Sharpening Pastels

Q. How does one sharpen pastel pencils and sticks? In my experience, electric sharpeners chew up the wood and break the pastel. This can get expensive. I’ve also tried most of the handheld sharpeners, with even more disastrous results. Can you help?

A. The easiest solution is to use a very sharp penknife or a razor knife in a holder, plus a small sheet of fine sandpaper. First, use the blade to carve away the wood casing, being careful not to knock off the soft pastel point. (If your blade is sharp enough, you can even shape the pastel point with it.) To shape the point after carving, rub it against the sandpaper until you’re satisfied with the point.

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