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To Climb So High - Review of the Caran D' Ache Matterhorn Pencil Sharpener


I love stationery of all kinds, and sometimes like to review it as well.


To Climb So High - Review of the Caran D' Ache Matterhorn Pencil Sharpener

Fred Pilarczyk


A word of warning.

Welcome to the top tier of pencil sharpeners.  The Caran D' Ache Matterhorn is the  Ferrari of the pencil world (and has the red color to match). It is limited to 4,478 pieces, the height of the Matterhorn mountain in Switzerland. The Matterhorn is pricey, at $250.00. I picked mine up at CW Pencils, where as of this writing they are still available. (If you're curious, the only other production sharpener that costs more is by El Casco, and costs over $500.00.)

So, what does $250.00 get you?

every side has the same image

top of the box

The Matterhorn comes in a large metal box with a hinged lid. The box has a beautiful photo of the sharpener which reminds me of classic product photos (totally makes sense as this style of sharpener is over 80 years old and hasn't changed much). There is a paper sleeve that slides off that explains the edition (since this is more or less a recolor of the slightly more affordable $200.00 Pencil Sharpening Machine) in multiple languages. The top of the box has slightly abstract artist representation of a mountain with some cabins, I'm assuming it is representing its namesake. From a visual perspective, even the box is beautiful. Opening the box reveals custom cut foam, a booklet that expands upon the edition explanation, an instruction booklet, a removable table clamp, and the sharpener itself.

text on the cardboard sleeve

owners manual and insert

table mount

When you take the sharpener out of the box for the first time, you need to install the cutter into the body, which is simple. Put it in the empty socket, then turn.

The sharpener is heavy, weighing in at 2 pounds, 1 5/8 ounces. As mentioned before it is a very bright red, which will stand out on almost any desk without looking gawdy. In terms of adornment, the sharpening end is labelled "Caran D' Ache - Genéve", the next side says "Collector's Edition - 1933 - 1 in 4478 pieces", and the side with the handle has a picture of how to adjust the knob ot adjust your point. The sharpener has a very classic, industrial look to it, which I love. The only piece of plastic on it is the handle, everything else being metal. The bottom of the sharpener has 4 rubber feet that prevent the sharpener from sliding around, and there is a large drawer on the side (with handle) to hold all of the shavings. The sharpening cutter is user replaceable, as the instructions indicate.

I've been using the included table mount, which allows for one handed operation of the sharpener. When mounted, there is no movement at all during the sharpening process.

Using the Matterhorn is a pretty easy process. Pull out the mechanism, spread the levers, and insert your pencil (from 4mm to 10mm)  and turn the crank to sharpen your pencil. You will know when it is done due to the reduction in resistance (pretty easy to tell). The pencil shavings that end up in the drawer all look pretty uniform, with a corkscrew pattern to them. For those of you concerned about marks on your pencils from the teeth. On softer pencils it can leave a mark, but on harder pencils it doesn't. The marks it leaves are also not nearly as deep as what the Classroom Friendly AKA the Carl Angel-5 leave behind. If it bothers you, you can always wrap the barrel with a sticky note before sharpening.

very fine shavings

So how does it work?

I'm really pleased with the point that I get from the Matterhorn (on the sharpest point. I don't have a huge use for the blunted tip that it leaves when you turn the knob all the way, but I appreciate the option), and honestly at first I was concerned I wasn't going to like it much. Coming from the world of crazy sharp pencil points, (From the Classroom Friendly to the KUM Masterpiece hand sharpener), when I first pulled out my sharpened pencil I felt slightly underwhelmed. It was sharp, but not needle sharp. And then I wrote with it. And I then realized that this makes an amazing point. It provides a great point, which I really enjoy writing with. One of the things I realized with the needle points was that I was constantly having to resharpen, as any amount of dullness was very noticeable. Due to this having a more conservative point, I don't feel the need to sharpen every line or 2, and my writing still looks great. I also haven't had any breakage of my points (which I would sometimes with my Classroom Friendly and all too often with my KUM Masterpiece)

from one extreme to the other

In conclusion

Would I recommend this sharpener? It depends. While it doesn't do anything better (or worse) than sharpeners from Carl, Mitsubishi, or an old Boston sharpener, at this price point the reason for buying it is different. Something like this is bought either as a conversation piece, or because you really enjoy pencils, and are willing to spend a lot of money for that love, and be okay with that. I really got hit by the stationery bug 8 or so years ago. While other hobbies have come and gone, I still love pencils, sharpeners, pens, notebooks, and their related ephemera. For me, a purchase like this may be ridiculous, but the joy I get from seeing it on my desk, and from using it, makes it worth it. (While I have other sharpeners I could have mounted to my desk, this is the only one I have bothered to do that with. I think that says something.) I also like the fact that with something like this, when my son is older (he currently likes to make it look like an elephant), I'd be proud to give it to him, where my other sharpeners I'd be more indifferent. (I could also see this getting passed down to his kids and so on, the construction is really that good). I really think something like this needs to be looked at more than just the initial purchase amount. If you can't get past that investment, then obviously don't get it. However, if you don't immediately just roll your eyes at the purchase price, love the timeless look of it, and think that the red color is way prettier than the standard industrial metal color of the non-limited Pencil Sharpening Machine, then the Matterhorn may be for you.