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I’ve often been asked how I get an ultra-fine point on my graphite pencils. Some time ago I promised to make a quick video to show people the process.
I apologize to all my students who just had rely on a quick description.
In today’s video, which I taped in February 2021, you will be able to see the entire process.
I can’t stress enough how important it is to use a fresh blade when you start this process. I wouldn’t use a pen knife because I believe most pen-knives are too thick to use a flat/along the barrel angle that’s useful for this approach. I think you’ll see this as I get cutting.
You can use a commercial sanding block from the hardware store—you don’t need to make a board like the one I show. I would start with a fine grit to see if you can get by with that, and increase coarseness if you need to.
I wouldn’t even bother to try this with the small sanding blocks with removable sandpaper strips that are sold in most art supply stores. The paper is clogged almost immediately and there isn’t a wide enough surface to be useful. Again, you’ll see why when I get going.
I also have to add, since I only mentioned it in passing, but this type of sanding board is fantastic for sanding your vine charcoal in exactly the same way. I will routinely sharpen 5 to 10 pieces of charcoal at the beginning of a life drawing session while people are setting up. These will get me through all the quick poses to the first break and I can sharpen again, get to the second break, and then sharpen them all again and get through the final long post of 40 minutes or more.
I actually enjoy sharpening charcoal over an open bin, during model break time. It is much easier (since it’s a softer material) than the pencil sharpening, less fussy, and something you can do while catching up with friends who are also preparing for the drawing session.
I hope you enjoy the video.
Update 4.18.21 See my friend Ted’s comment below in which he discusses using a safety razor blade to get the wood barrel whittled away. I think that would be a useful way to go. AND he has some helpful tips for people wanting to make their own sanding paddle. Go for it!