Sharpener Series Roundup

It's final showdown time for each of these sharpeners to battle against each other for hand-cranked desk dominance! Today I'm going to compare each of the sharpeners reviewed this week. If you haven't read anything, check out the previous posts in the Sharpener Series. I'll be judging 5 different categories:

Sharpener Series Video Recap

1. Design / Looks
2. Point / Collar Length
3. Pencil Protection
4. Amount Removed
5. Sound

Design / Looks

All of these sharpeners look wildly different (in relative terms). The Derwent and the KH-20 have the "alien antennae" design for retracting the grippers, and the Dahle 133 and CP-80 have a push button on the side. In the case of the "aliens", only the right antenna moves, and the left one is there to provide a counter-balance to be able to move the right one and retract the teeth without pushing it over. With the CP-80 and the D133, you must either use two hands or a one-handed overhand grip to counter-balance to push the button. Every one of these sharpeners is single burr and only works with a clockwise motion, so while not "unusable" for left handers, they are not intuitive. For a right hander, the forward cranking provides top-down leverage, but since a lefty must crank towards them, that leverage advantage goes away.

The KH-20 is the largest of the bunch, but its all plastic body makes it not nearly as heavy as the Derwent, which is slightly smaller but all-metal, save for a few bits. The smallest is the Dahle 133; it has a bigger footprint than the CP-80, but is shorter and lighter. The CP-80 takes up the least amount of real estate, but is slightly taller and heavier than the Dahle 133. 

As far as the looks: my personal favorite is the CP-80. I like the all-black rectangle look, with everything flush except for the button. The Dahle comes in second place for me.

The design of the shavings drawers are wildly different. Being the biggest sharpener, you would expect the KH-20 to have the biggest shavings drawer, and it does. The Derwent isn't that much smaller of a sharpener, but its shaving drawer is considerably smaller than the KH-20. Coming in third on drawer size in the CP-80, which is only marginally smaller than the Derwent. The smallest and worst shaving drawer goes to the Dahle 133. It is very short but wide, and the shavings stack up near the back of the drawer. When you pull it out, shavings tend to catch above the drawer and spill out the back. It's not a huge deal when the sharpener isn't clamped to the desk, as you can kind of shake them forward, but when it is, you can run into a mess.

Winner: Carl CP-80
Loser: Dahle 133 (due to sharpener drawer and loose rattling of the crank)

Point / Collar Length

L-R: KH-20, Derwent, Dahle 133, CP-80

A pencil is only as good as its point. If you like a long point (if not, you probably wouldn't be reading this), every one of these sharpeners offers that. However, there are a few differences, and what you prefer may sway you towards a sharpener that I personally didn't care for. This section is totally subjective. The KH-20 has a really long collar but because it is not concave, it does not expose as much core as the Derwent, which has a similar collar length. The collar of the Dahle 133 is significantly smaller than the rest of the group, yet the amount of core exposed does not correlate to the smallness of the collar; in fact it exposes nearly the same amount of core that the KH-20 does. The Carl CP-80 sits in the middle between all of these: the core exposed is similar to the Derwent, but without that last little bit of needle point; also, its collar isn't as long by a slim margin. The amount of core exposed is also determined by how centered the core is in the pencil; wood creep onto the core could be a problem for some (it is for me). But we can't judge a sharpener based on the quality of a pencil. We can, however, judge it based on the symmetry of the collar itself. The KH-20 is consistently off-kilter. It will take centered-core pencils and make them look off-centered, and the collar length mirrors that. But sharpen that same pencil in the Derwent, and it will be centered looking (if it is truly centered). The most symmetrical collar comes from the CP-80, but it is a matter of degrees. There is no real stand out winner as far as collar, but the clear loser, for me, was the KH-20. Overall, between point and collar, I have to give it to the CP-80. 

Winner: Carl CP-80*
Loser: Mitsubishi KH-20

*This is based on standard sized writing pencils. For someone who needs to sharpen oversized pencils and/or needs to adjust their point length for drawing or colored pencils, the Dahle 133 is the winner.

Pencil Protection

Swiss cheese or pencil?

Those who are reading this are already nerdy enough to care about every aspect of their pencils, including how it looks. Some of these pencils we acquire have amazing finishes that we would like to see unblemished by something so simple as the act of sharpening. Of the four sharpeners reviewed in this series, only one has the distinction of being named a "hungry crocodile". The KH-20, Dahle 133, and CP-80 all have rubber tips on the teeth that grip the pencil in the automatic feed. The Derwent breaks the lacquer and on thinner-coated pencils can even get into the wood. This happens on 3 sides each time you sharpen, so you can imagine your pencil starting to look like you chew on it after a couple passes. Someone using a cheap pencil may not mind, but if they were using a Blackwing or some expensive vintage pencil, they may be upset. There is no real winner here, but there is definitely a loser.

