Pastel Pencils and Sharpeners: A Review

Works on some brands, but see notes below...

Works on some brands, but see notes below...

Best hand-held sharpeners I have found for most pencils

Best hand-held sharpeners I have found for most pencils


There are only 2 handheld sharpeners and one mechanical sharpener that I have found work for pastel pencils over time most of the time. Hand held ones that truly work are  the old faithful Carbothello Stabilo Art Nr. 4514 sharpener and the round brass M & R 0602 . These don't work for all pencils although the brass one is the most versatile.

The  Derwent Super Point Manual Helical Pencil Sharpener 2302001 works on several brands , but it's finicky and you MUST sharpen slowly and clean out the mechanism regularly as well as use a graphite pencil every now and then to grease it up. If a point gets stuck in this, follow the directions included in the box and clean out the mechanism. To line it up for putting back together, look at the hole the pencil goes through and line the mechanism up with that hole. I know that sounds elementary, but it took me ages to figure it out. When you turn the crank, it feels like nothing is really getting sharpened. Don't worry, just go slow and you'll notice it grabs a bit every now and then. Eventually for many pencils, you will get a nice sharp point...eventually. 

And regarding the pencils listed below, the Koh-I-Noor is my favorite and WILL sharpen in the Derwent and Carbothello pencils remain the go-to pastel pencil for me for most of my work. The Caran'd'Arche are fantastic also, and I CAN use the Derwent on them, so now they are getting used a lot more. Caran d'Arche sells a mechanical sharpener that supposedly works on their pastel pencils, but it is very high priced. They have 5 mechanical sharpeners from about $60.00-285.00! 

Now for my post from 2017...

I am always on the hunt for the best pastel pencils and sharpeners. My go-to pencils are Carbothello pastel pencils because they are soft and with their own sharpener are easy to sharpen.  But they don't have every color I want, so I supplement with Conte pencils that I am not crazy about because of the large barrel and the fact that they are hard to sharpen and they are not very smooth. So, recently, I ordered a pastel pencil sampler from  This sampler includes one pencil of all 8 brands available. Somehow the Bruynzeel pencil was not in my box, but I got all the others. (Dakota refunded the money for the individual pencil which was very nice of them).

 Also, last week Mr. Meininger of Meininger Art Supply (a fabulous and very old art store) gave me a new sharpener to try. It's called Color Combi by KUM Art.NO. 1050472 and has two holes. The large hole is for removing the wood casing and the smaller hole is for sharpening the point. Actually, I have better luck using the smaller one for the wood casing and the larger one for the point. But, that may be just me. I also have a terrific two hole brass sharpener that I mentioned in a previous blog (June 28, 2016)  and my old faithful Carbothello sharpener (all pictured).  Here is a review of the pencils and the sharpeners I used with them. 

Cretacolor- soft, nice color, smooth and sharpened well with the Carbothello

Derwent-fairly soft, a bit gritty (which I rather liked) and sharpened well with the Alvin 9867 brass sharpener

Koh-I-Noor Giaconda-YUM! very soft, smooth, great color, sharpened well using the Color Combi and then the Alvin

Faber-Castell Pitt-very nice,  smooth, soft and color is good though the Giaconda was more vibrant, sharpened pretty well with Color Combi and then the Alvin for more of a point

CaranD'Arche- YUMMY, very smooth excellent color, but a pain to sharpen. However, I had good luck with the Color Combi and then the brass for an excellent point

NOTHING that I have found truly works on Conte pencils except a single edge razor blade and sandpaper. I

Doing this little experiment convinced me to add pencils from all the lines. For efficiency and economy, I'll get only the colors that are in my palette from each line. Dakota Art Pastels sells individual pencils for each brand. Yea! As far as I know no one else does. They also offer handmade color charts for each, but at $10.00 each, I am just going to take my chances using the color charts online. 

PS I did not like the DAHLE 133 mechanical sharpener I bought from Dakota. Although they say it will sharpen all their pastel pencils, I did not have good luck with it and it's flimsy. Two hints regarding hand -held German and hand-sharpen slowly!