We test the Derwent Super point Mini to find out just that. This manual helical-blade sharpener machine comes with a desktop clamp to fasten it to your table or work surface and a spring-powered mechanism to automatically pull the pencil into the mechanism while you operate the crank lever. Watch to find out if this is a good option for getting the perfect pencil points for all your drawing, lettering and graphical needs.
Reviewing the Derwent Super Point Mini – Pencil Sharpener
Vishal: Hello and welcome to Stationery Test Drive where every week we look at tools and implements and materials that can make for interesting stationery adventures.
Minjal: In today’s episode we are reviewing the Derwent Super Point Mini Manual Helical Desktop Sharpener with a Desk Clamp.
Samir: That’s a mouthful! I’m Samir.
Vishal: I’m Vishal.
Minjal: This is Minjal.
Vishal: And we are artists and calligraphers and designers and as they say you are only as sharp as you keep your tools. And one of the tools you should get is a sharpener. Now most of us have the pocket sharpener variety or the type that we’ve had in our little geometry boxes, in compass boxes forever. This one’s quite different. I think Samir has fished out a sharpener that you guys might be more used to seeing.
Samir: So this is what we all know of as a sharpener and it’s essentially just a hole for the pencil, and a single blade which is at an angle to the pencil and you rotate the pencil then it gets sharpened, that’s your regular pocket sharpener. Now the Derwent is a very different kind of sharpener. We will go into more of the details later but it uses a very different kind of blade and mechanism and it of course has a crank to do the sharpening with.
Vishal: So the Derwent Pencil Sharpener is very much let’s say the Rolls-Royce of sharpeners, maybe not in terms of price. I’m sure there are more expensive ones but clearly in terms of technology and elaborateness and certainly size.
Now what we do on this show is test drives and as artists and designers we come up with our own way of using these, that suits our artistic sensibilities and this week in a very unusual change of place I who am mostly an illustrator went for something letter based.
Lettering with Nataraj Checking Pencil and Derwent Super Point Mini – Pencil Sharpener
Vishal: This is a famous quote, it’s attributed to many people throughout time and space and it’s a short quote and it’s often misattributed and I don’t think it’s deployed as often as it should be in life. But yeah, that’s my test drive and I know it seems like a strange test drive for a sharpener. But it was made with these two pencils which we have covered on this show before.
This is the Nataraj Red and Blue Checking Pencil, you can watch that episode to find out more, and who knew that it works okay in a Derwent Sharpener because I’d never used one in something this elaborate before. I usually just have a pocket sharpener that maybe we’ll cover in future. It’s a Staedtler that I can take along with me and it produces a very small, but very sharp point.
But the Derwent is different. It produces a long point, which for this use turned out pretty good because I was able to put down the lines for the structure of it but also I was able to put down these, sort of using the face of the pencil, these undertones of blue and red and there’s a bit of green in here as well because there is a green pencil that I don’t have on me at hand right now. So I could lay down an undertone with the flat of the pencil and there was still a point enough left for me to go in and do textural line work, almost to enhance the shading, to give it a bit more grit than just a very smooth sort of thing.
Vishal: I do like this sharpener, I have one of these myself. So I think there’s really not much to say beyond really the quirks of it. It produces a very specific type of point, which is the sort of long, almost curved taper to it, not like a straight triangular conical thing.
Now Minjal I know you’ve done research into people who say that you should never use one of these and that using one of these makes you a bad person. Can you tell us about those?
Minjal: I came across this book by cartoonist David Rees, the book is called ‘How To Sharpen Pencils.‘ David Rees started an artisanal pencil sharpening business where he had really famous authors and artists send him their pencils, which he would sharpen, sometimes with a knife, a craft knife or with antique sharpeners that he had collected and he claims to have had a really successful business just sharpening pencils! And he is somebody who has been quoted saying that he hates electric sharpeners and he prefers sharpening pencils only with knives.
Vishal: Right, so he would whittle away.
Minjal: I believe that before sharpeners were invented, blades, craft cutters and knives were initially used to sharpen pencils. It was in the 1800s that some form of a sharpener was actually invented and patented.
