How to Fix a Pencil Sharpener

Written by greg brian
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How to Fix a Pencil Sharpener
Pencil sharpeners are relatively simple to fix when they break down. (pencil sharpener image by jovica antoski from

A pencil sharpener is a low-tech work desk invention we sometimes take for granted will work correctly every time. But, like every other product, pencil sharpeners also wear out after a while. The biggest problems with pencil sharpeners are either pencil shavings jamming up the internal body of the sharpener, the blade going dull or the motor simply giving out in an electric pencil sharpener. Most of these are fairly simple fixes.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Phillips screwdriver
  • Safety goggles
  • Canned air cleaner
  • File sharpener
  • Oil lubricant
  • Multimeter
  • Continuity tester

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    Disassembling an Electric Pencil Sharpener

  1. 1

    Unplug your electric pencil sharpener from the wall outlet first and foremost. Never open up an electric pencil sharpener and work with its internal parts while the machine is plugged in.

  2. 2

    Turn the electric pencil sharpener upside-down to find the screws that must be removed to open the base. You may also have to remove screws on top of the pencil sharpener to get inside. Remove the screws and place them in a safe place, since you'll likely have at least half a dozen or more.

  3. 3

    Remove the cover and base of the pencil sharpener and set them aside so you can get a good look inside the machine. Clean out all pencil shavings in the shavings tray before doing anything else.

    Cleaning Out Debris

  1. 1

    Look around the motor and blades of your pencil sharpener. Check to see if you have wooden fragments from pencils that can sometimes get stuck there.

  2. 2

    Find or buy a can of canned air at your local hardware store. Canned air dusters blow away debris inside crevices of mechanical devices that are impossible to clean any other way.

  3. 3

    Put on a pair of safety goggles and spray canned air around the sharpener's blade and motor until all debris is cleaned out. Clean up the debris around your work table, since it could be messy.

    Sharpening and Lubricating

  1. 1

    Test the sharpness of the internal blade on your sharpener. If it doesn't feel sharp, your problem is a dull blade..

  2. 2

    Find a small file and use it to sharpen your blade. It could take at least half an hour to file the blade to its original level of sharpness. If it's too much work for you, consider buying a new electric pencil sharpener.

  3. 3

    Lubricate the motor of your sharpener with little dabs of oil. This should be done anyway once a year.

    Checking the Motor and Cord

  1. 1

    Buy a multimeter at your local hardware store. Multimeters are devices that help you determine if an electrical device's motor or cord is worn out by attaching test leads to the motor or cord. This is done by checking for alternating current, or if the sharpener is getting proper voltage to operate.

  2. 2

    Check again to make sure the sharpener is unplugged from the wall. Plug in your test leads to the multimeter. Read the manual that comes with your multimeter on how to attach the other end of your test leads to the motor or plug, since multimeters vary in design. Generally, you just clip them on like alligator clips.

  3. 3

    Look at the readout on your multimeter. If you see 120 volts for your electrical cord, the sharpener's cord is OK. The same goes for the motor. If it's anything lower, you may need to discard the sharpener or take it in to an electrical repair store for professional repair.

  4. 4

    Go to your electrical supply store and buy a continuity tester. These devices can help you determine if the plug itself on your pencil sharpener has gone bad. Make sure the plug is out of the wall, but turn the sharpener's switch to the ON position. Plug in the end alligator clip to one prong on your plug. Touch the end of the tester to the other prong. If the continuity tester light comes on, you know the plug is OK.

Tips and warnings

  • Fix a non-electrical pencil sharpener by using a Phillips screwdriver or pry tool to take off the turn handle and clean out any debris in the internal parts. This is relatively easy to do, but be sure to clean out the pencil shavings first, as with the electric sharpener. Merely snap the turn handle back into place or replace the screws after cleaning out the sharpener.

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