retro teachers desk pencil sharpener

Wincingly Cringeworthy

I mentioned the joy of pencils – and the relative merits of pop-a-point pencils vs freshly sharpened traditional pencils – in my last post (you can see it here if you missed it) and one of the most popular comments was about the pencil sharpener that every teacher seemed to have had on their desk back in the day…

I’d completely forgotten about them… and I certainly didn’t realise that they were so iconic… did you?

Anyhow… the conversation led me to start searching online for an image of the said retro teachers pencil sharpener… and I found the image that you see above (which is pretty close to how I remember them to be except that I’m sure every one of my teachers had a two-tone brown one).

In my search for that image I came across what looks to be a much earlier version of the same sort of idea… the very grandly named “Planetary Pencil Pointer” from the 1890s and the 1900s…

Illustrated catalogue of school supplies. (1897) (14597497268)

How good is that? I bet it would make your pencil super-pointy!

But… and remember this is from about 120 years ago and fortunately times have changed… a lot…

…the advertising for the same “Planetary Pencil Pointer” is wincingly cringeworthy…

Shocking isn’t it?

Did you spot the name of the company doing the advertising?

A Dick.

How appropriate…

Please Spread The Word!
  • Dangleberry says:

    Yes!!! SO much yes!!!

  • Phil says:

    What does the B stand for?

  • Martin McMerkin says:

    When I get home I can post a picture of my “new” teachers sharpener.
    At the age of 61, I bought my own, fondly remembered, sharpener.
    Guess what, They Are Brilliant.
    The first thing I did was run around the house looking for every pencil I could find and sharpened every one of them. Happy Days, Sad Old Muppet but one with so many sharp pencils.

    • Lady Joy Beauchamp says:

      Hi Martin,
      I remember them so well too! There is nothing like a ‘real’ teachers pencil sharpener to get a good point. Where on earth did you find one of these 1950’s/1960’s models. I have a sudden urge to sharpen all my pencils teachers way!

  • Angie says:

    Loved these old school pencil sharpeners, found a more updated one a few years back, no where near as sturdy as the two tone grey ones ๐Ÿคฃ๐Ÿคฃ ended up falling apart ๐Ÿ˜†

  • Planetsusie says:

    Oh my word! I haven’t managed to comment on the first post but as soon as I read it I thought of these pencil sharpeners and had a right old giggle. I just loved them – sorry if that is cringeworthy – but I could stand allllll day just turning that handle and seeing my pencil reduced to shavings of wood and graphite!!! So glad that others are on the same sad wavelength as moi!!!

    Love reading your comments by the way Michael – I tried to reply to that very first story you told all that time ago ‘cos you set me off again remembering stuff that I’d thought I’d forgotten!

    Can’t wait to read more.



  • Julie Davies says:

    Remember these well – if you wanted to sharpen a pencil, you had to go up to the teachers desk to do so…..

  • K J T says:

    Well women are used to dealing with things that are none to sharp.

  • JGK says:

    Yes I remember them being a dull two tone brown model…god forbid a sharpener could look bright and cheerful.You weren’t meant to have fun ….. you had to learn. It was serious business!

    In my day (yikes I sound like my Dad) corporal punishment was on the cards even for getting stuff wrong…a huge incentive to learning right? Oh well I don’t think I turned out too badly.

    I should add that ad is hilarious but if you look up condescending in a dictionary that ad is referenced. I saw your note about his name but further note his name had 2 initials A.B. I’m assuming the B. stood for “Big”. ๐Ÿ™‚ ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Jo says:

    The only thing I can remember about the sharpener is that we use to deliberatly break the point so that we could waste time sharpening it.

  • blueninja says:

    Says it all ๐Ÿ˜ฎ

  • May Reilly says:

    Loved the pics. The school sharpener I remember was from the mid 1950s and still had a handle to turn like the earlier ones…..

  • Sharon says:

    I love that they describe it as compact!

  • Boo says:

    Oh God yes, always at the front of the classroom on the teachers desk. Bet you can still get them.

  • Kippi says:

    Love this. I also remember the communal pencil sharpener. I also learned to type on the same style of typewriter images. OMG the memories of trapped keys and ribbon replacing ๐Ÿคฆโ€โ™€๏ธ

  • Mariska says:

    The ad and your comment on it is hilarious. Love your emails and now your blog. Brightens up my day.

  • Gillian McMurray says:

    As an artist I still have to sharpen pencils on a daily basis. But I still have not managed to find a pencil sharpener as good as the one my teacher had in Primary 5. I dream of getting my pencil points as sharp as I could get them back then ๐Ÿ˜€

  • hazel says:

    Great images of the pencil sharpener. I used to have a battery or electric one (can’t remember which) in the same style when I worked as a teaching assistant

  • David Matthews says:

    And that was after the day when you had to set light to a stick for awhile to make it write.

  • SPH says:

    I still have two and they are both dark green. My children and grandchildren have had great fun putting the sharpest points on pencils and crayons. I don’t remember them at school, mine came from my husband’s office

  • Jackie says:

    Definitely a cringeworthy header but my beloved Grandfather had both the planetary pencil pointer and a school teachers pencil sharpener in what we called โ€œ The Glory Holeโ€ his shed. He was a master craftsman in intricate woodwork. So this has brought back many happy memories

  • PJ says:

    I have one of these in hammered pale green finish. Never given it much thought, just use it.

  • Peter says:

    I had a maths teacher who kept his blackboard eraser next to his pencil sharpener. He mastered the art of calling your name a split second after he had launched the eraser at your head when not paying attention. If you looked up you received a facefull of chalk dust and board rubber. However that was better than the whack
    across the backside with a hockey stick which was his favoured punishment. Oh the good old days!

