Getting to the Point: Pros and Cons of the Høvel Pencil Sharpener
It’s the continual problem for artists, writers, and standardized test takers alike: dull pencils. It’s that cringe-worthy crunch cutting you off mid-paragraph. It’s the near uselessness of an unsharpened pencil.
You get the point. (or lack thereof)
Luckily, there have been some pretty smart people who have come up with a handy solution to all of this.
Throughout history pencil sharpeners have come in many forms, ranging from prized ivory pocket knives to today’s 99¢ purple plastic blades or fancy electric pencil sharpeners. Not all pencil sharpeners are created equal. Way back in 1847, a man named Thierry des Estivaux created the first handheld prism sharpener, resembling a type of sharpener commonly used today.
Throughout the decades, people have continually discovered ways to improve this simple tool, making it more efficient or more cost-effective. With the turn of the 21st century, however, some of the best pencil sharpener companies have begun prioritizing a different aspect: the sharpening experience.
The BNP team reached out to the company Maker’s Cabinet, specializing in high-end drawing tools, to see if we could test out one of their products. They sent a cute little package. We set out to create an unsponsored review.
Here’s what we found.
The Høvel Pencil Plane
The Høvel Pencil Plane (pronounced huh·vl) is a unique, handheld pencil sharpening tool crafted from 100% brass. A steel blade is attached with a thumb screw to adjust the desired blade length. Rather than a prism shape, the Høvel is a flat plane (hence the name) that the pencil slides upon, similar to a woodworking plane used to smooth out a piece of lumber. It has varying results based on pencil type, and comes with a hefty price tag.
So, is it worth it?
You’ll have to decide that for yourself.
Pro 1: Design
One of the very first (if not the first) things that you’ve probably noticed about the Høvel is its sleek, thoughtful design. Even from a distance the sharpener draws interest. It has an adjustable thumb screw that offsets its overall symmetry with perfect balance. The top and bottom notches offer a comfortable handheld grip. Lastly, the brass exterior completes the overall look with a golden shine.
The sharpener comes in a small box that slides open, revealing the further well-designed elements hidden inside. As an added bonus, the packaging is made of fully recyclable materials, too. (Although we don’t know why anybody would want to get rid of it!) The miniature blades package comes as a cardboard cylinder containing 10 steel blades. Even the instructions manual has an intentional and minimalistic design.
For additional aesthetics, a dark Wooden Base can be purchased separately to display the Høvel nicely on a desk. It also doubles as a stand to sharpen pencils without lifting the sharpener, or a chamber to catch pencil shavings.
Long story short: Høvel’s design and packaging are pretty top-notch.
Con 1: Cost
With Høvel’s intentional design comes an intentional price point. As mentioned, the Høvel is found on the pricer side, retailing for $70 USD. With added accessories, such as the Wooden Base, the total cost may come closer to $85 (not including tax).
This is one of the first drawbacks people may have in response to the Høvel. It was not designed to be used as a replacement for disposable plastic sharpeners.
Pro 2: Functionality
One of the most important aspects to consider when evaluating pencil sharpeners is to see if they actually serve their purpose. Although there are many additional aspects to consider, the main one is: “Are pencils being sharpened?”
Short answer? Yes.
Because of Høvel’s intentional design, it doesn’t fail to deliver in the pencil sharpening department. One of the added bonuses with the plane sharpener model is the achievable length of the sharpened pencils. Based on your sharpening techniques and goals, you can create drastically different lengths of sharpened points.
Perhaps you want a short, sturdy pencil point. Check. Or maybe you want your entire pencil to be a one long sharpened point. The Høvel’s got that covered, too. Take a look at a couple different lengths achieved while testing out the sharpener’s capabilities on the Thor 422 No.3 by National Pencil Co.:
Another aspect to mention is that regardless of the size of your pencil, the Høvel’s plane has the capability to turn it into a writing or drawing machine. Because of the steel blades, the sharpener can also achieve extremely sharp points with a little practice and technique.