Vishal: And that may have been something very much like the one that’s Samir showed us. This one has a helical blade, a hand-crank, a reservoir for your sharpenings and the sharpenings that come out are extremely odd and small! But what you could do with this other than sharpen pencil is make stuff, so Minjal show us yours.
Celtic Knot Design with the Derwent Super Point Mini – Pencil Sharpener
Minjal: I made two pieces, one is a Celtic knot, in which I did some shading with a pencil sharpened in the Derwent Super Point sharpener. When you sharpen pencils in it you get these really sharp points that you can use for shading and precise lettering, like I did.
Samir: It’s actually interesting to see how this is very similar but very different from the piece that Minjal made with the mechanical pencil.
Vishal: Right. And a mechanical pencil is the opposite end of things because you can’t sharpen a mechanical pencil, not with a implement.
Minjal: What I did notice, of course the lines that I got in the piece with the Pentel Graph Mechanical Pencil were consistent. Now, with pencils sharpened in this sharpener, you start with a really sharp tip, but as you use it, it kind of broadens a little, it’s a little flatter, so variation is possible with it.
Vishal: I think a lot of that has to do with how you hold the pencil when you’re drawing. But since we’re talking about sharpeners, let’s go over the guy who doesn’t want things to be mechanically sharpened. I think there’s a place for mechanical sharpeners. I think they save time, I think as pencils become cheaper and better pencils become cheaper, I think it’s fine to have a mechanical sharpener and just save yourself some time. Also it’s kind of cool to use, right?
Minjal: I’ve seen so many videos on YouTube which are ASMR pencil sharpening videos. I sometimes sit with my pencils and there’s a whole bunch that I’ve not really used, but I sit and just sharpen them with the Derwent, because well it is a lot of fun!
Vishal: Samir, did you have fun with your sharpening and experiment?
Face Sketch with the Derwent Super Point Mini – Pencil Sharpener
Samir: I had a lot of fun because I stuck to my favorite subject which is a face, but the other thing that I really enjoyed with this and in some ways this is similar to a previous test we did on paper. We are so used to doing tests with the implement that we actually used to draw. Now that this was something that was not being used to make the actual art I got to test a bunch of different pencils with it, which was a lot of fun.
This piece for example used all of these pencils. So this included the Staedtler Mars Lumograph which we have covered in a previous video, the Apsara Extra Dark which we have also covered in a previous video, this is the Green Checking Pencil that Vishal was talking about. Again we have a video related to that. This is one we haven’t covered yet but we probably will at some point, it’s an Apsara Glass Marking White Pencil.
And the reason I tried such a range was also to see how the sharpener behaves with various different thicknesses and hardnessess of lead and medium. And it was very enlightening to try all these out. So the drawing uses all of these and also a bunch of simple colored pencils these are from DOMS whom we have done a video about their sketch pens before.
So as Vishal and Minjal have been saying this does produce a point that’s very specific, that’s unlike other sharpeners. Now your standard pocket sharpener produces a point that’s very shallow. The interesting thing that I found was that it of course does not work very well with points or materials which are very soft. So the glass marking pencil never came to a point using the Derwent.
Vishal: The glass marking pencil is almost like a crayon.
Samir: It is pretty much, it’s almost clay-ey in its consistency. I had some trouble with the checking pencil as well because I think they’re a lot more brittle than your regular graphite.
Vishal: But I must say that as someone who uses a regular sharpener to get a shallow point and the Derwent Super Point because of the way it creates this almost tapered cone rather than a straight one there is a technique to this, where you open up the pencil receiver, load in the pencil and then there is a very sort of a slow and specific way in which you slowly pull in the pencil, and then you can almost feel it, as if you’re grinding down a knife or something on a wet stone, you can feel where it’s meeting too much resistance, and then you get these nice longer points.
Samir: And there are certain points like this particular checking pencil, which is a lot waxier and harder, where you would not be able to sharpen it this much with a regular sharpener. So in that way this mechanism helps you to do things which you could not otherwise. The thing I found by using this entire range of pencils is also how important the quality of the wood is.
