In Praise of the Basic Pencil Sharpener

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By Susan Dromey Heeter, Joyful Musings

This week I muse joyfully on the dependable, the reliable, the constants of life.

That of which I speak include The New York, my dog Luc and pencil sharpeners located at the top of the basement stairs.

And today’s Joyful Musings speaks to the simplicity and reliability of that pencil sharpener, that enormously vital part of any house that requires no batteries, no Wifi, no senate vote. It simply requires a pencil of which to sharpen.

I have one at the top of my basement stairs right now.  And I’ve had one in every house I’ve ever lived in which had a cellar.  Growing up, ours was an old heavy metal piece; I believe Boston was the brand and it probably sharpened at least ten pencils a day as there were eight people using pencils.


Is that Sir Luc with Susan Dromey Heeter?

I still love the aerobic activity of an old school pencil sharpener, those electric ones make a boat load of noise, always seem to be breaking and require an electrical outlet.  The standard pencil sharpener at the top of the stairs requires nothing, simply a twist, an occasional emptying, a good push of the crank.

Lovely, simple. And there is nothing that delights so much as a freshly sharpened pencil, a stellar point creates so much possibility.

And I wonder, why was the pencil sharpener relegated to the basement?  Was there shame in a pencil sharpener or were the basement stairs simply something people decided was the optimum locale for a pencil sharpener? Were those dark stairs just a little better venue for the sprinkling of the pencil shavings?

 When I asked three friends about this, all three either currently had their pencil sharpeners in the basement locale or had grandparents who used that same venue for their pencil sharpening tool.

My friend, Steph, remarked, “I remember the squeaky sound of turning the handle and the smell of wood/lead.  I mostly think of it at my grandparents’ house. My Gidi would let me climb in his desk and make sure every pencil was perfectly sharp.”

There is something soothing about the movement of sharpening a pencil, something soothing about knowing the perfect outcome of a small movement.  There is so much positive, so much hope, so much joy in a freshly sharpened pencil.

And this week, I muse joyfully on the consistency of the simplicity of a sharpened pencil, of that pencil sharpener at the top of the stairs.  May you, too, muse joyfully with your own pencil sharpener at the top of your basement stairs.

And if you’ve not got a basement nor a pencil sharpener? I muse joyfully that someday you will have one or both and then allow the possibilities of a newly sharpened pencil to begin.

Susan Dromey Heeter, a writer from Dover who recently let her hair go au natural white, debuts her new column “Joyful Musings” at Dromey Heeter is a secondary Spanish Teacher at Spaulding High School in Rochester and the mother of two teenage daughters.  Writing has been her passion since her English majoring days at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst.  Dromey Heeter has lived in The Netherlands, Alaska and currently basks in all things New England, including the frigid winters. An avid swimmer, Dromey Heeter’s great passion is to bring back body surfing as most children have no idea how to ride waves without ridiculous boogie boards. She also writes about thrift shopping and all things frugal  in a column called “Budget Vogue” for the New Hampshire Union Leader.


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