Lee Valley Tools Woodworking Newsletter
Vol. 1, Issue 4
May 2007
What Is It?

Jupiter Pencil Pointer

A surge in the popularity of quality wooden pencils occurred between 1860 and 1870 due to the advent of production standards that ensured concentricity of the lead in relationship to the utensil's wooden barrel. In response, a wave of invention for mechanical pencil sharpeners occurred between 1880 and 1915. The pencil sharpener model shown here is from the latter part of that period.

In general, most pencil sharpeners work using a combination of systems for creating a working point on the graphite lead. Different manufacturers tested various means of cutting, shearing and abrading pencils' wood and filler materials in pursuit of the perfect point. A current quick search on the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office database lists over 500 patents for this type of device.

H. Guhl of Hamburg, Germany, patented the Jupiter pencil pointer on November 9, 1897 (#593, 093). It was sold in two versions, the front-crank handle and the side- or end-crank type. There were four configurations to accommodate the different barrel sizes of various writing devices. Pictured here is an end type, which is considered to be the second model of the two. It uses a reversible, hardened milling-type cutter to produce the point.

The Jupiter was somewhat more expensive than competitors' comparable products. Advertisements stated it was incredibly fast and could be used to sharpen 80 pencils in just 10 minutes, all "without breaking a single tip." The sharpener was patented again on September 11, 1906 (#830,093). Then in 1931, A.P.M. Guhl produced patent #1,788,347, which essentially replicated the original patent. Clearly, the pursuit of pencil sharpening was taken seriously as the family business.


Sharpener in use.

This particular example is marked with the Johann Faber name, a prominent pencil manufacturer at that time, and, the inventor of the mechanical pencil, patent #33,034, issued on August 13, 1861.

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