Best pencil sharpeners?

May 2, 2022 | 29 Comments

A few weeks ago I did a little research (certainly not extensive) and as a result, I decided to buy two reasonably-priced sharpeners:

  • Kutsuwa STAD T’GAAL Sharpener
  • Dahle 133 Rotary Sharpener


The Dahle is working great and gives me a really nice sharp point! These pencils were sharpened with the Dahle and not quite the longest point setting. BTW these are my most used pencils and the colours are very similar to my standard watercolour colour schemes.

My Coloursoft pencils and watercolour pencils (Faber Castell Albrecht Durer and Caran d’Ache Museum) are a little snug in the T’GAAL and I find the Coloursoft work best at the lower settings of 2 or 3.

The watercolour pencils sharpened well but the sharpener did scratch the barrels a little.

I also wish that the T’GAAL had a transparent body so I could see when it was full up with shavings.

In recent days I’ve heard rave reviews about Swordfish sharpeners… so I would love to hear any recommendations you have. I’m particularly interested in a sharpener suitable for my sketch kit. I’ve already gotten some great suggestions on Instagram here.

Please share any recommendations in the comment section below.

(If you are reading this via email, please click on the article title link below and add a comment on my blog so others can read it too. Thanks!)



    Are you reviewing battery powered portable sharpeners?

    • Liz Steel says:

      Hi Cynthia – I’d love to hear recommendations for electric or battery-powered sharpeners!

  • Matt says:

    Hi Liz,
    You already have the “best”! Most versatile and colour pencil friendly: the Dahle 133 (and its various variants from Staedtler and other). Bonus, no teeth, and easy on these brittle Coloursoft.
    As for portability…that is another story. I really like the M&R Castor, but you’ll have the same problem as with the T’GAAL. The Castor is very ok with fragile colour pencils too, as long as you don’t “force” the pencil in (use light pressure), and stop sharpening before you get to a needle point. There are several other styles of bullet sharpeners, but many will get you an oddly shaped point that will break as soon as you put the pencil to the paper.
    The quest for the perfect sharpener is a bit like the quest for the perfect red ink…everybody has its own idea, and that can change from one day to the other! Mine stopped with the Dahle 133. Good luck!

    • Liz Steel says:

      Hi Matt – thanks for sharing all those details and glad that someone thinks I’ve made a good choice! 🙂 I’m loving the Dahle!

  • The best sharpener is a craft knife or similar. Sharpeners can give your “lead” a spiral fracture and this leads to continual breaking while sharpening, and we have all experienced that. (I moonlight in art supply retail when I’m not sketching and painting)

  • Skint Student says:

    Just two sharpeners for my coloured gear

    Bruynzeel Design sharpener- brass dual hole and comes in a small plastic case with 2 spare blades. Kept with my Caran d’Ache Museum Aquarelles. Solid and designed to last forever.

    KUM 300-2 sharpener- also brass dual hole but case less and no spare blades. My regular coloured pencils get this. Also heavier than the Bruynzeel- feels solid and also designed to last forever. A joy to use like the B as they take no effort at all. Sadly without replacement blades it’ll die sooner than the B. Unless I work out how to sharpen the blunt blades but that’s a problem for when it happens.

    My regular graphite pencils get a cheap junky sharpener- dual hole from a $2 shop I think? The cats love this one.

    I’ve wondered about a Dahle 133 but I don’t think I’ve enough pencils for one!

    I’d probably lose a finger if I tried a craft knife XD

  • Beverly says:

    I like the Faber-Castell Grip Trio Sharpener. It has 3 separates holes for sharpening different sized pencils, with one specifically designed for colored pencils. It does a great job. It collects the shavings and is easy to empty.

  • Annette Huppatz says:

    The most important thing about manual sharpeners is the blade. That’s what does all the work. I found the t gaal great but as the blade isn’t replaceable it got blunt relatively quickly so I gave up on it. I mostly use a m+r 0802 which is brass dual hole sharpener. I bought a pkt of 10 spare blades at the same time. The blades seem to be fairly interchangeable so I swapped out the blades on some other portable sharpeners (anything with a screw basically, the tgaal sadly has a rivet) and they work brilliantly.

    • Liz Steel says:

      thanks for sharing Annette! And yes, I don’t think the tgaal will be a permanent solution for me.

  • Tina Koyama says:

    My favorite crank sharpener is the Carl Angel-5 Royal, and it fits all my colored pencils, including the slightly larger Museum Aquarelles and Albrecht Durers. But if you like that Dahle 133, you probably don’t need anything else — that’s a good sharpener and very popular among pencil people. 😉 The only portable I’ve found that fits those larger pencils is the Mobius & Ruppert brass sharpeners. They also make one with a plastic case around the brass sharpener to catch shavings. That’s the one I carry.

  • kiri says:

    Hi Liz,
    a few years ago I purchased a Derwent pencil sharpener. I absolutely love it. It gives a really nice point with almost no breakages.

  • Julia says:

    The Dahle 133 is awesome, it’s one of my most loved studio tools! For my field kit I like those sharpener caps that come with some pencils to save space.

    • Liz Steel says:

      Hi Julia – yay! another Dahle fan! 🙂

      • Skint Student says:

        OMG I’ve had the Dahle 133 a year now and LOVE IT. It sharpens EVERYTHING and I’ve skinny (Derwent Chromaflow) through fat fat fat (Staedtler’s jumbo) pencils.

        I don’t change the point… and love the gummy guide so your pencils don’t get dents. (Caran d’Ache sharpener dents pencils as their super exxy sharpener doesn’t have gummy guides?) Also like the “auto stop/free spin when pencil is sharp function” mostly.

        One pencil hiccup when it chewed down near 2in off a brand new perfect blue-red unused Derwent Lightfast. Could’ve cried…! Now check every pencil after 2 full cranks.

        It doesn’t travel though, so I make sure everything’s sharp after I use my travel gear.

        I don’t see anything about feeding your sharpener pure graphite every so often. (Cheap pure graphite pencils work great.) It cleans the blade/s so you may not need a new one as often as you think. Just don’t forget to clean it- feed a light coloured exxy pencil through afterwards you’ll need to wipe it before use!

  • Janet Bower says:

    I have discovered this ‘Hövel’ pencil plane and LOVE it! It’s a bit pricey I acknowledge but worth every penny/cent. Easy to use, safe and sharpens all sizes. Unlike the desk sharpeners it’s portable and come in a small canvas drawstring bag. It comes with a spare set of blades but I haven’t needed to change one yet. The wooden base is extra but we’ll worth buying and serves as a receptacle for the shavings. A lovely piece to handle and does a perfect job.

    • Liz Steel says:

      Thanks for sharing Janet! I have seen the Hovel and wondered how well it works. A little hard to justify the price though 🙂

  • M says:

    What is a good pencil sharpener I was given Golden Bear Pencil #1. i leave soon for a retreat any answers. Thank you

    The sharpener I have eats up 1/2 the pencil.

  • M says:

    Sorry i have Golden Bear # 2 pencil and need a good nonelectric, non battery pencil sharpener. Appreciate any help. Answers soon


  • Barbara says:

    How do you protect the points of the pencils when carrying them around?

    • Liz Steel says:

      Hi Barbara, I put them face down in my pen holder and they are fine. I’ve never hard a problem with that.

  • Barbara says:

    Thanks Liz. I’ll try that. I usually put them the other way up – your way makes much more sense.

  • There is a T’GAAL translucent body that is available at amazon. I use the opaque blue like yours.

Leave a Reply