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YARNLADY's avatar

Is a crank operated pencil sharpener low tech?

Asked by YARNLADY (39512 points ) October 25th, 2012

I just saw it called low tech in a comedy show. Is it low tech?

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18 Answers

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

Try the electric one if the power goes out and think how nice a crank works.

Jeruba's avatar

I’d call it low tech. That’s not necessarily a pejorative. Even lower tech is your pocket knife or jackknife. I remember watching my father sharpen pencils with his pocket knife.

I’m a fan of things that operate without the use of electrical power. Manual and mechanical devices are still going to work when the lights go out.

gailcalled's avatar

Compared to this pencil sharpener, it is medium-high tech.

For really low-tech pencil sharpening, this is costly but effective.

rooeytoo's avatar

To me high tech is when something is done that is new, not done before or done in a majorly improved fashion. A pencil sharpener is a pencil sharpener, they all do the same thing, so to say one is lo tech and one hi seems silly. Years ago adding electricity to a task did indeed make it high tech, relatively speaking. Today, it is no biggie!

jaytkay's avatar

Not as low as rubbing a pencil on the sidewalk to sharpen it (I have done this in the past week).

But yes, low tech.

And there’s nothing wrong with that.

JLeslie's avatar

I’d say it is low tech. I don’t even have a crank, mine is just a mini thing, similar to a sharpner for eyeliner. I also have never had an electric can opener. I like low tech a lot of the time.

Unbroken's avatar

I always liked sharpening my pencil by hand watching the material curl out the kinks you got when you stopped or started the tight little rosebuds. Crayons, colored pencils, whatever. All the while thinking how smoothly the mechanism worked all machined parts working in simple precision.
No I was not high, so high tech or low tech it is not as satisfing.

Symbeline's avatar

Low tech because it doesn’t use the latest technology, or much of any technology at all I guess, but that doesn’t make it any less efficient. I like drawing and I have some pretty expensive low tech metal pencil sharpeners that sharpen a pencil sharp enough to send a zombie horde packing.

Jeruba's avatar

There’s quite a lot of technology behind a mechanical pencil sharpener. It’s just not electronics. Technology is just knowhow—the application of science to practical problems. There’s been technology ever since our cave-dwelling ancestors learned to knap flint and make hand tools.

gasman's avatar

It’s a relative term, so there’s not likely to be a consensus. Given a pencil to be sharpened, there are many ways of doing it. We’d probably all agree that scraping the pencil with the broken edge of a rock or seashell is “low-tech.”

A crank pencil sharpener, however, uses helical-cut flutes of razor-sharp hardened steel counter-rotating by means of hypocycloid gears to create an ideally tapered pencil point. It’s quite a marvel of high-tech engineering imho – yet manually powered. Replace the hand crank with an electric motor and it’s somewhat higher-tech. Add a mechanism to shut off the device when the pencil is fully sharpened and it’s higher-tech still. And so on.

No doubt you could devise a sharpener using high-powered lasers or molecular beams. It would be high technology – but not necessarily an improvement!

CWOTUS's avatar

It’s low tech compared to an automobile or a computer, and compared to other forms of machinery and electronics available to most Western consumers.

It may be ultra high tech to someone who has never even seen a pencil before.

Things are relative.

Jeruba's avatar

And of course the pencil itself is not high tech, even though it too has some pretty interesting technology behind it. I’m fond of old-fashioned wood-encased graphite pencils and hope they never go out of use. Among their many virtues is the fact that they don’t plug in.

YARNLADY's avatar

@gasman That’s pretty much what I was thinking.

Kardamom's avatar

Big Bang Theory! Woot! Yes it’s low tech, and some things are better when they are low tech, like the hand cranked pencil sharpener. The electric ones always bite off the tip.

I’m a big believer in the theory of If it ain’t broke don’t fix it So far, I’ve never seen an electric pencil sharpener that worked better than a hand cranked one.

gailcalled's avatar

Hand-cranked ones give you piles of sawdust that can be used to throw on poison ivy or use as mulch if you manage to not grind up some of the lead.

jaytkay's avatar

mulch if you manage to not grind up some of the lead.

Pencil lead is graphite (carbon). I think that would be harmless.

Jeruba's avatar

@Kardamom, I think you’re right, the electric ones don’t really work better. They often get going crooked and give you an off-center point that is half wood, and they can chew your lovely pencil down to half height in a couple of seconds. When they do sharpen to a needle point, it is much more apt to break than an adequately sharp hand-cranked point. I love a sharp pencil and won’t use a dull one, but one that snaps off instantly is of no use at all.

To me the main virtue of an electric model is that it can be installed in a cubicle environment or other setting where there is no place to put a wall-mounted mechanical one. (Forget the ones that are supposed to mount by suction instead of screws.) Somehow throughout my cubicle-bound career I always managed to have a pencil sharpener in my own cube. Given that much of my work was done with pencil, I’d have been a very highly paid graphite grinder for the hours I’d have had to spend twisting pencils through the tiny single-blade devices, which anyway always made such a short point that the pencil had to be sharpened again right away. God bless electric pencil sharpeners, say I, but I’ll keep my pocket knife handy all the same.

(We do have a mechanical one installed in our house. It’s been there for 40 years.)

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