The mother of all lead pointers…

Tru-Point Lead Pointer
Box for the Tru-Point Model D-3760
Box for the Tru-Point Model D-3760

We do a lot of pencil drawing at the studio and keeping a sharp point is an ongoing problem. A conventional pencil sharpener is adequate most of the time, but sometimes the point it offers just isn’t sharp enough. Hand-sharpening a “spear point” with an x-acto knife and sandpaper works very well, but it’s time consuming and that long, delicate point is prone to break easily – requiring yet more time spent sharpening. I flat-out refuse to do it anymore… But what else is there?

One of our Weekday Atelier students recently brought us a treasure – an original Tru-Point lead pointer. For those who don’t already know, the Tru-Point is a rotary pencil sharpener designed specifically for use with “lead holders” or “clutch pencils” – mechanical pencil casings that hold 2mm graphite leads for drawing. This particular model was made by the Tru-Point Company of Coloma, Michigan, probably sometime in the 1950’s. It’s cast iron and solid – it feels like holding a meteorite in your hand. It sharpens a lead to a fine point by rotating it against an interior beveled “cup” with an abrasive coating. It says on the box that the Tru-Point “produces long, slender, true, needle points for fine line work as required by Draftsmen, Artists, Engineers, Accountants, etc.” and I’m happy to report that this is no exaggeration. The weight and heft of the mechanism produces a rotary motion that is beautifully fluid, gliding the lead against the sharpening surface with ease. And the point is razor sharp.

We were so enamored of this sharpener that we had to get our own, which turned out to be a bit of a challenge as it’s unclear if they’re still being manufactured. There’s a Tru-Point website which lists a couple of different models, but the site returned a 404 error (page not found) when we tried to purchase one The website is dead, and the customer service phone number has been disconnected – not hopeful signs. We ended up looking on eBay and found a mint-condition Model D-3760 – a more recent model, but just as serviceable as the older ones.

Thanks to Vitruvian student Dan Horan – and his grandfather, retired architect Mort Hartman – for introducing us to this fantastic tool. It makes sharpening pencils way more fun than it should be 🙂

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    1. I have two of these myself and the particular lead holder you’re asking about, the 780 works well in both the variable lead pointer and the fixed one. As a matter of fact, I have several different lead holders and I have yet to find one that doesn’t fit nicely in these.

  1. I just inherited a pencil sharpener just like the one you described. It seems to be full of graphite. How do I empty it?

    1. Emptying is very simple, just unscrew the cap holding the cover (rotating part) in place, pull up the cover and dump into the trash. Do not worry about getting it all out as leaving some in makes the operation run smoother. When replacing the cover, make sure the part where the lead comes through is INSIDE the abrasive cup.

  2. Hi,
    I recently took a job in a drafting department and while cleaning up the place, I found quite a bite of hand drafting tools. That gets me started to look for lead pointer and collect them. Is anyone has got a user manual on either tru-point or Boston lead pointer to share?

  3. I am using the d33760 and i would like to know how to take it aart to clean out the abrasive cup. I am a new student in drafting and i have one of these great lead sharpeners but no idea how to take it apart. Any help would be great.

  4. Hi all…
    Way back in my youth, my High School offered drafting as a class. I remember using something very similar to the Tru-point sharpener, but it was for regular wood pencils. I’ve been looking for that model, but have come up empty handed…..anyone know what I’m talking about and can point me in the right direction to get one?

  5. I might have something similar that is used to sharpened the lead of a 2mm mechanical pencil. It’s made by Steadtler and is easily found in the art/drafting section.

  6. Yes…purchased two of these (accidentally of course) on eBay. One I bid on and got, another I apparently bid on and was obligated to buy. And I am so glad to have these items again…work well. And I agree with Debjani in the above comment. Great info. Thanks.

    1. Hi, I have a model D pointer that doesn’t have the quick change cups, and would like to know if you have any ideas of where to find one? They’re the paper tapered ones that just drop in.

      1. Hi Gary,
        I too am trying to find some original abrasive refills for the old cast iron Tru-Point lead pointer. I bought mine in Chicago in the 50’s. I work with graphite leads and this is the best for sharpening the leads. I can’t use quick change cups.

        Have you been able to find some of the paper tapered ones?
        valerie jacobs

        1. I cannot find any abrasive refills for the original Tru- Point lead pointer. I can’t
          use the quick change cups. Please help me find abrasive refills as I really need them.
          Hoping to hear from you soon,
          Thank you.
          valerie jacobs

          1. Valerie, I’m afraid I don’t have any inside information on where to find abrasive refills. This product is well into its “sunset” phase, where old stock has largely been depleted. I actually bought an additional Tru-Point sharpener on eBay a while back, not because I needed one, but because it came with a box of refills.

            All we can do is keep looking.

  7. What a beautiful posting ,that is the reason I like both of my teacher very much. They always try to share such details which are very effective for us. I am very glad and fortunate as a part of the vitruvian studio. Thank you Master David Jamieson for posting that wonderful information.