Winner: Dahle 133, Carl CP-80, Mitsubishi KH-20
Loser: Derwent Long Point

Amount Removed

Here is how much weight each sharpener takes off. The pencils started from completely unsharpened. Each was weighed before and after sharpening, on a digital pocket scale, advertised as accurate to 0.01 grams. In each instance, I weighed each pencil 3 times at every stage to insure accuracy. Because each pencil had a different starting weight, the more important number was the percentage of weight removed, not the actual weight itself. I did, however, include it here in case you were interested. It is also important to remember that the amount removed will drop significantly after the initial sharpening, provided that you continue to use the same sharpener throughout the use of the pencil. The shape of the collar also plays an important role: larger collar, more wood removed. The Dahle 133 has the shortest collar. The Derwent and the KH-20 have collars of similar lengths, but the Derwent is concave, therefore removing more wood.

Mitsubishi KH-20: 0.25 grams or 5.2% of the pencil weight.
Dahle 133: 0.21 grams or 4.1% of the pencil weight.
Carl CP-80: 0.25 grams or 5.5% of the pencil weight.
Derwent Long Point: 0.26 grams or 5.8% of the pencil weight.

For sharpening after the initial sharpen, I ground down the points by rubbing them on sandpaper all the way to the wood. This is not when you would normally re-sharpen a pencil, but it was the cleanest and most controlled way, I thought, to test the next, and subsequent, sharpenings. I weighed each pencil after grinding the lead and then after sharpening. I followed the same method as before, weighing three times.

Mitsubishi KH-20: 2.0% of the pencil weight.
Dahle 133: 1.8% of the pencil weight.
Carl CP-80: 2.6% of the pencil weight.
Derwent Long Point: 3.4% of the pencil weight.

The clear winner here is the Dahle 133. Its shorter collar allows for less wood to be removed overall, while still keeping the point itself relatively long. While not as long as the CP-80 or the Derwent, the Dahle 133 point is also not as prone to snapping during the initial touch to the page.

Winner: Dahle 133
Loser: Derwent Long Point


Each of these sharpeners have different shapes, different materials, and those differences affect the sound. What also affects it are the surfaces on which they sit. Some desks will resonate more than others. My desk top is a long piece of cherry wood from Boos Block sitting on 3 filing cabinets. I was lucky enough to live in the town where the Boos factory is and they have all kinds of throwaway slabs that don't quite make it through quality control, but are still good for certain uses and they sell them at a massive discount in their factory showroom. It's 1.5 inches thick. This is what the following sounds were recorded on. All in the same spot and same distance from my podcasting microphone, the Blue Yeti. Each pencil sharpened was an unsharpened USA Gold.

Each sound starts a little louder because it is navigating the hex shape at first. You'll then hear each sharpener quiet a little as it rounds out.

To my ears, the winner of this section is the Mitsubishi KH-20. The clear loser is the Dahle 133. It rattles around when the crank is being turned, which just adds to the noise.

Winner: Mitsubishi KH-20
Loser: Dahle 133


The unassuming champion.

For me, the clear winner is the Carl CP-80. This pencil sharpener hits all the right buttons for me, and I can overlook some of its issues in the search for the perfect point. Now, the very knowledgable Charles Berolzheimer answered a question I posed to the Erasable Podcast Facebook group: Who is making all these sharpeners? Who is producing the Derwent / Classroom Friendly / Carl Angel-5 / Helix? It's the same sharpener with a different logo slapped on it. Well, it's a Chinese manufacturer called Sunwood. I won't link to them here because they have a malware warning from Google when you go to the site. I did however look at it on my phone first (which gave me no such warning, phone's probably f#ยขked now). I saw that they also seem to make all the Carl sharpeners, like the CP-80 and CP-90. There they were, bright as day, ready to be purchased in bulk. I did not find the Dahle 133 or the Mitsubishi KH-20 on there, but I know for certain the KH-20 is made in China somewhere: it is printed on the bottom. And the parts and construction of the Dahle are so similar to the others, that if Sunwood isn't making them, they are at least using a lot of their parts and putting them in a new wrapper. And as Matthias says, the M+R 0981 is the exact same as the Dahle 133. Does it matter? For me, not really. What matters is the final product: the point. And for me, the winner of this challenge is the Carl CP-80.

What are your thoughts? Put them in the comments below. Did you enjoy this series? Let me know and I'll look into doing more.

Started Lunch Table with all his jackass friends. Owner/operator of Hagan Design Co. Blogs about all things stationery over at Lead Fast