The Best Hand Held Sharpeners I’ve Used

The Best Hand Held Sharpeners I’ve Used

Questions about pencil sharpeners arise regularly. I’m certain that’s because sharpeners are so important to artists (and anyone else) who uses pencils for their work. I’ve tried a lot of sharpeners over the years, and today I’d like to talk about the best hand held sharpeners I’ve used.

But first, here’s the reader’s question to get us started.

I have a question regarding pencil sharpeners. What is the best hand-held sharpener to use for colored pencils?

I’ve tried an electric pencil sharpener, but it eats up too much of the colored pencil. I’ve [also] tried the Prismacolor Premier hand-held sharpener and it works great on Prismacolor pencils, but isn’t strong or durable enough to handle sharpening my heavier and thicker oil-based colored pencils.

The Best Hand Held Sharpeners I've Used

The Best Hand Held Sharpener I’ve Used

The best hand-held pencil sharpeners I’ve ever used were inexpensive sharpeners purchased at a local discount store. Under $5 each, as a matter of fact. I bought one on a whim, took it home and used it a couple of times, then went back and got another.

They sharpen all of my pencils extremely well, even the temperamental Prismacolor pencils. The sharpener has two holes for sharpening all types of pencils, and it also has a container to catch shavings. The sharpener isn’t very big, so if you sharpen a lot or work for hours at a time, you may need to empty it more than once a day, but that’s easy to do.

I’ve found them remarkably durable for their price and size. Drops on floors haven’t scuffed or damaged them. But at that price, I can also replace them as needed.

It’s been about three years since I purchased them and I still use one of them for Prismacolor, Polychromos, graphite, and whatever else I happen to be using. The other one went missing, but at the price, it wasn’t a big loss.

The Best Hand Held Sharpeners I've Used

Five Reasons I Prefer This Sharpener


I simply cannot beat the price on these little sharpeners and on the similar sharpeners I’ve used. It’s no strain on my budget to have multiple sharpeners, so I don’t have to lug a larger sharpener around.

Or worry about finding an electrical outlet or carrying spare batteries!


Of all the sharpeners I’ve used over the years, none have out-performed my favorite hand-held sharpeners.

The blades have remained sharp through the years, but if they start feeling gummy or dull, I sharpen a graphite pencil. The graphite cleans the blades and the sharpener is good as new.


These sharpeners are so lightweight and small, they’re easy to travel with. You can stash one in your field kit, pencil box, and tool kit and be ready to go.

And if you work in different places as I do, or if you have different kits, you can keep one in each of those if you have more than one.

Ease of Use

They fit easily in my hand and are easy to empty. Simply remove the top, empty the shavings and snap them back together. Even though I’ve used this particular sharpener for several years, it still fits together quite snugly and sharpens very well.

It’s also easy to sharpen with in a couple of ways.

The normal way to sharpen is by holding the sharpener in my right hand and turning the pencil with my left hand.

But for pencils that break easily, it’s just as easy to hold the pencil in my right hand and turn the sharpener with my left hand. Believe it or not, that does help prevent breakage during sharpening.

Sharp, Medium-Length Points

Finally, I like this sharpener because it sharpens pencils to a needle-sharp tip that’s of medium length.

That’s important, because a medium-length point is less likely to break under pressure. It also means less pigment ends up in the sharpener. If you use expensive pencils, that’s less money wasted.

The Second Best Hand Held Sharpener

Many years ago, I conducted an an-person, weekly class. Part of the process was assembling a low-cost supply list I could purchase and offer to students. The list included pencils and a sharpener.

The best deals were from Dick Blick and the sharpener I choose was the one shown here. I still have this sharpener and it still works nearly as well as it did when I bought it.

Dick Blick still offers a wide selection of hand held pencil sharpeners, though the model shown above is no longer available. That’s why it’s the second best sharpener. In reality, it works just as well as the I Magine sharpener, but it’s no longer replaceable.

Are any of these sharpeners the best on the market?

Probably not, but they sharpen my pencils extremely well, and they were low cost.

Take a look at your local stores and see what they might have. You could very well be as surprised as I was by the usefulness of such inexpensive sharpeners!


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