How to Sharpen a Pencil Without a Pencil Sharpener?

You’re deep concentrated on your work, time is running against the clock, you need to get it done fast but suddenly your pencil breaks or worse it gets dull. And by some cruel decision of fate, you don’t have your sharpener nor those extra pencils you thought you brought beforehand.

Yes, we’ve all been through this situation at least once in our lives, and we all thought of the same thing, “If only I knew how to sharpen a pencil without a pencil sharpener!”

Well, you’re in luck because, in this article, we’ll dive deep into pencil sharpening and solve this problem once and for all.

What Can You Use instead of a Pencil Sharpener?

Sharpen a Pencil Without a Pencil Sharpener

At first, you need to understand what can be used to sharpen a pencil. A pencil, as we know, is made of wood, and to cut a wooden object, we need an object that has sharp edges, and these can be found all around us.

Wooden pencils are made with the kind of wood that is soft but won’t splinter by someone’s hand pressure while writing. So, when you’re thinking of a method to sharpen the pencil, you need to keep in mind that you need to look for an item that’ll work with the durability of your pencil.

Let’s consider some options.

Using Something sharp

As the pencil’s body is made of wood that is flexible to have ample cuts, using a sharp object is the most common decision. And we have a lot of them all around us. Whether you’re a colored pencil artist, a student, or a stay-at-home parent, you definitely have access to one of these items.

Knife or Scissors

You can find these in your kitchen, desk, or in your bag. That pocket knife you bought but never used, yes, that counts too.

Knife or Scissors

Although sharpening with a knife or scissors are the optimal and swift way to go, but it requires a certain degree of finesse. Apply too much pressure and your pencil is broken, apply too little and you’ll take forever to get one sharpened pencil.

How Is It Done?

For starters, take the pencil in your non-dominant hand and hold it firmly while having the knife in your dominant hand. Now take the knife near the pencil tip, around ¾ up of the pencil, and gently press the blade downwards and slide towards the tip while applying a decent amount of pressure.

Continue with this peeling process while slowly rotating the pencil, making it reveal a thinning cone of wood. Then you can start considering the shape of the lead tip.

Nail Clippers

A nail clipper is honed enough to act as a sharpener; its tips acting like a sharpened edge will let the graphite out as you peel away the wood. So, if you have a nail clipper lying around, then it can provide you with a sharpened pencil.

Nail Clippers For Pencil Sharpener

How Is It Done?

Holding the pencil in your weaker hand and the nail clip on your stronger hand, start with small clips on the pencil tip and slowly peel away the wood. It is vital to keep the pencil in a horizontal position as you might unintentionally cut away the graphite away.

Using Rough Surface

Now if you don’t have any honed objects lying around, there’s no need to worry. A rough surface will do just fine. All you need to do is to be consistent.

Sand Paper

Sand Paper For Pencil Sharpener

Sandpapers are commonly known to sand woods for carpeting, polishing them into a fine product. The same process of sanding can be used to sharpen a pencil. This method is most commonly used by artists to sharpen their drawing pencils.

How Does It Work?

At first, getting the proper grit of sandpaper is a major point. For pencil-sharpening, we recommend around 80-100 grit sandpapers.

To start sharpening, you need to place the sandpaper on an even surface and make sure the sandpaper stays on the surface. Now, take the dull pencil tip side-wards and start moving the pencil from one end to the other end of the sandpaper.

You should keep doing this without breaking the lead and until you get satisfactory results.

Nail Fail

The metal nail file on a nail clipper is rough enough to act as a grinder for your pencil with its high grains which can sand the wood on the pencil and let the graphite out. It’ll take care of your nails and your dull pencils.

Holding the pencil in your weaker hand, you should start brushing the pencil with your dominant hand, polish it through the wooden base, and gently move the tip back and forward. Slowly, you’ll sand through the wood and graphite surface to a finer sharp tip.

If You Have Nothing of Then

Now you might be in one of those situations when you have nothing around you that can help you or act as a pencil sharpener. But don’t panic; there are still ways you can get back on your feet.

Rough surface for Sharpen Pencil

Using Shoe Sole

It might come as a surprise, but your shoe’s sole is a perfect candidate for a sharpener. As the shoe’s sole has a rubbery surface, it can hone the dull edge of a pencil.

The process is very simple; just take your pencil’s tip and start rubbing against the sole of your shoe. Keep in mind that if you put too much pressure on it, the pencil might break. So, getting the right amount of pressure is the key here.

Floor or Wall

Using the wall as a pencil sharpener is also an option if you’re out of other possibilities.

Similar to using other hard surfaces, hold the pencil firmly in your dominant hand and start brushing until the lead becomes a fine tip of the pencil.

Frequently Asked Questions


Q: How do you sharpen a pencil with a razor blade?

Hold the pencil in your non-dominant hand and use your dominant hand to hold the razor. Put the razor on top of the tip and slowly start to trace backward using pressure. Be careful not to harm your hand or fingers.

Q: Why does my pencil break when I sharpen it?

A pencil is made of wood that is soft enough to cut through for sharpening but at the same time sturdy enough to keep it from breaking until a certain amount of pressure.

Now, if you put more pressure than the wood can handle during sharpening, the pencil will break.

Final Thoughts

We use pencils on a regular basis. Though we should always have extra pencils or a sharpener around us, we can not ignore the fact that sometimes we won’t have everything perfectly waiting on the table.

Knowing to sharpen a pencil without a sharpener will give you an extra edge because now you can be prepared while others look for that electric pencil sharpener and lose their minds when they can’t find one. In contrast, you can focus on your work without the worry of over-sharpening your pencils.

Loard Eva

Hi there! I’m Eva, artist, designer, photographer and mom of three little gentlemen altogether. When I’m not playing with my kids, you’ll find me researching and writing for ChooseMarker.

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