How To Sharpen A Pencil Without A Sharpener

If you need to sharpen a pencil and you cannot find your sharpener anywhere, don’t panic. There are some other options, although you may find that they don’t produce quite such good results. Let’s find out how to sharpen a pencil without a sharpener.

You can sharpen a pencil without a sharpener by using a rough surface such as a nail file or sandpaper. You can also use a sharp knife, some scissors, nail clippers, or even a rough wall. Some people sharpen pencils on the soles of their shoes. You can get quite creative!

Having a dull pencil is a pain when you are trying to write or draw, but you might often find that you don’t have a sharpener to hand when you need one. Don’t worry, because there are plenty of other options.

How To Sharpen A Pencil Without A Sharpener

To sharpen a pencil without a sharpener, you’re going to need at least some tools, although what these may be can vary to suit your situation.

If you find you don’t have any of the tools listed in this article, think creatively about the things you do have on hand. Any sharp edge can be used to cut back the wood, and any rough edge can be used to hone the pencil’s tip.

So, what do you need to sharpen a pencil? You can use any of the following:

  • A nail file
  • A sharp knife
  • Scissors
  • Nail clippers
  • Sandpaper
  • A rough wall
  • Your shoe sole

Any of these should work to help you get your pencil sharp again, although they probably won’t be as neat as if you use a proper sharpener. Let’s explore them in more detail.

Using A Nail File

If you have a nail file handy, this is a great way to get your pencil sharp again. You will need to be patient, especially if it’s a fine file, but you can get a neat and beautifully pointed tip using this method.

Place your nail file on a flat, stable surface such as a table, and hold it there with your non-dominant hand. With your dominant hand, take the pencil and drag the pointed end against the file, rotating it as you go.

The file will shave off the wood and the graphite, honing both of them to a point. A rough file will work best for this, but you can sharpen a dull pencil even on a fine emery board.

Using A Sharp Knife

If you’ve got a knife, sharpening a pencil becomes easy. Simply use the sharp edge to scrape away the wood and then shape the tip into a point. You should work slowly so that you don’t break the tip or cut yourself. Rotate the pencil in your hand to work on each edge of it by turn.

Try not to use a blunt knife to sharpen your pencil, as you are at risk of cutting yourself if you do this.

Using Scissors

Scissors aren’t the easiest thing to sharpen a pencil with, but they can be used if you have nothing else available. To do this, open the scissors to their widest position, and then hold the blade in your non-dominant hand.

Grip the pencil at a 45-degree angle to the scissors, and scrape the pencil down against the blade, rotating it as you work so that it gets sharpened on all sides. Don’t pull the blade toward you; you should only move the pencil, running it down the blade to shave off the wood and graphite.

Keep turning the pencil and work slowly so that you don’t cut yourself.

Using Nail Clippers

If you don’t have a file but you do have clippers, you can use them to scrape away some of the wood around the graphite. Gently chip away at it until you have exposed enough graphite, and then rub the tip of the graphite on the sharp edge of the clippers, turning it to shape it into a point.

This can be a bit compilcated, but it is a reasonably effective way to sharpen a pencil when your tools are limited.

Using Sandpaper

Sandpaper is another option, and works similarly to a nail file, although it may be slightly harder to hold. Place a piece of sandpaper on a flat surface and hold it still with your non-dominant hand. Take the pencil in your dominant hand and begin rubbing the point back and forth across the sandpaper.

This should shave off the wood and start sharpening the graphite. Make sure you rotate the pencil as you work so that all sides of it get sharpened. Many artists use sandpaper to hone their pencils because it gives far more control over the shaping than a traditional sharpener. If you work patiently, you can get a really fine point.

Using A Rough Wall

You may find that you don’t have any tools on hand, and in this case, you might need to get a bit more creative. Look around for a rough wall or area of the floor. Exposed brickwork will do nicely, but so will other textured, bumpy walls, provided you can rub a pencil back and forth across them.

It will probably take a while to sharpen a pencil using this method, but it can be done.

Using A Shoe Sole

Similarly, your shoe sole will work in a pinch. Its rubbery sole will hone the dull edge, although it won’t remove the wood, so it will only work if you just need the graphite sharpening.

If you are going to do this, make sure you don’t put too much pressure on the pencil tip, or it may break. Work slowly and gently.


There are many ways to sharpen a pencil when you don’t have the right tools, so consider giving these a try sometime. Almost any tool with a sharp edge can be used to get a pencil sharp again, and rough tools can be used to sand the point and remove the wood. Get creative and don’t suffer from a dull pencil unnecessarily!

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