Book Review: ‘How to Sharpen Pencils’ – Businessweek
Is How to Sharpen Pencils a joke? Well, was it a joke when, in the summer of 2011, Brooklyn-based Mast Brothers Chocolate announced it would be getting its coming year’s supply of cocoa 20 tons’ worth delivered by three-masted schooner? It costs $8 for a bar of Mast Brothers chocolate. Although there is a store and website and there were published pictures of the schooner arriving in Red Hook, it does feel a bit like it might have been a joke. The home page shows two brothers in beards who appear to be perfect parodies of the Williamsburg mode. Was it a joke when, in 2008, an Austrian group announced they would be reopening the Polaroid film factory in the Netherlands? A pack of the film, which can produce eight pictures—after just a few minutes of waving each around frantically—costs $23.49. This might have been a joke, too, but maybe not, given the strange needs of art. So it was maybe only partly a joke when, in the fall of 2010, David Rees, who lives in Beacon, N.Y., opened a business sharpening pencils for customers. Send $15 to Rees and he will sharpen any pencil by hand, slip it into a protective tube with a certificate of authenticity, and return it, along with the shavings. He wears a smock and safety glasses, and never, ever uses an electric pencil sharpener. He likes the old ways.
Rees claims to have had about 500 customers over the life of the business, which is not too bad considering the economics of the concern. Pencils cost about $3 a dozen. A hand sharpener is about $1.50. This is something like a [500 x $15/$125 for pencils + $1.50 for sharpening + $500 shipping] 1,200 percent return on capital. There are also lecture fees, and Rees has a busy touring schedule.
Strange Random Pencil Tool:
“I have owed you this letter for a very long time – but my fingers have avoided the pencil as though it were an old and poisoned tool.” – John Steinbeck (American Novelist and Writer, Nobel Prize for Literature for 1962, 1902-1968)
- Professional Pencil Sharpener Sold His 500th Pencil (neatorama.com)
- Tools of the Trade, Part I: Conical Dual Pencil Sharpeners (bellasugar.com)
- Tools of the Trade, Part II: Square Dual Pencil Sharpeners (bellasugar.com)
- BellaSugar’s Guide To Makeup Sharpeners (bellasugar.com)
- Motherboard TV: The Finer Points of David Rees, Artisanal Pencil Sharpener (motherboard.vice.com)
- How to Sharpen Pencils: A Practical and Theoretical Treatise on the Artisinal Craft of Pencil Sharpening (boingboing.net)
- Getting ready for NAPLAN (treehornexpress.wordpress.com)
- The Lost Art of Artisanal Pencil Sharpening Has Been Found (laughingsquid.com)
- Artisanal Pencil Sharpening (lostateminor.com)
- Doing Drugstore: Revlon Universal Points Sharpener (bellasugar.com)