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How To Sharpen Pencils

A Practical & Theoretical Treatise on the Artisanal Craft of Pencil Sharpening for Writers, Artists, Contractors, Flange Turners, Anglesmiths, & Civil Servants

With an Introduction by John Hodgman


Have you got the right kind of point on your pencil? Do you know how to achieve the perfect point for the kind of work you need out of that pencil?

Deep in New York’s Hudson River Valley, craftsman David Rees—the world’s number one #2 pencil sharpener—still practices the age-old art of manual pencil sharpening. In 2010, he began offering his artisanal service to the world, to the jubilation of artists, writers, draftsmen, and standardized test takers.

Now, in a book that is both a manifesto and a fully-illustrated walk-through of the many, many, many ways to sharpen a pencil, he reveals the secrets of his craft. By the time you’re through this book, you will know how to get the perfect point on your pencil without injuring yourself. And if you think it’s a joke, why don’t you poke yourself with your newly sharpened pencil? Or better yet, don’t—because it’ll really hurt.

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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.

“The book is powerfully funny … a stylistic high-wire act, and Rees never teeters.” —The New Yorker

“From his vantage-point atop Mount Obsessive, Rees is able to see far and wide, and the picture he paints there is both true and very, very funny.” —Boing Boing

“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

“Dear Reader is plunged into delicious confusion … gloriously irreverent.” —The New York Times Book Review

 “There is a long chapter on how to sneak into someone’s house and smash their electric pencil sharpener with a mallet.” —Business Week

“A sheer feat of writerly endurance, How to Sharpen Pencils is impressive.”—Bookforum

“One is tempted to call it a must-read for anyone who has ever used a pencil.”—Booklist

“It’s unclassifiable yet wholly enjoyable.”—GQ

“If you’re looking to revisit the joys of a hand-sharpened pencil, look no further than…How To Sharpen Pencils.”—NPR

“David Rees’s How to Sharpen Pencils is any graphite-aficionado’s must read.” —Gothamist

“A singularly mind-blowing experience. David Rees has done the unthinkable; he has written a book about pencil … He has taken the insurmountable world of pencil pointing and made it something relatable, cuddly, even hopeful … you will walk away from this book feeling the satisfaction of having both discovered and mastered a lost language.—Huffington Post

“Brilliantly dry … This is so real I can hardly bear to imagine a world in which it is not real.”—Mental Floss

“It’s an exercise in sustained seriocomic tone that somehow manages to be both elaborately ironic and completely sincere at the same time. “—The Millions

“A brilliant piece of social satire.”—New York Observer

 This indispensable manual answers all the questions you’ve ever had about pencil sharpening, plus thousands of questions you didn’t know you had, but would have eventually had if you’d thought about it for a really long time, like the author has.—Salt Lake Tribune

“This book is delightful in almost every way.”—Woodclinched

 “The book lovingly lampoons the “artisanal” genre.”—New York Daily News

“David Rees is very entertaining…His sense of humor is sharp! “—Oxford American

“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

“There is a long chapter on how to sneak into someone’s house and smash their electric pencil sharpener with a mallet.” Business Week

“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

“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

“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

“You may think that sharpening a pencil is easy, but David Rees makes it look hard, and that makes all the difference.” —JOHN HODGMAN

“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

“A good friend was thoughtful enough to send me the gift of a David Rees artisinally sharpened pencil. I was blown away when I saw it. My wife and I proudly display it in our home. I have always been a pen man, but if you’ve got to have a pencil in the house, this is the pencil to have.” — PAUL F. TOMPKINS

“>“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

“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

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