Review by Tina Koyama
The venerable Carl Angel-5 hand-crank sharpener (also known as a “classroom-friendly” sharpener) is a popular, reliable favorite for many pencil users. With a metal body and “original quality,” it has a classic, sturdy build.
I’ve had mine for several years, but sadly, I don’t love it. For one thing, its pencil gripper has “teeth” that leave tiny bite marks in the pencil’s enamel. That might seem like a picky detail, since the teeth are close to the pencil’s business end that will soon be sharpened away again, but it still annoys me. (I think it reminds me of the actual teeth marks that were left on my third-grade-assigned pencil when I was absent one day, and some kid went through my desk and used it. When Miss Lyons saw my pencil and asked, “Did you chew your pencil like this? You shouldn’t,” she didn’t believe me when I denied it.)
But the more important reason why it’s not my favorite is that it will accommodate only pencils of standard size. Since at least two of my most-often-used colored pencils (Caran d’Ache Museum Aquarelle and Derwent Drawing) have barrels that are slightly larger than standard, I can’t use the Angel-5 to sharpen those. In the image below, the Angel gave the Blackwing a perfectly good point, but the green Museum Aquarelle remains unsharpened.
My mission with this sharpener showdown was to find a hand-crank that beats the Angel-5 in both ways. Of course, giving a standard graphite pencil a good point goes without saying, but it must also sharpen my heftier colored pencils and do so without leaving telltale bite marks. Here are the contenders: the red Mitsubishi Uni KH-20 ($29.50) and the yellow Carl Ein ($39.50).
The pencils I used to test them were Museum Aquarelles and various Blackwings.
The bright yellow Carl Ein (also available in light gray) has an all-plastic body. With a slightly larger footprint than the Angel-5, it also has a larger-capacity shaving bin.
An important feature is that the Carl Ein’s barrel gripper is round, not toothy. It leaves no offending bite marks.
A second important feature that the Angel-5 lacks is a point selector that enables a choice of a sharp writing point or a slightly blunt tip that some prefer for colored pencils.
With the sharp setting, according to JetPens’ product description, the pencil is sharpened “into a slight bow shape,” which I assume is similar to the much-revered concave point that the famed but finicky Pollux sharpener produces (I don’t have one, but I’ve heard many go on about it). Honestly, I couldn’t see much difference between the Ein’s point and the other contenders’ points, but it was darn sharp and beautiful on both the Blackwing and the Museum Aquarelle.
With the blunt setting, the point is slightly shorter and less sharp.
All four pencils have stunning points!
Also similar to the Carl Ein, the Uni has nicely rounded barrel grippers that leave no bite marks.
And again like the Carl Ein, the KH-20 can give both a sharp point and a slightly blunt point. The point selector, however, is slightly less intuitive than the Carl Ein’s dial. To produce a blunt point, push the orange button in.
On the sharp setting, the points look nearly identical to the Carl Ein’s sharp points.
And the blunt, slightly shorter points are also comparable to the Carl Ein’s. (The slight angle apparent on both pencils are residual from their angled use for drawing, not a result of the sharpening.)
The KH-20 did an excellent job on all four.
Which sharpener – the yellow Carl Ein or the red Uni KH-20 – won the showdown? For performance, I have to make it a tie: Both beat my old Angel-5 on the factors important to me, and both have the added feature of offering two point styles. I like the Ein’s point selection dial better, but the Uni’s styling with rounded edges everywhere and its mailbox shape gets more points for appearance. Take your pick – they are both excellent sharpeners. I’m keeping one in my studio and the other downstairs in the “TV room” (where I often doodle and journal), because every home needs more than one reliable crank sharpener.
What about portability, though? Stay tuned for the handheld sharpener showdown.