David Rees: Sharper Than A Pencil

David Rees. i i

David Rees. Meredith Heuer hide caption

itoggle caption Meredith Heuer
David Rees.

David Rees.

Meredith Heuer
V.I.P. David Rees (right) and artist Dalton Ghetti. Ghetti brought one of his pieces to the show, a tiny boot he carved into the tip of a carpenter's pencil.

V.I.P. David Rees (right) and artist Dalton Ghetti. Ghetti brought one of his pieces to the show, a tiny boot he carved into the tip of a carpenter's pencil. Josh Rogosin/NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Josh Rogosin/NPR

To David Rees, sharpening a pencil is far more than a mundane task — it's an art. After the cartoonist, author and writer discontinued his satirical comic Get Your War On — which ran in Rolling Stone until 2009 — he discovered a love of the school-age writing utensil while working for the U.S. Census Bureau. Rees now specializes in artisanal pencil sharpening, offering "really sharp" pencils sculpted with the use of box cutters, pen knives, sanding blocks, and other objects. If you're looking to revisit the joys of a hand-sharpened pencil, look no further than his new book, How To Sharpen Pencils.

Rees takes a break from cranking out his product to chat with Ask Me Another host Ophira Eisenberg and explain what exactly customers can expect to receive from him. Each package comes complete with a sharpened pencil in a protective case, the shavings, and a label showing the tools he used to sharpened the pencil, among other things. "It's like this whole suite of objects that they can either choose to utilize, or share with friends as an inspirational talisman or conversation piece." He adds, "I've found a void and turned it into a niche." So we thought it would be only fair to pit Rees against a man after his own heart — fellow pencil enthusiast and sculptor Dalton M. Ghetti — for an Ask Me Another Challenge. The stakes? The loser must sharpen the winner's pencil. Find out who's No. 1, and who's No. 2.

About David Rees

David Rees first came to fame as the author of Get Your War On, a Bush-era comic strip composed from clip-art that he emailed to friends. It was eventually serialized by Rolling Stone magazine, collected into three successful books, and turned into an off-Broadway play. He is also the author of the workplace satire My New Filing Technique is Unstoppable. He lives in Beacon, New York.


In the video below, Rees demonstrates a step-by-step process for the perfectly-sharpened pencil.

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