‘Get Your War On’ Creator David Rees on Artisanal Pencil Sharpening

Put a point on it?

shavings frame Get Your War On Creator David Rees on Artisanal Pencil Sharpening

David Rees with artisanal pencil shavings (ArtisanalPencilSharpening.com)

See? What were we just saying about Brooklyn not needing a local Portlandia parody to call their own? Portlandia‘s twee mockery already encompasses things like shops devoted entirely to rope knots, flighty jewelry designers, and boutiques with just two items in them.

So when we heard that political cartoonist David Rees would be at Pete’s Candy Store in Brooklyn on February 13th offering tutorials on “artisanal pencil sharpening,” we thought it was a brilliant piece of social satire from the Get Your War On creator.

But Mr. Rees is quite serious. In fact, this stop is just a test-run for his pencil-sharpening tour to promote his new book…about sharpening pencils.

“I had a job working at the U.S. Census a couple years ago,” Mr. Rees told the New York Observer over the phone. “And the first day of training they had us sharpen pencils using this little pocket sharpener. It was really satisfying, and I thought to myself ‘You’ve got to figure out a way to get paid to sharpen pencils.”

And he has. “I’ve sharpened over 400 pencils for people. We made a website first, and for those early customers, it was just an act of faith,” said the cartoonist, who creates all his cartoons digitally and whose work has been featured in Rolling Stone and The Nation (not to mention a short-lived web series on the now-defunct political comedy site, 236.com). “They didn’t have my reputation yet as a pencil sharpener.”

Mr. Rees doesn’t charge for the tutorials, but if you want to have your #2 shaved by a master, it will cost you $15. And this isn’t his first foray into live events.

“Last January, I was booked for two weeks on a Caribbean cruise, as the on-board pencil sharpener for Jonathan Coulton, the singer-songwriter.”

“So do you whittle by hand?”

“Actually, I have different methods. I have a book coming out in April, called How to Sharpen Pencils, and it’s 18 chapters of pencil sharpening techniques.”

“I cover all the basic pencil sharpening techniques,” Mr. Rees said. “Pocketknife, single-blade pocket sharpener; multiple-stage pocket sharpener; single-burr hand-cranked sharpener; double-burr hand cranked sharpener; sharpening pencils for children; how to use an electric sharpener. It’s the definitive pencil point text.”

How to Sharpen Pencils will celebrate its official release on April 11th at the Union Square Barnes & Noble, where he’ll be demonstrating his skills with Amy Sedaris.

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