Charcoal Sharpening Made Easy
One of the many reasons I prefer Nitram Charcoal is its ability to sharpen to a fine point. While charcoal sharpening is relatively easy with Nitram Charocal, the newly released Charcoal Bloc makes it even easier.
I received my first sharpening bloc in the mail and couldn’t wait to try it out. What I first took notice of was the packaging it arrived in. The wrap has a Velcro seal so that I can store the bloc when I’m not using it (which likely won’t be too often). It also comes with an extra set of sanding surfaces, an added bonus.
The bloc is made of thick wood and is quite an attractive addition to my drawing and painting supplies. It’s not flimsy like the common sanding blocks that I had been using. I set them side by side so you can see the difference. The large size allowed me to sharpen without putting paper down to catch the charcoal dust. When finished, I was able to tap it into my dust-collecting jar. The Nitram sharpener was easy to use, comfortable to hold, lightweight and I felt I had better control. It reminds me of a Ping Pong paddle and I was tempted to hit a ball or two, and most likely will sooner than later.
Changing the sanding pad is a cinch, but if you don’t have long nails, you will need something to grab the adhesive covering with. I used my fingernail and also tried it with a palette knife. Both worked fine, but I wish it had a small lip to grab. The new pad is easy to put down and adheres firmly. The pads will re-stick so if you take it off for some reason, it will easily re-adhere. I tried it a few times and had no problems with the pad not sticking.
One of the big bonuses for me is the large hole in the handle. When I draw on an easel that doesn’t have a tool box, I like to keep a charcoal sharpener close by. My new Nitram Bloc fastens nicely to my double-ended lanyard and I was able to attach it to the side of my easel so I’m not fishing around for it when I need it, and I can use it without removing the lanyard. My lanyard fit in my former sanding blocks, although somewhat awkwardly, and the hole was too far down so whenever I wanted to use it, I had to take it off the lanyard so I’d have enough room to grip the handle with my hand. If you’re like me and put something down and can’t remember where you put it, the double-ended lanyard really comes in handy.
When drawing fine details, a sharp point is paramount and Nitram batons have a well-deserved reputation for sharpening without breakage. It’s easy to get the size point you want with little effort. I did notice with the Nitram Bloc that it took less time to sharpen than with my small sanding block and it was easier to get the right size point.
There was really a stark difference sanding on the Nitram bloc and I found it a real time saver. When I draw, I don’t like to stop for too long and I like that I don’t have to pull out newspapers to sharpen over and that I can reach my desired point much quicker. I got a nice smooth point each time. What more could a charcoal artist ask for?