Just how sharp is sharp?

Years ago when I started carving I had the hardest time getting my tools sharp enough. Everyone does, but, learning how to sharpen your tools is probably THE single most enabling skill you can, and must, acquire.  You practice and practice until one day the gouge slides through the wood like butter– the light bulb comes on and you’ve got it!.

Well, this came up again this week, but, with my drawing tools.  When you start out doing realistic pencil drawings, you work and work to get you value transitions right, to get even layers of tone, and perfect edges.  Then one day, it happens and the lightbulb comes on.

I have learned that to really lay in even tone you have to have a very sharp pencil. But, just how sharp? I have read that some say “needle” sharp. Who knows? Until this week. I bought some HB Staedler lead and put it in my clutch pencil holder.  I also bought a Staedler sharpener. I found out just how sharp it should be. After getting a very sharp (literally needle sharp, I almost punctured my finger) I started shading on the same paper I have been working on. It was amazingly effortless, like night and day. And I was sharpening with sandpaper previously.  I will never go back.

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