I have a carpenter's pencil that's getting pretty blunt and I've realised I don't know how to sharpen it.

How can I sharpen it without buying a special dedicated tool for it?

  • 7
    Sure you use the sharpener most carpenters have - a utility knife
    – Gunner
    Jun 23, 2012 at 4:20
  • 1
    Home depot sells a pack of pencils and a sharpener for maybe 2 dollars? Why waste your time? Jun 24, 2012 at 4:36
  • 4
    How is this a real question? How do you sharpen a pencil, seriously? Jun 26, 2012 at 18:23
  • 1
    @iambriansreed, carpenter's pencils aren't round so they don't fit in your standard pencil sharpener... I would never have thought of using a plane, so I'm glad I asked! Jun 26, 2012 at 19:08
  • 1
    For what it's worth, some finish carpenters and woodworkers have started using mechanical pencils. Of course the serious woodworker who wants absolute precision uses a marking knife.
    – keshlam
    Oct 9, 2015 at 0:36

6 Answers 6


Whatever you have handy. There are many tools that would work, besides a pencil sharpener dedicated to this.

  • A pocket or utility knife - cut away from you of course.
  • A sliding, compound miter saw (overkill, but it will work well enough.)
  • A belt sander
  • A band saw
  • A drum sander in your drill press (or an oscillating drum sander if you have one in the shop.)

The point is, a carpenter's pencil is mainly wood, and can be shaped by any tools you have in reach that can also shape wood.

  • 10
    +1 for having an excuse to buy a sliding, compound miter saw
    – tegbains
    Jun 24, 2012 at 5:34
  • 7
    A pencil is pretty small, I'd definitely upgrade the miter saw to include the laser guides.
    – DA01
    Jun 25, 2012 at 16:55
  • 5
    These are all good answers. I chose to take a different approach, however, and have managed to train a beaver to do all my pencil sharpening for me. Alas, I found out beavers like to chew things and now have to order pencils by the case on an almost daily basis to keep him busy.
    – DA01
    Jun 25, 2012 at 16:56
  • 4
    I took that advice, and went out and bought a beaver. Sadly, the beaver soon got bored with pencils. Then he started "sharpening" the legs on our chairs, all the trees around our house, the posts for our deck, even a neighbors wooden leg. Does anyone know where I can find a mountain lion so I can get rid of the beaver?
    – user558
    Jun 25, 2012 at 17:34
  • 2
    I have a 24 pound cat with an attitude if you can't find a lion. She (Rosie) rents out at reasonable rates. Jun 26, 2012 at 10:52

The perfect tool is sitting right there on your tool shelf - your hand plane. Hold it upside down in your nondominant hand and slide the pencil across the blade with your dominant hand. Be careful!


Use a knife. One of these should always be in your belt:


  • 1
    For carpenters, it would likely be a utility knife, but close enough. Just cut from the wood away from you to the lead point.
    – BMitch
    Jun 23, 2012 at 12:33
  • plus vote for a simple utility knife. A simple plastic carpenter's pencil sharpener is only a few bucks, but I lose them! So back to the knife. Jun 24, 2012 at 22:28

Keson makes a carpenters pencil sharpener that puts a chisel point on the lead. The only way to sharpen a carpenters pencil is to a chisel point. Available at Northern Tool.


I sharpen mine with a pocket knife. I leave about 1/4" of lead showing, then I bevel the tip of the lead to a chisel point, that way I can get a clean crisp line. You can use sandpaper to get a chisel point, but I just use my knife most of the time.


My Dads a finish carpenter,he's 95 and still has at least two pencils with him at any time. Remember as a kid watching him sharpen his pencil with his pocket knife. Always took his time, had 12 facets on the point all perfect. Always said don't get in hurry and do it right...

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