The best pencil sharpener should allow you to sharpen your pencils quickly and efficiently. It should cut away the wood shavings cleanly, collecting them in a discrete container, and leaving you with fine point that will remain robust.
In contrast, you can find pencil sharpeners that are very cheap if you hunt online. But you'll probably end up with frayed wood, chipped tips and leads that keep breaking as a result. And that makes for untidy writing, sketching and drawing, so overall the cheapest pencil sharpeners represent somewhat of a false economy.
If you've taken the trouble to find the best pencils, you need the best pencil sharpener to get the most out of them. So depending on your needs, the best pencil sharpener should also be flexible enough to sharpen different kinds of pencils, including both standard and non-standard sizes, coloured pencils, charcoal pencils and/or pastel pencils. It should be safe for children to use, not to mention clumsy adults.
There are two types of pencil sharpener, which we'll deal with in turn. First, we'll look at the best electric pencil sharpeners. This type uses a helical cutting mechanism which revolves under electrical power, so you just place the pencil inside the hole until it's sharpened. Second, we'll look at the best manual pencil sharpeners, aka blade sharpeners. These don't require any external power: you just place the pencil inside a conical chamber and turn the sharpener yourself.
Read on to discover the best pencil sharpeners available today, at a range of prices and for a variety of use. And if you're looking to complete your art kit, also check out our best easels round-up, plus our guide to the best oil paints .
The best electric pencil sharpeners
The Powerme Electric Pencil Sharpener is the best pencil sharpener for all-round use. Light and compact, it’s perfectly portable, and runs on four AA batteries so you don’t need to worry about finding a wall socket. Its heavy duty, rotating spiral drill takes only three seconds to sharpen a pencil and gives a perfect tip, reliably and consistently. And there’s an auto-jam release system, so if your pencil gets stuck, just push down on it and it will be released.
Suitable for No. 2 and coloured pencils, it promises you up to 3,000 rounds of sharpening without wearing out. The auto-stop feature makes it safe for kids to use, and there’s a large transparent shavings reservoir to help you avoid mess. In short, it ticks all the boxes for most people, making it our pick as the best pencil sharpener overall.
While the utilitarian look and ‘OfficeGoods’ logo might not suggest it, this is actually the best pencil sharpener for artists, because it’s just so darned flexible. It sharpens a pencil in 10-15 seconds, and works well on regular pencils, coloured pencils, charcoal pencils and pastel pencils. Plus you can choose from blunt, medium, or sharp settings, to give you the perfect level of sharpness for your sketching and drawing.
It’s a great choice for non-artists too. This electric pencil sharpener can be powered three ways: by four AA batteries (not included), AC adapter, or USB. And there's a safety tab that stops it from working when the shaving cover is removed, making it a good choice for kids, too.
For our money, the best pencil for classroom use today is the X-ACTO SchoolPro. We all know how often kids need to resharpen their pencils, and this model can cope with a long queue of children without needing to rest.
Youngsters are also prone to oversharpening their tips, so it’s great that this model has a fly-away cutter, which stops sharpening when it reaches its ideal sharpness. This really cuts down on breakages.
This sharpener has a six-size dial that fits a wide range of pencils, and is compatible with coloured pencils as well as standard ones. Plus for safety, there’s a slip-resistant bottom to keep things steady, and the motor stops shaving whenever the bin is removed.
Although the Bostitch Personal Electric Pencil Sharpener doesn’t excel at anything particular, it is a great all-rounder. This wired sharpener is made of hardened steel, making it nice and sturdy, while it’s also small and lightweight for good portability and space saving.
It has a high capacity shavings tray that’s easy to clean, and a safety switch stops it operating when the tray is removed. All this, at a very reasonable price, gives this a deserved place on our list of best pencil sharpeners.
The best manual pencil sharpeners
Electric pencil sharpeners save you having to turn the pencil, but some people retain that level of control for themselves. Manual pencil sharpeners are also generally cheaper, and don’t require batteries or connecting to a power source. And if you're among those who prefer this type, the best pencil sharpener we can recommend is the Staedtler Metal Double Hole Sharpener.
This small but perfectly formed pencil sharpener features two holes for different pencils. One fits standard pencils up to 8.2mm, with a sharpening angle of 23° for clear and accurate lines. The other fits thick standard and coloured pencils up to 10.2mm, with a sharpening angle of 30° for broad, soft strokes. It also has a nice hinged cover to stop any shavings from spilling out of the holes. And at just 2.3 inches high, it’s super-portable.
Just be aware that there’s one mistake in the Amazon listing: although Staedtler is a German brand, it’s not ‘Made in Germany’ as stated, but in China.
The Prismacolor Premier Pencil Sharpener is specifically designed to work with Prismacolor coloured pencils, and gives them a sharp and robust point, time after time. It also works well with any other type of coloured pencil, as well as ordinary graphite, charcoal or pastel pencils.
This manual pencil sharpener features two separate blades. One is for creating a fine point, for detail work. The other will give you a medium point, for achieving broad coverage in your drawing. It has a removable lid and half of the body is a translucent, so you can see when you need to empty out the shavings.
The Faber-Castell F582800 Double Hole Sharpener is very cheap, but still does a great job of sharpening pencils thanks to its quality titanium-coated blades. It features two holes: one for standard pencils, which cuts a 21-degree angle, and another for jumbo ones, which cuts at 24 degrees. It works well with both graphite and coloured pencils.
Watching the pennies carefully? The Staedtler pencil sharpener is the best we’ve found at such a low price. With a design that’s super-simple, and nicely compact, it comes in a range of colours. It’s suitable for graphite and colored pencils, and its premium quality blades produce clear and accurate lines, time after time.