Bookshelf: How to Sharpen Pencils

I did three things last Saturday. Firstly, I visited my tailor, where I selected fabric and was measured for a new pair of bespoke pants. Then, I met up with my local butcher, where I picked up a specially ordered cut of dry-aged skirt steak. His assistant informed me that the cow was grass fed, slaughtered midway through June, and had been named Ted; this fact was imparted perhaps too gleefully. Finally, I headed home to enjoy a locally rolled cigar with How to Sharpen Pencils, by David Rees, who has been on our radar before.

Rees is the proprietor of Artisanal Pencil Sharpening, an outfit that promises bespoke pencil sharpening for those of us who compulsively seek out things that are local, artisanal, hand-crafted, and other expensive adjectives that we pretend are moral values. Fortunately, said values are expertly (and thoroughly) skewered by Rees over the course of two hundred pages containing wit so dry that it must be vintage.

This is not to say that Rees will not teach you everything you could possibly need to know about sharpening a pencil; far from it. In fact, this book will leave you an expert in the ways of the pocketknife, the single-burr hand-crank sharpener, the multiple-stage pencil sharpener, and much more. Of course, mere technical proficiency would only require a manual, or perhaps a YouTube video. Rees offers much more: in a culture that glorifies obsessing over the most trivial details of mundane things to a whimsical degree (full disclosure: we’re guilty), Rees wins the prize for the greatest reduction to absurdity. However, we doubt that’ll stop people from paying $12.50 per pencil they send to him for sharpening services.


Dave Robson is the editor of DailyXY. He spends his time reading books, drinking Scotch, and smoking cigars.

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