Who invented the pencil sharpener?

Of course the very first pencil sharpeners were knives and blades, but the first patent for a tool especially for sharpening pencils was made by Bernard Lassimone, a French mathematician, in 1828. It looked something like this:

This isn't Lassimone's sharpener but it is similar.
This isn’t Lassimone’s sharpener but it is similar.

However the first mechanical pencil sharpener was invented by Therry des Estwaux, also from France in 1847. It looked something like this:

The Marion pencil sharpener
The Marion pencil sharpener

Now there are sharpeners with revolving handles, and even battery operated electric sharpeners, but I like the simple wooden ones like this:

Simple is best
Simple is best

38 thoughts on “Who invented the pencil sharpener?”

  1. Ah me !
    In the intervening 7 years since i last worte on this site, I have made many new research discoveries, and find much of what I sais before is incorrect !
    VERY SORRY but that is the result of serious research.
    I have written a book on the subject. 22,000 words and 60 pages long.
    I haven’t had it published yet, but am investigating where to go for this.
    It is a very serious and in-depth analysis of the subject.
    If any one would like to hear more about my efforts to get it published, they are welcome to email me on:

    CSBoucher, a frenchman, invented and patented and we think manufactured the first device for pointing pencils in 1821.
    BLassimone, a frenchman, invented and patented and manufactured the next such device in 1828.
    Messrs Cooper and Eckstein, both Englishmen, invented and patented the next such device in 1833.
    Constance Thierry des Estivaux, a frenchman, invented and patented the first hand twist pencil sharpener in 1847.
    Theodore Waree, a frenchman, invented and patented and manufactured the first block pencil sharpener in 1851.
    WKFoster, and american, invented and patented and manufactured the first disposeable pencil sharpener in 1955.
    Messrs Canier (1853) and Evras (1855), both frenchmen, patented simplified designs.
    Eduard Thiel, a bavarian, patented and manufactured a simplified version in 1857.
    Apres-la, le deluge commencait !!!
    All these are discussed and illustrated in great depth in my book.

    Best wishes to all afficionados


    1. Ah me !
      It is a few years since I last looked on this site, and in the intervening time I have done much research and found many false facts I declared in my posts.
      SORRY but that is the consequence of research !

      CSBoucher 1821, a frenchman, invented and patented the first device for pointing pencils.
      BLassimone 1828, a frenchman, invented and panted and manufactured the next such device.
      Messrs Cooper and Eckstein 1833, both englishmen, invented and patented and manufactured the next such device.
      Mr Thierry des Estivaux 1847, a frenchman, invented and patented the first device for sharpening pencils.
      Theodore Waree 1851, a frenchman, invented and patented and manufactured the first block pencil sharpener.
      Messrs Canier 1851 & Evras 1855, both frenchman, invented and patented simplified versions.
      Eduard Thiel 1857, a bavarian, manufactured the first simplified version of the block pencil sharpener.
      Apres-la, le deluge !

      I have written a very detailed analytical paper on the subject.
      Anyone interested in it is welcome to contact me:

      Best wishes to you all.


    1. Jessica you could include mention that John Lee Love also invented the first collapsible plaster float. It was essentially a flat board about 12″x12″ with a handle on the back, and was used to apply plaster to walls and ceilings. Its interest lay in the fact the flat board was held flat by a folding metal frame, so that the jobbing plasterer could fold it up neatly (rather how you fold up an umbrella) before and after a day’s work and put it in his bag with his lunch and water bottle (I have guessed this last bit !).


  2. I have recently obtained another interesting old pencil sharpener, date about 1860-76. It is a small wooden plane with a steel blade, held by a simple wood screw. Maker is Perry & Co, London. This was a pencil-manufacturing company, and can be read about on Wiki.


    1. Good information, thanks Jake, more evidence that John Lee Love was not the first inventor of the pencil sharpener (though he certainly made a very significant improvement).


    2. Contempoary advertisements, and a change of name from (I think) Perry to Perry & co show the date of this device to be closer to 1876 onwards.
      The blade has a pretty engraving of a mermaid on it.


