MAU Art & Design Glossary

Lead Sharpener



A lead sharpener is a tool used to sharpen the lead on a lead holder. (Some models also double as a pencil sharpener.) Generally, lead sharpeners sharpen the tip of the lead using an abrasive medium.

Typical file-type sharpeners carry a plate file inside a small box, which can be used to sharpen the lead to the required shape. This type of sharpener is easier to use if you hold the sharpener steady on a desk with one hand. Once the lead is sharpened, the shavings should be wiped off on the sponge provided. The advantage of this plate file-type sharpener is that the tip can be filed into any shape, whether that be conical or flat. It can also be used on lead of any thickness. Another common type is the bucket-shaped sharpeners. These also have a file inside for sharpening the lead. They can be used to sharpen lead into a conical shape quickly. Some products let users choose how sharp they want the lead to be. In drafting, continuous lines, dashed lines and chain lines need to be differentiated. At the same time, line thickness is also significant. For example, thin continuous lines are used for dimensions and thick continuous lines to represent contour lines. Because of this, the sharpness of the lead is an important factor. Bucket-shaped sharpeners are also easier to use if they are secured rather than holding them in the hand.

In addition to sharpeners that use an abrasive medium, there are also those that use a blade. These are very similar to portable pencil sharpeners and are used by inserting the lead into the hole and rotating the lead holder. They can be as small as 1cm – 2cm in size. Some sharpeners only take lead of a particular size so make sure you check the thickness of the lead you are using before purchasing one. Whichever type of sharpener you choose, the shavings must be cleaned out after each use. Lead sharpeners can be purchased at large stationery stores and art supply stores.



  • Above: Lead holder / Below: Spare leadAbove: Lead holder / Below: Spare lead