How to Sharpen Pencils: A Practical & Theoretical Treatise on the Artisanal Craft of Pencil Sharpening for Writers, Artists, Contractors, Flange Turners, Anglesmiths, & Civil Servants Hardcover – Apr 10 2012
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Praise for How to Sharpen Pencils
"The book is powerfully funny ... a stylistic high-wire act, and Rees never teeters."
—The New Yorker
"Dear Reader is plunged into delicious confusion ... gloriously irreverent."
—The New York Times Book Review
"David Rees's How to Sharpen Pencils is any graphite-aficionado's must read."
"This is the best treatise on pencil sharpening (in a sea of none) and diabolically funny. I’ve already alerted the Pulitzer committee." —Library Journal
"This book is really a must-read for anyone interested in pencils. And there are well-placed lines likely to render you, as I was, doubled over in laughter. But what I enjoyed most about Mr. Rees’ book was reading something written with such sincerity by a person who obviously does what he does with care." —Pencil Revolution
"There is a long chapter on how to sneak into someone’s house and smash their electric pencil sharpener with a mallet." —Businessweek
“The hand-sharpened pencils sent to me by artisanal pencil sharpener David Rees are without a doubt the MOST EFFICIENT writing instruments in my collection. I use them both for business and for pleasure, as their SLEEK and ELEGANT design coupled with their AMAZING SHARPNESS help make me an object of envy at work and about town. My favorite use for a David Rees hand-sharpened pencil? Sending threatening letters to strangers whose names I pick out of a phone book.”
—MATT TAIBBI, investigative journalist
"Of all the great artisanal crafts, hat blocking, cobbling, and trolloping, I think I was most disheartened to see pencil sharpening relegated to the dusty bin of history. That is why I am so thrilled David Rees is picking up the reins of the forgotten art of manual graphite-encased-in-wood point-crafting. I love my pencil!"
—AMY SEDARIS, crafts expert
"Looking back, I cannot believe that I spent so many years of my life mechanically sharpening my own pencils with pencil sharpeners. Truly, my life before I was presented with correctly sharpened pencils by an artisan was a dull and ill-sharpened void. Learn from my mistakes."
—NEIL GAIMAN, writer
"You may think that sharpening a pencil is easy, but David Rees makes it look hard, and that makes all the difference."
—JOHN HODGMAN, comedian
"Could I sharpen my own pencils? Sure, I could! I could also perform my own dentistry, cobble my own shoes and smith my own tin—but why not leave such matters to real artisans, instead? I trust my bespoke pencils only to David Rees."
—ELIZABETH GILBERT, writer
“The number one #2 pencil sharpener!”
—STARLEE KINE, public radio writer
“David Rees carved away the wood that hides the graphite the way I need to carve away the fat the hides my ability to wear a bathing suit. Thank you for showing me the path, Rees."
—PATTON OSWALT, performer
"One is tempted to call it a must-read for anyone who has ever used a pencil."
Praise For David Rees' Get Your War On
“Riotous and principled.”
“Hilariously deadpan fatalism... a surprisingly articulate expression of our anxieties.”
“The Thomas Nast of the internet.”
“The most original cartoon since... well ever. Raw, enraged, sardonic, hilarious, despairing, and impossible to pigeonhole.”
“A glorious excoriation of our post-9/11 loony bin.”
—New York Times
“A phenomenal cult hero.”
About the Author
David Rees first came to fame as the author of Get Your War On, a Bush-era comic strip composed from clip-art that he emailed to friends. It was eventually serialized by Rolling Stone magazine, collected into three successful books, and turned into an off-Broadway play. He is also the author of the workplace satire My New Filing Technique is Unstoppable. He lives in Beacon, New York.
John Hodgman (introduction) is the author of the bestsellers The Areas of My Expertise, and More Information Than You Require. He’s also known for his appearances in Apple’s “Get a Mac” advertising campaign, and for his correspondent work on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.
Inside This Book(Learn More)
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Rees doesn't just cover the basics here, though, oh no. He also discusses mechanical pencils in chapter 11, providing a purist's viewpoint in a brash yet subtle manner, and promptly moves on to perhaps the most important chapter in the book, chapter 12, "Psychological Risks Associated With Pencil Sharpening: Assessment and Coping Strategies." For those in the craft who take pencil sharpening seriously, the trauma of an unexpected pin tip or "Headless Horseman," or the sublime dread of approaching a faultless unsharpened pencil can be difficult, but Rees gives expert advice on dealing with these stresses and more. In chapter 13 he deals with the conundrum of electric pencil sharpeners and provides a brief history of them, while teaching one how to properly address the sharpener (note: you will need a mallet and safety goggles if those are not already in your sharpening kit.) Further advanced strategies are discussed in chapter 14, "Sharpening Pencils For Children" which features three handy charts on p. 147 giving a range of children's names both common (Tommy, Timmy, Jimmy) and uncommon (Jandek, Xander, Zoogz Rift.) The importance of understanding the difference between common and uncommon names is elucidated beautifully, yet without pretense. He also explains the difference in children’s pencil deployment in imaginative play by gender (boys favor games such as "Pirate War," "Geopolitical War," and "Orchestra War," while girls favor games such as "Sparkling Ballet Princess Ecosystem," Supermodel Ethnomusicologist," and "Jethro Tull Roleplay.") While this may be at the fringes of political correctness, Rees inspires insightful sociological introspection in this commentary. Finally, Rees elucidates his performance-enhancing "celebrity-impression pencil sharpening (CIPS)" system in which he details his tricks of the trade. He teaches intermediate level professional (and advanced amateur) pencil sharpeners how to impersonate celebrities sharpening pencils, which will obviously boost attendance at performances of your chosen craft that you may have scheduled. He demonstrates his haunting impressions of celebrities like Cher, Sir Edmund Hillary, Michael Phelps, Satchel Paige, and Johnny Cash among others. Simply amazing, though nothing is as amazing as chapter 15, "Sharpening Pencils With Your Mind." This is such a deeply personal and metaphysical subject that I cannot discuss it openly, so I must leave it to you to glean the wisdom it contains in your own way.
I cannot rave enough about "How to Sharpen Pencils." David Rees is the pencil sharpening authority of the twenty first century, and no finer book has ever been written on the principles and practice of artisanal pencil sharpening. This is a page-turning must read!