Friday, August 19, 2011

Superwoman and the Quest for the Perfect Pencil Sharpener

My first child started school 7 years ago. That day was the beginning of my quest for a quality pencil sharpener. I have purchased dozens of cheap, plastic manual sharpeners with varying results. Ultimately they all fail in some way and end up in the garbage.

A few years ago I broke down and bought a small electric sharpener. The children managed to break the power cord in two after only a few months!

This year alone I have purchased 3 manual sharpeners, all are broken or lost. And school started 2 weeks ago!

I have looked at department stores for an inexpensive, quality pencil sharpener with no luck. They are all crap!

As I write this, I am looking at the only known pencil sharpener in our home. It is a Strawberry Shortcake sharpener from a child's stationary set.

Why, do you ask? Why do I care about sharpening a stupid pencil? Because I have a problem. "Hello, My name is Amy and I'm a pencil-holic." I even have proof!

Yes, that is a Clementine box full of pencils! It was already pretty full but I added another 120+ this year because "They were on sale" and "The kids will use them at school" and "They don't go bad".


Now do you see why I need a pencil sharpener that actually works? These hundreds of pencils are useless without one!

I used to work in a pencil sharpener factory. Seriously. I spent 2 summers working as a temp at Hunt Manufacturing, makers of X-acto knives, Speedball art supplies and Boston pencil sharpeners (among other things!)

It wasn't a bad job. I worked in the paint room for a short time, putting metal parts on the paint racks and stacking them in crates when they were finished. I also worked on an assembly line with 3 other women making electric sharpeners. We rotated positions every two hours. I might be adding a power cord, putting on a cover or packaging the finished product for shipping. I liked this too. It gave me time to think about whatever I wanted while doing the same simple tasks over and over.

One thing I remember about these jobs is the quality control. Each station checked the products for quality. If there was a problem, it went back to the previous station to be corrected. We all took pride in our work and tried to present a quality product.

My family had an old Boston sharpener (similar to this X-acto model) that my dad had rescued. Someone was going to throw it away because it didn't work. (It turned out it was just REALLY full of shavings. I suspect it had never been emptied and the owner probably didn't even think of that.) I loved that machine! It worked great! I felt really proud to play a small role in making similar products.

This background in the pencil sharpener industry makes my current failures even more frustrating. I know there are good products out there. I know there are people who care about the quality of their work. Now I must seek out the fruits of tehir labors and, hopefully, reap the harvest!

1 comment:

Amy said...

Haha! I love this post!! We finally found one that we like and we just bought the cheapest one at Wal-Mart thinking that it would be another crappy one! It is a hand-crank model and it has a suction thing to stick to the desk (this is my least favorite feature!) but it works really well and it is not broken yet!!