Let’s just cut to the part you want to know. The pastel pencil sharpener that I have used the longest and recommended to all pastel artists is…

There are several different versions. The model I use is the grenade double-hole brass sharpener. Just to prove that this sharpener can actually give a fine tip, I’ve sharpened the five pastel pencil brands I regularly use in my own work.

This article has been edited on March 3, 2021 with additional notes for the Grenade Single Hole sharpener.

The grenade double-hole sharpener next to the pencils it sharpens. From top to bottom: Derwent, Faber-Castell PITT, Caran d’Ache, Stabilo CarbOthello, and Conte a Paris pastel pencils.

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Where to buy: 

I’ve tried A LOT of sharpeners and I’ve unfortunately broken A LOT of fragile pastel pencils over the years. Pastel and charcoal pencils are difficult to sharpen because the core is fragile.

I think the key to sharpening a charcoal or pastel pencil is a well made sharpener body with replaceable blades. Since purchasing my Mobius and Ruppert sharpener in 2018, I’ve tried a handful of brands, but I always come back to my little brass buddy.

Why the Mobius and Ruppert sharpener is the best option out there

1. Blades are easily replaced and available to purchase online

Delicate pencils need a sharp blade. Even the highest quality blade will dull over time with use. Without a sharp blade, most pastel pencil cores will shatter. When we’re talking about pencils that may cost up to $4 USD each, frequently breaking pencils quickly adds up to a lot of waste and an unproductive use of valuable time. 

Mobius and Ruppert is one of the few brands that sells replacement blades in packs of 3 and 10. I purchase my replacement blades online through Amazon below.

UPDATE (March 5, 2021): The Grenade Single Hole Sharpener is not compatible with the replacement blades I have linked below. This specific model has a thinner blade that is not interchangeable with the other 3 brass sharpener models. I was unable to locate a replacement blade supplier and cannot recommend the Grenade Single Hole Sharpener.

Where to buy: 

I personally like the double-hole model because I can sharpen my standard diameter pastel pencils (Caran d’Ache, Derwent, Faber-Castell PITT, and Stabilo CarbOthello). And the larger hole can sharpen my fragile Conte pastel pencils (but note that the tip is not as thin and tapered as the smaller hole).

If you own other brands and are worried about compatibility, the diameters of the two-hole models are 8.2 mm and 11.2 mm. If you purchase the single hole model, the opening is 8.2 mm.

2. Cost Effective

The vast majority of brands do not sell replacement cutters or blades. This eventually translates to more waste and you (the artist) having to purchase a new sharpener anywhere from several times a year to once every few years (depending on your use). 

I use my pencils daily and I find that I need to replace my Mobius and Ruppert blade every 20-40 days. Over the course of one year, the cost of blades averages to $10 USD. 

Compare this amount to a hand-crank or electric (battery or wall plug-in) model. Prices vary wildly by brand. I’ve seen prices range from $15 to $40 USD for hand crank models. Electric sharpeners are even more expensive from $20 to more than $100 for industrial classroom versions. 

The Downsides

1. Pencil Shavings

Because the Mobius and Ruppert sharpeners are very utilitarian, there is no built-in shavings holder like some other brands. This does make my favorite sharpener less than travel-friendly. I personally sharpen my pencils over an plastic container with a screw top lid. The lid prevents any spills and reduces mess. 

2. Ease of Use

If you are an artist with mobility limitations (reduced grip strength due to conditions such as arthritis), my recommendation in this article may not be the best option for you.

I’ll be writing up a guide in the future which focuses on how to identify elements of a good hand crank sharpener. Keep an eye out for it in the next month!  

-Lauren 

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