Thursday, September 22, 2016

Hello Yellow Pencil Sharpener (A Review)

You know you've become a teacher when you get excited over a new pencil sharpener! I think it doesn't matter whether you're a homeschool teacher or a brick-and-mortar teacher, when you have early elementary students you "live and die" by the strength of your pencil sharpener. Jude prefers a very fine point for writing, and since Jude likes his pencil tips sharp, so does little brother Damien. It's not uncommon for Jude or Damien to resharpen pencils ten or twelve times in a day, so we need a pencil sharpener that is going to hold up to heavy use. We do have a heavy duty electric sharpener, but its proximity to our work table is limited by the length of its cord. I was excited to receive a Hello Yellow Pencil Sharpener from Classroom Friendly Supplies to review because it's slim and no-cord design meant we could have a sharpener attached to the table!

When I first opened the box, the color immediately brought a smile.  It's a glossy, bright sunshine-and-school-buses yellow that reminds you of back-to-school days.   When I began to assemble  sharpener, I saw how the clamp that attached it to the table had a wide, rubberized bottom. If you're attaching this to a wood table, this is a great feature because you don't want to mess up your table with a metal clamp! I was frustrated, though, at how it didn't seem to want to attach straight on. At first, I tried securing the sharpener over the table cover that we keep on the table, but it didn't want to hold. I thought maybe the extra layers of fabric just were too much, but then I tried it without the table cover, and it still didn't secure properly. I tried it on our full-size kitchen table, and it still didn't want to clamp down easily.

Even when the attachment was put on straight, the sharpener had cantilevered just enough that it wasn't straight or securely fastened. It held if you were actually sharpening the pencil and had two hands on the machine, but between uses, a distracted elbow often bumped it off the table, or gravity took over...and in the process we had shavings all over the floor.

I liked that the sharpener was self-feeding when there was a pencil in there. However, if it got opened by inquisitive fingers, it was harder to retract.  Celia wanted to offer her opinion:

Once we got it organized to where we could sharpen pencils, it worked quite well. It made quick work of sharpening and created fine-tipped "Number 2" pencils.

We also tried it on colored pencils. Unlike regular pencils, they have a waxy core that can sometimes challenge sharpener blades. The also are sometimes a bit more slender.  It usually took several tries to sharpen a colored pencil, and while it did a good job on the point, the pencil often slipped, and the guide chewed up the rest of the pencil.

Ultimately, the clamp just was too wobbly to make this our go-to pencil sharpener. I think older students might have the dexterity to hold, support, and crank at the same time, but for first grader Damien, it requires too much coordination. He does independent work while I work with Jude, but relying on this sharpener forces him to interrupt me to ask for help. Jude also found it awkward and often would still sneak off to the electric sharpener because it was faster. I got tired of vacuuming up spilled shavings when it got bumped to the floor; I think a more out-of-the-way spot would be more secure between uses but that doesn't help fill the need we had of "you don't need to leave your seat."  Since it doesn't need to be plugged in, it will go in our "when we do schoolwork in another room" basket and get plenty of use, but it's not going to work as I had hoped to replace our fast but across the room sharpener.

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