A short time ago I created an in-depth video on how to sharpen charcoal pencils. It’s an introductory course that I wanted to share for free to help teach people how to properly sharpen their charcoal pencils because this way seems unusual and unless taught, you most likely would never try it.
How to sharpen charcoal pencils
There you have it, the image above is how to properly sharpen a charcoal pencil. As you can see, it is quite a bit different than you usual way to sharpen a regular pencil or even how these come if pre sharpened. As you can see, this unusual way to sharpen your pencil makes it look weak and fragile. Though the integrity is slightly at risk, as you learn to use it, you will find it doesn’t become much of an issue.
When starting to sharpen your charcoal pencil, the first step you need to realize is that it isn’t a race. You will find there is almost a soothing aspect to it, the process will teach you to slow down and enjoy the process of art. I recommend sharpening multiple pencils at once just in case one does break or the internal portions have been fractured, or you just happen to drop it.
You will find that the process is very slow at first, but as you become more efficient at sharpening your charcoal pencils, the process will speed up dramatically without a drop in quality.
Preparing to sharpen the pencil.
When you are preparing to sharpen the pencils, you will need a few things. First of course would be the pencils themselves. There is a variety of pencils to choose from and the type of pencil you choose doesn’t matter much but I recommend all the same brand at first. It helps because they usually use the same wood throughout and for your drawing it keep the charcoal blackness even as well. As you learn to mix brands this will not be as much of an issue.
The other item you need at this point is a flat razor. You can usually buy big boxes of these at Lowe’s or the Home Depot as well as local stores such as Walmart. You will always want a new sharp razor so it doesn’t snag and break the tip.
Continue to whittle down the wood little by little. This is important. If you go too fast and try to take off too much wood and snag the blade you risk cutting yourself or breaking the pencil. Go slow!!!
Now you know how to sharpen charcoal pencils and your pencil is sharp, it still has a lot of flat edges. Take a very fine grade sandpaper that is also available at local hardware stores and move the pencil back and forth while slowly rolling the barrel on each pass. This will give you that final smooth taper to your pencil and it is ready to draw with. Later in the series I will be posting more videos about how to control your pencil, but for now, just go begin, you will be amazed how much you learn from simply trying.
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