Today I joined the erasable podcast community on Facebook. I began sharing some pictures of Liam and I getting my kit ready for the start of the coming semester. A member excitedly commented on one of my photos that he had never seen an El Casco in the wild before. What he was referring to is my El Casco M-430 Desktop Double Burr Handcrank Pencil Sharpener.
Why are they so rare you may ask? The ballpark retail price is around 500$. That’s a steep price for a pencil sharpener. Why would anyone engage in this? It is either the best or the cult status of it has everyone convinced it is the best. I’m going with it is the best. I learned things I needed to know about my pencils from this pencil sharpener. Let us start with the beginning of how I learned of them to the end point of owning one.
First I read about it in the book How to Sharpen Pencils by David Rees. I won’t go hunt for the exact quote but Rees described it as one of the three things he owned that cost more than 500$, the other two being his house and car. This is paraphrasing, hunt the quote if you wish. He sang this sharpeners praises. I immediately looked them up and then stopped looking at them. The price tag was more than I was willing to go in for no matter my great love of pencils.
I started to consistently watch them on eBay and read and Re read the point of the whole thing (pun fully intended) which is that it is the best, it has a window that allows you to watch the pencil being sharpened, it creates a flat and consistent thickness writing point on your pencil, comes with four point settings, suctions to the table, has a telescoping opening for the pencil that will fit just about anything you can feed it and a file on the shavings drawer for customizing those flat points if you must.
Fast forward some. It’s on my bucket list to at least try one, one day. I tell my friends about them as if they are the dream car I will one day but when I’m rich. I often recieve an “oh geez” from my friend Sarah at school. My wife went to look at getting one for me for Christmas this year, she saw the price tag and laughed and signed me up for the last big run of the CW Pencil Enterprises pencil of the month club instead, which in my opinion was the better choice, not to impune the El Casco.
I had developed a habit of scanning eBay for them every so often.
- There were never many of them, mane three or four at any given time.
- They were either perfect or beaten to death, none that were just well loved.
- They all started with an opening bid of at least 150$, usually 250$.
- They all sold and it was always close to 400$ even for the ones a car had ran over.
Then I came across the one that I have. Opening bid? 45$. This can’t be right. The seller has only 15 feedback, the sharpener was a littler dirty, description read and I quote “good condition” the window appeared scratched beyond repair, and the seller would not respond to any emails about it. I watched t anyways. The day came. I threw a bid in. One guy bid one time to test the waters. That was it no more at all, I didn’t even have to fight for it. In the end I gambled a total of 57$. I was shocked that I had won. So imagine my surprise when it arrived in perfect working order and cleaned up with a little windex. That’s right a fully functioning El Casco M-430 for 57$. Now for the review.
It weighs 3lbs, you could brain someone with it. The window is cool, but you can barely ever see the pencils, still cool but you just get a full view of the burrs turning.
The suction base works surprisingly well. It has a lever that you flip over and you can feel it secure to the table as you push the lever down. Sometimes I have to work to get the sharpener off the table and it leave no damage.
In general the sharpening experience is beyond amazing. It does what you expect in a perfect world. It doesn’t continue to eat the pencil like some of the newer ones do, so no wasted pencil, and as you crank it gradually becomes smoother until it feels like you are doing nothing at all. The best however is the point settings.
It has four. They vary in graphite exposure length and thickness. To change them you pull the spring held wheel, rotate the pin into the slot of the pictured point you wish to achieve and that’s it, let go of the wheel. I will show all four choices. I am starting with four unsharpened Ticonderoga 2 HB pencils.
As you can see they become progressively shorter and thicker. Note the flattened points. This is one of the signatures of this machine. I have a three hole magnesium hand sharpener that creates something similar. This is a writing point. I did not like it at first. Here is what I have learned by putting pencils through the torture test of me learning cursive (a later post). These points do not break when you put them on the paper where the tip is thin. These points are thick and strong, less total breaks period, not just less wonky points from where the end crumbled. These points are not tapered for the most part, so while they start out thicker than a regular point they will remain the same consistent thickness throughout usage, gone are the days of your pencil gradually fattening and destroying your writing style. Point one is my favorite. If you feel you must there is a file on the shavings drawer. It is not a fine grad file and has a learning curve, prepare to experiment. I have been won over by these points.
No mocking my penmanship, but that point did that for almost three pages. I am in love with this machine. Altogether I sharpened 55 pencils with it today. 46 for school, 4 for this review, and 5 because why not. The metal crank handle will leave you the makings of a callouse if you are marathoning like that.
I do not know what else to say that I haven’t said and I hope this helps your love of this machine or satisfies some of the craving. If you wish to see one in person stop by CW Pencil Enterprises and observe through the glass the glory that is El Casco. Enjoy and thank you for reading.
Hrolf the Ganger