  • Pam Johnson says:

    Am I the only one who sharpens that bit too much til the point snaps off and you have to start again? :-/

  • Jeni says:

    Oh boy what a smashing story, when I first started work the office of the place was very old fashioned and on the edge of the desk screwed down was one of those sharpeners, it was a dirty grey colour all over and it didn’t look very awe inspiring but it was the best pencil sharpener ever, was great on coloured pencils too and even those thin wax crayons. The ones of today are indeed rubbish and I have gone back to whittling the point should one break unexpectedly, and Michael I agree with you about the nasty bits of rubber they put on the end give me a lovely chunky golden coloured eraser any day. Thank you again Jeni x

  • Russell says:

    I can remember starting with a brand new 12 inch pencil and ending up with a little unusable stubby one after just one go at sharpening it. There was something about the way it fed it into the little machine I found mesmerising as a young boy.

  • Joy says:

    Still have something like these in the classroom although they are electric now. Always breaking or jamming up but the children still queue up to use them and if you don’t watch them carefully there are two pointy ends instead of one ๐Ÿ™‚!!!

    Thank you so much. I spent a very pleasant hour or so reading all the posts the other night, agreeing with most and laughing out loud at lots.

    As for the advert, what can I say? My daughters caught sight of my face when I read it and thought I had stumbled across something rude online!!!

  • Scoobox says:

    I can remember the colour of the sharpener at school being black and the boys would try to see how small a pencil they could get sharp (girls would never be so silly) i think the record was about 1″ (long before the days of millimetres) Couldn’t write with it though. At my first job we had a bright yellow one screwed to the wall.
    You can still find this type of item on ebay but they are not the same build quality, by a long way.
    My big brother had a pop a point and i would spend hours just popping the things through. It would drive him nuts when he came to use it. Hehehe.

  • Deborah says:

    Oh my god I forgot about these, I remember we were so glad when we were able to use this. And I know that back then there were strict rules at school but it taught us to know right from wrong and respect people and possessions. Makes me want to find one on the internet and buy it and a shed load of pencils, happy days .

  • Susan Storer says:

    So funny to remember these things. What a great sharpener, Iโ€™m so tempted, but I feel that whittling my pencils might be better……….

  • Jac says:

    It wasn’t just school! When I started work in the late 1960’s my boss had to have 12 sharpened pencils on his desk morning and lunchtime – my version worked overtime!

  • John Salisbury says:

    And we all walked around with short stubby pencils which, in my memory, pierced holes in the pocket and had to be fumbled for in the lining.

  • Sean Keogh says:

    My teachers’ sharpeners we just like that, but I seem to recall they were a light metallic green.

  • Terry Baker says:

    Fantastic. The one we had at school sat on the teachers desk… most were afraid to use it.

  • Linda says:

    Anyone remember the ones with two holes in, for doing large colouring pencils as well. (Apart from the comment in Adam Kay’s book, which always makes me giggle!) Of course, EVERYBODY used to put their ordinary pencil in the large hole, to see what would happen. You just got a smaller point usually, but at least you could then waste time getting it sorted again.
    It’s not relevant to this post, but as I was born in 1947, chocolate was not generally available, or off the ration, until I was about 5 years old, and the first time I tasted it, I didn’t like this “horrible sweet stuff”! My tastes have changed a bit since then, but I still prefer dark chocolate. And yes, I ramble off the subject as well!

  • Fred says:

    used to have an electric one, and even I could use it!

  • JON says:

    Could the pencil be as sharp as a woman’s tongue can be ๐Ÿ™‚ ???
    I am sure in parts of the USA they wouldn’t understand our incredulity at this advert…

  • Rob says:

    I remember using one of these sharpeners with a pencil that I had dropped on the floor. Every time it appeared to be sharpened the lead fell out of the pencil when I removed it from the sharpener. Eventually my teacher, Mrs Willy (honest), took a ruler to the back of my hands because she thought I was doing it on purpose. Happy days, just as well it was a nice summer in 1976!

  • Grumpy Dave. says:

    At primary school if you were one of the chosen few you got the job of pencil monitor. ( I never got the job) Peel Park school Accrington late 50s.

  • Anne says:

    I still have my Grandmaโ€™s two tone brown one. Canโ€™t see any way to upload an image though to see if itโ€™s the same one you mentioned.

  • Robert Sanders says:

    A joke from the amazing Ken Dodd – “The man who invented cats’ eyes got the idea when he saw the eyes of a cat in his headlights. If the cat had been going the other way, he would have invented the pencil sharpener.” think about it…โ€ฆ!

  • Russell Potter says:

    I have been going through stuff that I should have gone through years ago. Along with vinyl records (I now need a record player). I have come across loads of pencil sharpeners. Admittedly not like the posh teachers one. But I clearly haven’t used a pencil in forty or more years. My question is why did I ever think I would need them again. But amazing how items like this brings back memories.

  • Lindy says:

    I remember these too! Black in colour and screwed to the edge of the teachers desk. Got a battery operated one at home which is useless! Love your nostalgic posts Michael

  • Mim Elliot says:

    Wow I must share that. Certainly live up to name

  • Janna says:

    Oh wow, I’m so glad they provided for us poor women so we didn’t have to use that scary sandpaper or a knife (can you imagine sharpening a pencil with sandpaper?)

    I loved the teachers pencil sharpener, they really were iconic. I remember at some point the change from the wind it yourself one to an electric just stick the pencil in version, proper exciting

  • Kirsty says:

    Sharpening pencils was a punishment in my school. Standing next to the teachers desk was almost as bad as sitting in the corner with your back to the class! Those were the days!!!

  • Nat says:

    You might enjoy this book – it’s a really good read (and very funny).

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