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 🙂