I think essentially the more expensive pencils use a lot denser wood. For wood that’s extremely light and rough you can’t get it to a sharp point. So it’s been quite interesting using these and also using pencils that we have tested out before and seeing how they react to a sharpener like this because I’ll be honest I don’t use this sharpener all that often.
For example what I found with these two pencils which we have covered before is that the Apsara and the Staedtler sharpened to a great point, both of them. But when I’m drawing with that point I prefer drawing with the Staedtler, but when I am doing the sideways shading that Vishal and Minjal have also done, I actually preferred the Apsara because it gives you a lot lighter spread than the Staedtler, which kind of goes straight into a scratchy dark area. So it’s interesting that the different woods and the different pencils also react differently to a tool like this. I had quite a lot of fun just testing this out.
Minjal: I mean the one of the reasons why we’re also testing this is a little to do with nostalgia. When I was growing up these crank-based sharpeners were very expensive. I had a blue Staedtler manual sharpener like this which cost maybe Rs. 1500 – 2000 in the 80s, which was very expensive.
Vishal: That’s huge.
Minjal: Right and now this sharpener is available for Rs. 900, which is not very expensive. And also for lettering artists and calligraphers if you want to draw guidelines, you can use the mechanical pencils, but if you’re used to the good old pencils then it’s great to use one of these Derwent Super Point sharpeners to get very fine pointed tips.
Vishal: Should we demonstrate using one of these?
Samir: I think we should because I don’t think we can talk about this sharpener without the auditory and visual experience of actually using one.
Minjal: Now that’s as sharp as one can get with this particular sharpener.
Vishal: Which I think is it’s a good compromise because it’s not the most pin sharp point in the world but it’s also a strong point. Again because of that that sort of curved taper I think the point of it bulges a little, so you get a less brittle point. Very often you’ll sharpen to a pure, total pin sharp point and the first thing that happens when it hits the page is that it breaks.
Samir: And I think that has a lot to do with one of the many words that were in the long title that is the sharpener’s name, which is Helical. I was explaining to you before that the pocket sharpener uses a flat blade which cuts in a straight line.
Vishal: It basically cuts the entire face of the core.
Samir: So a normal sharpener has a blade like this and the pencil rotates and just does that and cuts against it. Now a helical sharpener actually has two cylinders that sit at this angle, so there’s one here and one there, and that has the helix of sharp edges around it. And while you rotate this, it kind of carves along the entire length of it.
Vishal: So it’s more like a lathe than a blade.
Samir: And we will probably put a video about how the inside of this mechanism works. But yes that’s the reason why you get that slight bored kind of shape to it as well because it’s literally carving out this wood rather than just cutting it.
Vishal: That’s also why the shavings are extremely unusual. They’re like little curls rather than these long shavings that you’re used to from sharpeners.
Samir: So yes this is an extremely interesting tool, it produces some beautiful results. I don’t think it’s for everyone and for every use. There is still a lot of space for using a regular sharpener or using a knife to get different results from pencils.
Vishal: But I think we talked about this in our Apsara pencil episode, on this very pencil in fact that many times when you’re working and you just want to concentrate on the work, you need a point that’s good enough. I’m sure that the man who sharpens pencils for a living is biased towards the precision points that he makes but some of us are bothered about the things we can make with it, rather than on just the point of the tool.
And yeah for us just being able to achieve this and you saw that, in 10 seconds, reliably, so that I know what is going to go down on the page when I put it there. Well you can’t really put a price on it, people have. We know it’s like Rs. 900 here which is 10 or 15 dollars, maybe wherever you are. I think if you can afford it for yourself or for someone who you think will like this kind of thing.
Vishal and Samir: And if you use enough pencils.
Vishal: Get the Derwent Super Point Mini – Pencil Sharpener, it’s nice to have one around. And, before you go, like this video, subscribe to our channel for more test drives, follow us on social media, follow Inky Memo and sign up for Inky Memo’s newsletter which has many stories about things like this.
Get the Derwent Super Point Mini – Pencil Sharpener Test
Derwent Super Point Manual Helical Pencil Sharpener – https://amzn.to/3yw0shc