Use the Sandpaper Sharpening method for your soft-lead drawing pencils .

The sandpaper sharpening method is used by many artists for putting a point on their soft-lead pencils.

Using a standard, hand-held sharpener, is just not well suited for charcoal, carbon, or soft graphite lead pencils; and electric pencil sharpeners can be a little too "aggressive".

Sandpaper Grit

"Grit" refers to the abrasiveness of the sandpaper, or how rough it is.

On the back of the sandpaper you will find a number that will tell you what the grit of the sandpaper is.

Don't worry about what the number means except that the higher the number, the finer the sandpaper.

40-grit will be a very abrasive sandpaper, while a 150-grit will be a finer paper. There is even a 3000 grit sandpaper.

I recommend that you start with a medium grit (100), and go up from there.

If you use a course sandpaper (40-60) it will take off to much lead at once, while using fine sandpaper will not take off enough, and tends to get clogged with the lead material quickly.

You should experiment with different grits to find the grit that suits your needs.

Sandpaper Types

There are four ways that most sandpaper comes in...

  • sheets
  • disks
  • belts
  • rolls

It doesn't matter really what shape it comes in, they all do the same thing. Just cut it to the size you want and tape it down with some masking tape.

Some come with an adhesive already on the back, although you may not want that type as it might be hard to remove from the surface that you've stuck it to.

The Sandpaper Sharpening Technique

It may seem silly to you that I would even bother giving a tutorial on sandpaper sharpening; I mean how hard could it be?

I thought the same thing at first. Then I decided that there are going to be many who would rather not try it without some idea as to what the technique is, for fear of ruining a pencil or two.

First of course, you'll need to purchase some sandpaper.

If you can find it, buy a packet that contains a variety of grits. This will let you try-out the different grits to find the ones that are most useful to you.

Get it home and cut-out a piece to the size you think will work for you, and tape it down somewhere close-at-hand. I suggest you make sure the grit number is on the back of the piece you just cut-out. If it's missing then just print it on the back with a pen or marker.

You could use a traditional sharpener or knife to get the point started. Then take the pencil's lead and place it on it's side onto the sandpaper.

Move the pencil from side to side against the paper while turning the pencil between your fingers, sort of sculpting the point.

You'll have to practice to get just the right amount of pressure needed to sharpen the lead without it breaking.

It won't take much to keep the point on the lead after this first sharpening.

Sandpaper sharpening is perfect for those hard-to-sharpen soft lead pencils that tend to break when traditional sharpeners are used.

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