How to Sharpen Charcoal Pencils: The Most Effective Method

How to Sharpen Charcoal Pencils

If you are an artist and have been drawing for a while, you might have realized that there are specific rules you must follow to sharpen your pencil.

Some pencils are sharpened to be very long and pointed. And there is a reason for that; those pencils are super helpful when you want to achieve paintbrush-like results with a pencil.

There are other types of sharpness that you can achieve, and you might find them to be quite helpful in different scenarios.

But how can you learn how to sharpen a charcoal pencils? To help you out, we’ll go through a couple of methods to sharpen your charcoal pencils like a professional.

Methods to Sharpening Charcoal Pencils

Just like stated earlier, to step up your drawing game, there are certain tricks and rules that you can use in your favor.

One of them being sharpening your charcoal pencils to achieve a wide variety of results. So, here are the main methods to sharpen your pencils concisely.

Things You’ll Need

Although the process is pretty straightforward, there are only four things you will need throughout the rest of the tutorial. These are the things most people have on hand, so don’t worry too much about it.

  • A cutter to cut the wood
  • Safety glasses to prevent the wood from getting into your eyes
  • Sandpaper to sharpen
  • A rag to clean the pencil

Once you’ve gathered these items, then you can begin:

1. Use a Cutter

You might find this method to be somewhat unique, to say the least. But as weird as it sounds, using a cutter to sharpen your charcoal pencils is a great way to hone your pencil.

But before you do anything with it, you must be really careful here. When using the cutter, make sure to point the blade away from you. And never pull the cutter to your fingers.

2. Protect Yourself

Even though this might seem like an easy task, you still have to be careful. You must wear glasses to protect your eyes from wood.

When you begin cutting the wood using the cutter, there is a slight chance that some wood could get in your eye. So, to prevent that from happening, wear your safety glasses before you do anything.

3. Hold the Pencil

Now that you have your blade, you must hold the pencil firmly. Place your left thumb on top of the right thumb.

The reason you must place your left thumb on top of the other is so you don’t end up cutting yourself. Even a single mistake could easily hurt your fingers. So be careful!

4. Cut the Wood Away

As you’re holding the pen, use the hand you’re holding the blade and begin to cut the wood away.

Rotate the pencil as you are cutting the wood. What we want to achieve from doing this is to expose the pencil.

When doing so, make sure you are not adding too much pressure as this could easily break your pencil. Always make sure to gently cut the wood.

Keep doing this until you expose at least 1 inch of your pencil.

5. Sand the Pencil

And now to make your pencil even better, we will be using sandpaper to sharpen the lead even more.

You simply need sandpaper. Rub the pencil against the sandpaper back and forth. You must also rotate the pencil as you sand it. Otherwise, the lead will become flat, and all your progress so far will go to waste.

Keep doing this until you get rid of the edge towards the tip of the pencil. Don’t forget that this is not a race, so take as much time as needed.

6. Clean the Pencil

After you finish sanding the pencil, you will notice that there are a lot of residues all over it. To get rid of all that dust, grab a rag, and cover the pencil.

From there, gently go from the bottom to the very top of the pencil using the rag. Doing so will permanently clean the pencil.

Safety Tips That You Should Take Care When Sharpen a Pencil

It’s easy to forget to keep yourself safe when doing something. You get lost in the moment, and you might not even realize how dangerous it can be to sharpen a charcoal pencil.

So, to help you sharpen a pen safely, here are some tips:


Do not apply too much pressure as you could break the pen. And if you apply too much strength, the knife could end up hitting your fingers.


Keep your fingers away from the knife when sharpening the pencil. Holding your fingers too close to the knife could lead to severe injuries. So, be careful.


Do not try to speed up this process as you could hurt yourself. As you do it more often, you will eventually find yourself having an easier time doing this, so you can do it faster. In the meantime, take your time.

Frequently Asked Questions

Down below, you can find some of the most common questions regarding charcoal pencils. These are questions that were not covered throughout the article above.

Can you sharpen charcoal pencils with a regular sharpener?

Yes, you can use a regular sharpener. Although there are several ways to sharpen your pencils and while they are useful, using a regular sharpener gets the job done too.

How do you sharpen a pencil correctly?

The best way to sharpen a pencil perfectly is to use a sharpener. You just have to hold the pencil firmly and slowly put it in the hole. After that, you want to slowly rotate the pencil as it hits the blades of your sharpener.

Why does my pencil break when I sharpen it?

There are various reasons as to why your pencil breaks. One of them could be pencil quality. But in most cases, try not to apply so much pressure when sharpening it. Doing so will prevent the pencil from breaking.

Why do artists sharpen pencils?

One of the most significant advantages artists get from sharpening their pencils is how versatile they become. Some of them simply sharpen them because they want different results in their drawings.

How do you sharpen a pencil without a sharpener?

If you don’t have a sharpener, you can use a cutter. While this is not the safest method out there, it is good enough to get the job done.

You simply have to use the blade and cut the wood away. But you must be careful when doing so.

Final Words

As you can tell by now, learning how to sharpen charcoal pencils using a cutter is quite simple. As long as you follow step-by-step and take the necessary measures to prevent any possible damage, you should be fine.

While it is true that you can just use a sharpener, sometimes you might need a little bit more than what a sharpener can offer.

This is why, as an artist, it is crucial to be able to sharpen your pen using a cutter.