Three Questions for David Rees About His New Artisanal Pencil-Sharpening Project


What better to complement your collection of limited-edition notebooks, small-batch liquors, and locally sourced honey than a pencil sharpened by a true artisan? David Rees, author of the comic book series Get Your War On and My New Fighting Technique is Unstoppable, discovered his passion for sharpening pencils while working for the U.S. Census Bureau. Now he's parlaying his old-school skills into a mail-order artisanal pencil-sharpening business. Send your No. 2 pencil to Rees, and he will personally sharpen it and mail it back to you in a tube fitted with rubber piping to keep the point intact as well as a polyurethane baggy containing the shavingsÔfor just $12.50. Rees opens up to Details about the time-honored craft of sharpening pencils.

1. What's your artistic process like?
"Some people ask me, 'Are you going to have an electric sharpener and just shove pencils in it all day, like a factory?' No. The whole point is that I'm going to have an authentic, honest-to-God encounter with your pencil. I'm not going to be absentminded. I want to get these things fucking sharp as shit. And when you get it back, you're like, 'Whoa. It's actually vaguely menacing how sharp this thing is.'"

2. Why does it cost so much?
"It's not like I'm rich and can just afford to do these whimsical things. I priced all of this out. I'm sure there's somebody in India who could sharpen your pencil for $8. But if you want authentic American craftsmanship, $12.50 per pencil. That's how much quality costs these days. Also, it just felt like how much someone would charge if this were a real thing. Which it is now, I guess."

3. Why are you doing this?
"One of my inspirations was a guy I went to high school with who is a classical guitar builder. I mean, talk about a lost art. Building high-end, classical guitars from scratch. Bending the wood, making the rosettes. You really get to know the instrument you're building. You really take your time. You've done it all. It's this absorbing, meditative process. Now, am I saying that me sharpening a pencil is the equivalent of him spending hundreds of hours building a guitar? Fuck it. Yeah, I am."

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