An Updated Review on the Nitram Charcoal Sharpening Bloc

Back in September, I tried the Nitram Charcoal Bloc for the first time. I fell in love with it then and that love continues to grow.

I’ve had the bloc for five months and only hadn’t used it for about six weeks when it was packed away for a move.

I did, however, use it often during the other weeks and I have yet to have the need to change the sanding pad. It’s still going strong and continues to sharpen just as well as when it was new.



That’s a big change from the small sanding blocks that I used to use. Granted, they only cost a dollar or less, but I could easily go through a block every couple days. The Nitram bloc may cost more, but I’m definitely saving money in the long term.

The Nitram bloc comes with an extra set of sanding pads, so I anticipate I won’t need to replace them more than once or twice a year, depending on how much artwork I do.

I do many commission portraits for clients in the pre-Christmas season. Because of my move, I had to beef up production and work from the time I woke until the early morning hours. The large size of the sanding bloc was really beneficial as I put the handle between my knees and sanded one charcoal baton with each hand. Duel duty was great. I found that with the bloc, I don’t have to sand as long or as hard and, because of that, it seems my batons are lasting longer. I’m not rubbing and rubbing to get a fine point like I used to.

I do wish there was a small lip on the pad so that it would lift easier for removal. I have to use a fingernail or pallet knife to get a start. That’s the only downside to the Nitram bloc but the benefits far outweigh the small inconvenience.

The reason I take the pad off is because sometimes I like to rub the dust onto my paper for a background. The pad does withstand repeated adhering, something else I like about it. Just the fact that it adheres to the board is a big plus. The small sanding blocks held by only a staple tend to shift when sanding.

For me, the ease of use and the speed I can now sand, plus it’s durability, have been well worth the investment. As I work on Mother’s Day commissions, the bloc will be at my side.

I still keep my sharpening bloc on my double-ended lanyard, hooked to my easel, and easy to reach whenever I need it. I am grateful that Nitram manufactured the bloc with a large enough hole to fit a lanyard. I tend to set things down when I’m working and forget where I put them. My Nitram Sharpening Bloc, however, has yet to leave my side.

The money saved by not having to buy the small sanding blocks allowed me to buy more Nitram charcoal and I’m really looking forward to trying the new Nitram Bâton and Mignonette Charcoal Refill. I’ll write a review as soon as I snag one and get to try it out.

Sharpening Bloc Replacement Pads are now available on the Nitram Charcoal website. They can also be purchased here. Alternatively, ask your local art store to order in the Sharpening Pad replacements!

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