Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Pencil Sharpeners: The Boston Champion Saves the Day

Pencil Sharpener: The Classic Boston Champion


As a substitute teacher and homework-supervising mom, I have witnessed much pencil sharpening -- both successful and frustrating, both annoying to the ear and disruptive to the class, and always messy. In between the cheap dollar sharpener that lurks in each student's desk or crayon box and the loud electric sharpener that breaks much too often, lies this classic vintage hand-operated Boston Champion.
Boston Sharpener Strong!


According to the curators at The Early Office Museum, Boston brand mechanical sharpeners emerged on the scene 100 years ago. There were many models; the Champion was just one. Plenty of vintage ones abound on eBay. Pricing starts below $10.

To tout the simple, no-nonsense merit of the Boston Champion and other similar manual metal sharpeners, I'd like to tell a little story a la Goldilocks and the Three Bears...

Goldilocks often went to the Three Bears' house to do her homework. She and Baby Bear would do their math independently, and then later compare answers. One day, Goldilocks arrived early at their cottage in the woods. The bears were still out foraging, but the headstrong girl with shiny blond hair, made herself at home anyway.

Goldilocks sat down in the kitchen and took out her work. She reached inside her knapsack for a pencil. The first one she found had a broken tip. She reached back in and pulled out a second. Its point was dull. She stuck her head in the bag and found no others. "Oh, I do hope the Bears have a pencil sharpener!" Goldilocks exclaimed.

She walked over to the kitchen counter with pencils in hand. She first found a big black electric sharpener. "This must be Mr. Bear's," Goldilocks thought. She stuck the first pencil in and the hungry machine chewed the pencil to bits, nearly taking her finger with it.

She opened a drawer, and found a small sharpener inside that was shaped like a nose. "This must be Baby Bear's," she laughed and stuck the second pencil up one nostril for that is where the blade was cleverly concealed. She spun the pencil round and round and heard the familiar abrading sound. When she took the Ticonderoga out of the nostril, the pencil was annoyingly pointy only along one side. She put it back in and after several more revolutions heard the crunch of broken graphite. "This just won't do," she said, with a droplet of discouragement in her voice.

She walked toward the window, hoping the Bears might be in sight. She did not see them, but she did spy a Boston Champion sharpener on Mama Bear's desk. She approached the device, and inserted the remainder of the second pencil into the hole. Goldilocks turned the hand crank 7 times for good luck. The Boston Champion honed the tip perfectly. It was just right and Goldilocks blurted out, "Woo hoo!!!"

2 comments:

BBat50 said...

I read an article recently on the history of pencil and the pivotal role it made in democratizing education.

Heh, I googled it and look what I found. Not the original article but worth reading!

http://www.pencils.com/pencil-history

BBat50 said...

Now that is cool, a 1925 pencil vending machine!!!

http://www.pencils.com/blog/antique-1925-vendex-pencil-vending-machine