Most people who know me know that I tend to start collecting things. Yesterday I was at the annual pre-Christmas vintage fair in Luxexpo – 12 months ago I picked up two nice antique pens, but six months ago the pricing hadn’t gotten a bit wiser and this time, I picked up an entry level Waterman for 10E. I haven’t checked it out yet and to be honest I’m not writing much with the fountain pens lately – mostly ballpoints.
During the year, though, in a fit of serious self indulgence, I bought a limited edition Caran d’Ache rotary pencil sharpener. Mostly I had coveted for a long while, but had been making do with a vast array of hand sharpeners varying in price. I have a frightening collection of them and erasers because when I lose art stuff, it’s nearly always an eraser or a sharpener. Many of the sharpeners are Faber Castells.
During a pre-period shopping fit though I bought the Staedler Mars Lumograph rotary sharpener as it was a) less expensive than the Caran d’Ache and b) not such a disaster if it didn’t work out. In particular, I had been having serious issues sharpening charcoal pencils. I don’t much liking charcoal blocks because they end up covering everything in black so I’d lean towards the pencils.
But not if I wrecked a bunch of sharpeners and several pencils trying to get an even remotely usable tip.
I figured if the Staedler could handle the Faber Castell charcoal pencils, I’d be a happy camper. It could and I decided that I’d buy the Caran d’Ache metal sharpener as clearly, the things were not useless. I must be the only person in the world who tested a ***E metal sharpener by checking out how a 30E plastic one behaved.
Anyway, rotary sharpeners are not things I previously cared that much about but now of course….things are different. The Caran d’Ache is a limited edition colour run; their rose gold – you see it on their rose gold 849s too – absolutely gorgeous, but the design is a fairly old design. I could have bought a grey one for less money but where is the fun in that.
When I was at a vintage fair in Venice during the year, I came across an Eberhard Faber one and thought, you know, rotary sharpeners would be an interesting esoteric thing to start collecting. I left that one behind as I just did not have room to carry it and common sense popped up. It had a hard battle yesterday in Luxembourg too as I came across two – one Dahle 55 and a Palm Sweden one (no, I had not heard of them either). I’m not really equipped to assess what sort of health these things are in, and there are more moving parts in them than there are in pens. I know how the pen restoration market operates. I couldn’t get quick research online at the vintage fair yesterday so I left the two behind. Both were rather beautiful looking pieces of engineering.
Later on, research took me to the sites of two sharpener collectors – there are a few. They had dated enough looking websites and both had at least 5000 – five thousand – sharpeners of all shapes – not just the rotary ones.
I started thinking about this in real terms. I have enough trouble with the stuff I own. I occasionally worry about the accumulation of things I create myself, like my diaries which are a record of the last 25 years of my life, and the art works which no sane person will ever want to buy, the doilies I crochet, the tapestries I stitch up.
I don’t really want a collection of stuff growing to 5000. I mean, I’m not sure exactly how many Caran D’Ache Ecridor and 849 ballpoints I have. I don’t buy all of them; I buy the ones I like (and the wretches have released 2 for Christmas which I must, must have).
Okay so it might be hard put to accumulate 5000 sharpeners but without a little discernment, what is the sense in mindlessly buying every sharpener that ever was? I use every pen I own, including the single most valuable antique.
The rosegold sharpener, limited and numbered, is clamped to my desk and used to sharpen non-carbon pencils (look, I ruined several cheap hand sharpeners with charcoal pencils so the Staedler can take care of the charcoal and pastel pencils). It handles my graphite and coloured pencils. These things are tools.
In addition to the rosegold, Caran d’Ache have previously issued black and red rotary sharpeners in metal, and there is the default grey one.
As a result, my shopping list for rotary sharpeners contains just three items, one of which is generally available and the other two of which are going to be a hassle to find.
And that will be it.