How to Sharpen Charcoal Pencil

How to Sharpen Charcoal Pencil: Complete Guideline

Those who are into drawing sketches and paintings, will know that sharping a perfect charcoal pencil is not an easy deal for anyone.

It depends on several facts including the type of pencil, necessary length of the charcoal, sharpness of the tip, and the angle of cutting.

Sharpening them needs extra cautiousness because it might affect your drawings negatively if not done properly.

If you know how to sharpen charcoal pencils, things will get much easier as you will feel more comfortable using the pencil and have lesser possibility of breaking the tips frequently.

So here we are, providing you with everything you need to know about sharping charcoal pencils.

What Is a Charcoal Pencil?

What Is a Charcoal Pencil?

You will see artists using different types of pencils according to their needs. Charcoal pencils are widely used for sketching, and are most popular for giving a matte finish to every stroke.

These pencils are made of ground charcoal which is compressed by binders like wax or gum in such a way that oxygen gets eliminated from the mixture.

Generally, charcoal produces dust which is not seen in these pencils because of the compression. The main reason that people use charcoal pencils over other ones is that their texture is not metallic but rich black and matte.

Equipment Needed for Sharpening Charcoal Pencils

As you will find various types of charcoal pencils in the market, the cutting procedure and equipment can also differ in such cases. Like a wood-coated pencil will need a sharper knife compared to a paper-wrapped pencil.

There is some basic equipment that you will need for sharpening every type of charcoal pencil. Here is a list of the common equipment so that things become a bit easier for you.

1. Box Cutter

Box Cutter

Blade of a box cutter is a perfect tool for sharpening charcoal pencil because they are sharp, long, and mostly retractable.

The outer body of a box cutter has a nice grip so that you have less possibility of slipping the blade from your hand. As the blade can be disposed off from the front-end, remember not to extend it too much further.

2. Foldable Knife

As a charcoal pencil sharpener, foldable knives are not too sharp, but they provide a wide cutting surface which makes them easier to use.

You can hold them pretty easily because of the handle grip. These knives are durable and sturdy enough for long-term uses.

3. Utility Knife

These knives are sturdy and way too sharper than foldable knives. But the blades are shorter than most of the knives, and they need frequent replacement after a short period.

4. Precision Knife

Precision Knife

When charcoal pencils are sharpened with a knife and need accuracy and precision on the tips, nothing is better than precision knives as they cut the pencils exactly the way you want.

These knives are extremely sharp and difficult to control while cutting because you can’t get a good grip on the handle.

5. Sandpaper


For sanding the tips of charcoal pencils, you can use sandpaper or sanding blocks according to your preferences.

In the case of using sandpaper, 220 grip is a cheaper option as well as user-friendly than the sanding blocks.

How to Sharpen Charcoal Pencil?

Following some easy procedures will surely help you to sharpen your pencil effectively.

Step 1 – Deciding the Cutting Point

First things first, decide the point which you want to cut the wood around the charcoal. It depends on how you feel comfortable holding your pencil.

Step 2 – Cutting the Wood

Remove the wood around the charcoal by cutting it with a box cutter. Try to cut the wood evenly by rotating the pencil with your hand.

It is better to open up the charcoal from ½ inch to 1 inch. Otherwise, there is a possibility of breaking the exposed charcoal.

Step 3 – Sharpening with a Knife

If you want to sharpen pencil with knife, using a utility knife or a precision knife would be a good option because they help cut the wood according to your desired accuracy.

Hold the pencil with an angle, and cut with the knife with another hand.

Step 4 – Using Sandpaper or Sand Blocks

To sharpen the tip, you can use a sand block or sandpaper according to your preference.

While using a sand block, hold the charcoal against the block at a small angle. It will enable you to have a small and sharp tip on the front end of the charcoal. Do not apply too much pressure while sanding.

Step 5 – Giving the Tip a Good Finish

While you sharpen the tip of a charcoal pencil, do not rush, and rotate the charcoal on the sand block gently. Rotating will enable you to get an even sharpness around the tip.

Now clear the working surface and remove the dust off. The charcoal pencil is finally ready for your next drawing.

Tips for Getting Perfect Sharpened Charcoal Pencil

Tips for Getting Perfect Sharpened Charcoal Pencil

Here are some tips and tricks for sharpening a charcoal pencil that might work as a cherry on top of your whole procedure.

  • Maintain a smooth rotation while sanding the charcoal for a sharp and evenly sanded tip.
  • While removing the wood, keep your thumb on the opposite point of the knife edge.
  • Do not apply too much pressure while sharpening and sanding. It might break the charcoal immediately.
  • Rotate the pencil evenly while removing the wood.
  • If you use a retractable blade in any knife or cutter, extend the blade to a small length.

Essential Safety Measures

After learning the procedures of sharpening charcoal pencil, taking some precautions could be your savior for maintaining safety while you sharpen the charcoal with sharp knives and blades.

  • Use safety glasses as the charcoal dust or wood flakes can fly to your eyes accidentally.
  • Keep your thumbs away from the sharp edge of the knife. You might use hand gloves if it sounds preferable.
  • After you are done with the sharpening process, close the knife and keep it away for preventing any accident.
  • Always cut the wood in the opposite direction of your hand holding the pencil.
  • Try to avoid using precision knives as they are sharper than most other knives, and difficult to control while cutting.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Can you use a regular sharpener to sharpen a charcoal pencil?

A regular pencil sharpener might break the charcoal while sharpening. It is better to use knives and blades to sharpen charcoal pencils.

2. Does it become messy while sharpening charcoal pencils?

As charcoal pencils are made with ground charcoal bound with wax, the charcoal dust can make the place messy while sharpening these pencils.

3. Should you wear a mask while sharpening charcoal pencils?

If you have a dust and particle allergy, it is better to use a mask. Otherwise, you may go with or without a mask as per your preference.

Final Words

You might use different methods to sharpen these pencils, but the most used ones are stated above for convenient uses.

Now that you have learned how to sharpen a charcoal pencil, I hope you would follow these steps, and make the best use of them when necessary.

Stay safe and take essential safety measures while sharpening your charcoal pencils. Hope this article helps!