  3. my son is writing a report for school he is doing this on pensil sharpeners who was the 1st to invent one. as we no Bernard Lassimone was but we are haveing problems finding out the date he was born could anyone let him no when Bernard Lassimone was born. THANK YOU


  4. LATE NEWS ! An important addition to my ‘post’ of 31 July 2010.
    I have recently obtained what I think must be the FIRST wedge-shaped pencil sharpener & the prototype of ALL such hand-held sharpeners we use nowadays. It is brass, has a chunky solid ground blade, more like a chisel than a typical thin blade. It is marked Apex Pencil Co London, and has a registered design number for the year 1906. The blade is secured to the brass block by two screws. I believe this ranks in importance immediately second to Des Estwaux’s sharpener, and is effectively the LAST really original design of the hand-twist sharpener. Its other distinguishing property is that it was designed presumably by an English person.


  5. Hi lojol; sorry for such a late reply !
    My interest in pencil sharpeners is not professional, but it is academic and VERY focussed; I am interested exclusively in making an analysis of the technical design features, distinguishing between functional and aesthetic, of the small hand-held brass twist-action pencil sharpener. I look also at a very few auluminium and plastic sharpeners too. To begin my analysis I consider the components of a sharpener: the concrete essentials are the block (generally brick or wedge-shaped), the blade and the screw; the abstract parts comprise the hole, the bridge, the slit, the cut-out, the grip, and the margins. The most impressive P-S device ever in my view is that invented by the frenchman Therry des Estwaux in 1847; it was registered for patent protection in Britain in 1851, and that model can be seen on the website http://www.officemuseum.com by clicking on “small pencil sharpeners”. I have an earlier version marked “WAREE A PARIS BREVETE SGDG” that I like to believe is the first model produced in France for the inventor. The features in it make it unquestionably the prototype of all subsequently produced hand-held (and desk-fixed) sharpeners in the 163 years since its invention. It was incidentally not designed for holding by hand during use, nor to go into one’s pocket afterwards ! JD Love certainly did invent an interesteing P-S, but it was not the first by nearly 60 years !
    My greatest problem is finding any information at all about the markings on my device, or about its inventor.


    1. I am fascinated by your historical and in-depth interest in pencil sharpeners. I am an art teacher in a jail and I need a photo (if one exists) of a hand held pencil sharpener improved upon/invented by African American John lee Love. I am hoping one of my students can make a mock-up or detailed drawing. Matt Jones


      1. A very good question Matt. I must confess I have never seen a photo of an original Love Sharpener. You can see John Lee Love’s original plans, but I guess you have already googled this. My best answer is that I believe JL Love was an inventor, not a manufacturer, so he drew up the original idea and let others get on with the production; therefore there is no one single Love Sharpener, they all are.


  6. Who invented the pencil sharpener ? Okay, here goes:
    French patents were taken out by Lassimone (1828), Mayet (1842), des Estwaux (1847), Pecaut (1852) and Rottger (1866). An English patent was taken out by Cooper & Eckstein (1837). Cooper & Eckstein’s idea was for a “pencil pointer”, basically to file down but not to pare down the lead and wooden parts of an already-sharpened but blunt pencil; its design was two narrow steel files set edge to edge at right-angles to end other and held in a V-shaped trough in a piece of rosewood. Des Estwaux’s idea was for a device clearly identifiable as the prototype of all subsequent small hand-held pocket “twist” pencil sharpeners, although it wasn’t designed to be held in the hand or kept in the pocket; it was also the prototype generally of hand-turned desk-mounted sharpeners. The best description I have read is that it was “a remarkable diminutive tool”. Both Cooper & Eckstein and des Estwaux s’ inventions were produced and marketed; I know nothing about the designs of the other patents I mention, nor whether they were ever produced.

    Conclusion? I reckon des Estwaux invented the first pencil sharpener as we know it; Lassimone had the first idea of a tool to sharpen an existing point on a pencil; and that we clearly owe the invention of the first devices to give our pencils decent points to the french.


    1. As mentioned in reply to a previous comment, John Lee Love’s pencil sharpener was patented in 1897, far after the first pencil sharpeners. However his was the first compact, portable variety with a receptacle to catch the shavings, so undoubtedly his ideas were a major advancement, but not an invention.


    1. Thanks for your comment stop lying, though Love’s patent was in 1897, whereas Lassimone’s patent was in 1828, and there were many other patents between these dates.


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