Pastel pencils are loved by many, including myself, as they’re easy to blend and produce vibrant colours. But they’re also hated by many for their shockingly easy ability to break & snap, especially when trying to sharpen them with a conventional sharpener.
This can be incredibly frustrating as they’re not cheap, I have sometimes in the past sharpened a whole pencil till it’s non existent without even being able to use it once, simply because sharpeners break them so easily. Well, I’m happy to inform you that I, nor you, no longer have to put up with this problem.
For the past year, I have been sharpening my pastel pencils so quickly and effortlessly and with hardly any breakage. This method involves the use of a craft knife and a sanding machine and can be seen as quite dangerous if you’re not careful so I urge you to be. If you’re more comfortable with a safer option, I suggest using a sanding block / paper instead of the sanding machine to sharpen the pastel to a point.
To begin the process, I take a craft knife or stanley knife and carefully shave off the wood casing of each pastel pencil. Using both of my thumbs, I guide the knife carefully down the wood casing, making sure to avoid the pastel nib. you will start to see the pastel emerge from the casing so you have an idea of how far to shave down. Just keep shaving small amounts off each time till you reach the pastel, this will take time to learn how to do properly, you may break the nib the first few times trying this. Just try to go slowly and patiently. This can be dangerous and will take some practice to get right, you need to be careful not to apply too much pressure to avoid snapping the pastel. Have a bin near by for the wood casings to fall into also.
to achieve the sharp point, you may wish to use sand paper or even a nail file and firmly but lightly rub the tip back and forth at a very slight angle to get a nice sharp point. This can be dusty so be conscious not to breathe any pastel dust in, wear a respirator mask if you need to. try and hold it away from your face and over a bin to help. To safely sand the pastel to a point with my sander machine, I first make sure the outlet is attached to my hoover. I then turn my hoover on first before I start sanding anything down and leave it on until I’m finished, unfortunately this adds to all of the noise so i often keep earphones near by. As the sander creates all the pastel dust, it is mostly taken away by the hoover. You must make sure that your hoover is a good one that contains all the necessary filters such as HEPA so that it doesn’t just blow the dust back out into the room.
To begin, I hold my hand away from the machine as much as possible, lightly letting the pencil tip make contact with the moving sand belt while turning it around to make contact with each side. You can even use a pencil extender if you wish to keep your hand as far away from the machine as possible. I press the button down in quick concessions too, not only for extra safety so it isn’t at full power unnecessarily all the time but also for the loud noise that can be very disruptive. Like me, you may want to use headphones or ear plugs when doing this.
Sharpening pastel pencils this way has totally transformed my experience with pastel pencils. No longer is it frustrating and more costly than it should be. The process is a rather quick one after some careful practice and I can always rely on having a sharp pointed pastel pencil ready to go. My work has benefitted from this immensely too, before this method I would always try and work with blunt tips on my pastel pencil’s as I dreaded going to sharpen them in case they snapped off in the sharpener. Now, I always have perfect sharp tips because sanding them down takes a few seconds with this method and rarely any breaks. Please watch the youtube video below for a tutorial on this method!
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