We couldn’t forget to test it out on colored pencils. Because of its intentional design, the plane does not break soft colored lead, unlike harsh mechanical sharpeners. Although the Høvel does create fine powder while sharpening, this can be easily wiped off to achieve its original golden shine. Check out this double-sided Vermilion / Prussian Blue 772 from Mitsubishi Pencil Co. (And stay on the sharp lookout for some stickers in the near future!)
Overall, you could say the Høvel goes above and beyond.
Con 2: Varying Results
With all of these things in mind, there is one critical disclaimer that needs to be mentioned: results may vary by pencil hardness.
While testing out the product on different types of pencils, we also considered some very soft and very hard lead pencils. The sharpener was able to achieve a sharp point on pencils as hard as 3H, but failed to even make a dent in the lead of a 4H pencil. Check out the difference between a vintage Venus 3H and Venus 4H pictured below.
You can see we were able to achieve a somewhat rounded tip with the Van Dyke 9H , but it took a lot of extra effort to get beyond the blunt end.
Perhaps with more brute strength, sharper blades, or a different sharpening technique, the Høvel would be able to conquer 4H pencils and beyond. Maybe the age of the pencils plays an important factor too. But one thing is for certain: the harder the pencil, the harder to sharpen. Beyond 3H lead, it was no longer a smooth and easy process.
Pro 3: Durability
One of the main points advertised for the Høvel Plane is that it is “designed to last a lifetime.”
Because it is made of brass, a very durable metal, it will not rust or break. That’s a very important factor to remember when considering high quality pencil sharpeners. Brass is also stronger and more durable than softer metals, such as copper.
One thing to note about its brass exterior is that it becomes scratched with use, and finger oils contribute to tarnishing with age. Some people prefer this “vintage” or “worn-in” look. However, if you’re not a fan, the original bronze finish can easily be restored with a quick cleaning. Maker’s Cabinet (Høvel’s manufacturer) recommends using a brass cleaner such as Brasso, and provides simple instructions to achieve that original, polished finish.
Another important factor to consider is the use of blades in the pencil sharpener. Unlike other sharpeners, such as the M+R Pollux Sharpener or the Dux Adjustable Brass Sharpener (which both require a screwdriver to slowly remove the blades), Høvel is designed to quickly and easily replace blades with its adjustable thumb screw to always maintain a sharp pencil point.
Con 3: Assembly and Technique
When first learning the assembly for the Høvel it can be somewhat difficult to ensure that the blade is properly inserted. If assembled incorrectly, the sharpener may not sharpen pencils at all.
Another potential setback is the overall technique required to achieve a clean and even sharpen. Unlike mechanical pencil sharpeners, which evenly distribute the blade by spinning the pencil, the Høvel must be evenly spun by hand. This process may take several attempts to master.
Some people may also not enjoy the process of having to clean the sharpener, or replace the blades. These various assembly and maintenance practices are not the most convenient.
This pencil sharpener definitely requires patience to deliver good results.
The last point has been briefly touched upon already, and doubles as either a pro or a con, depending on how you look at it. With all of the assembly, maintenance, and sharpening, the Høvel is not a sharpener designed for speed.
Many people appreciate this mindful approach to sharpening their writing or drawing tools. It offers them a moment of contemplation—a chance to step back. The sharpening process can be seen as therapeutic or calming. Creating the perfect point for sketching is an art of its own.
On the other hand, those seeking a fast solution to a broken pencil point will not find it with the Høvel Plane. If speed is the name of your game, Høvel is bound to disappoint. It all depends on your pencil sharpener needs.
We thoroughly enjoyed reviewing the Høvel Plane. Designed with intentionality, mindfulness is carried throughout the entire sharpening process. Quoting the company, “Høvel is an entirely reimagined pencil sharpener.”
If you’re willing to spend the cash, the Høvel delivers in nearly every aspect. And with a little patience, the experience can be truly rewarding.