Photos from our horseback trip

Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Ranch

I’ve posted photos from our horseback trip to a Flickr Album and to a Facebook Album (you have to be a friend to view these) for those with a preference for either technology.

These are from our trip to the Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Ranch in May. It’s on the Rocky Mountain Front and was our first experience in that area of the state. It was tremendous and it’s very likely that we may go back from a return trip.

UPDATE: Uni-ball 2.0 mm Pencil Lead Sharpener!

In my previous post, Review: Uni-ball 2.0 mm Pencil Lead Sharpener, I indicated that if you broke the lead off in the sharpener that you might have killed it. Well, I apologize that I spoke a bit prematurely. While sharpening a pencil this morning, I found that you CAN, in fact, open the sharpener to access the sharpening blade and rescue your $9.00 sharpener from a broken pencil lead. Here is how to do it.

1) Look towards the bottom of the sharpener and find the small squarish piece. There is an identical one on the other side of the sharpener. You’re going to need to grasp these with your thumb and forefinger as shown in the second photo.
1) Locate the small square
at the bottom of the sharpener?
2) After firmly grasping these two squares, you’re going to begin pull down away from the bottom of the sharpener, trying to slide out the inner sharpening mechanism.
2) Grip the opposing squares VERY firmly.
3) If you’ve got decent finger strength, you should be able to slide out the inner mechanism from the sharpener. If you need some assistance, I would recommend using the cushioned handle of a pair of  pliers to assist you. Don’t use the jaws or you’ll either scratch the pencil sharpener or probably break it in the process. 
3) Slide out the inner assembly.
4) Once you’re able to free the sharpening assembly from the outer shell, simply remove the broken pencil lead from the sharpener being careful not to dull the sharpening blade. I typically use a wooden toothpick or if I don’t have one on hand, an unbent paperclip (but be careful not to press firmly on the cutting edge of the sharpener.
4) Remove the sharpener and
remove the broken pencil lead
I hope that helps! I certainly am very glad I found this fix since it isn’t mentioned in the instructions from the sharpener and I’d hate to throw away a $9.00 sharpener simply because it has a piece of graphite wedged in the blade.
I would have liked to have seen instructions (or at least diagrams, considering the directions are in Japanese) showing how to open the sharpener. It is designed so well that it’s not obvious through any wobbling or gaps that the device actually opens.
I also wanted to update the score for the sharpener since it no longer has the limitation I mentioned. I’ve updated the previous review and will include the new score here as well.
4.5 Pencils
Highly Recommended

How To use the Staedtler 2mm tub sharpener

I have seen several people post questions about how to use a Staedtler tub sharpener to sharpen their clutch pencils. Hopefully this little tutorial might help explain how to use one.

First, we need to look at the three holes on top of the sharpener. The biggest one, is obviously where the pencil will eventually go to be sharpened. The two smaller holes, however, aren’t self-explanatory. The image below shows which hole is intended for sharp points and which is intended for dull points (which I hardly ever use).

First off, we need to press the button at the back end of the clutch pencil to extend the lead out a inch and a half or so (3cm) and drop the lead into the ‘sharp tip’ hole. Basically, touch the bottom of the hole with the lead.

Extend the lead until
it hits the bottom

The next step is to then press the button on the back end of the pencil again and this time, lower the pencil jaws until they touch the top of the tub sharpener. You want to make sure that the pencil lead is bottomed out in the hole while you’re doing this step and you aren’t picking the lead out of the hole before lowering the pencil to the tub.

Drop the pencil down
until it touches the tub

The final step is to remove the pencil from the ‘sharp tip’ hole and insert it into the tub itself and turn the pencil around until it stops making a sharpening noise against the metal sharpening ring.

Insert the pencil into the
tub and turn to sharpen.

You’re done! Hopefully this resulted in a sharp pencil lead. If not, feel free to post a comment and I’ll try to help out.

Review: Uni-ball 2.0 mm Pencil Lead Sharpener

Uni-ball 2.0mm
Pencil Lead Sharpener

I recently acquired the Uni-ball 2.0 mm Pencil Lead Sharpener from JetPens.com (a wonderfully indulgent online pen and pencil store – highly recommended). I thought it might be useful to share my experiences with it for use with 2mm clutch pencils.

I typically use Staedtler Mars-780 clutch pencils, which are 2mm drafting pencils that accept a wide range of pencil grades. They are the best compromise between a mechanical pencil (e.g., 0.5mm) and a wood-cased pencil. I have long been using the Staedtler tub sharpener but find it a bit inconvenient when doing art shows for a couple of reasons. First, it is a bit bulky so I have to find a pocket to fit it into, which leads to the second issue, namely that if you tip it upside down, the graphite shavings from your previous pencil sharpenings tend to fall out and turn your drawing kit into a fingerprinting scene from CSI.

Isn’t it cute?
The clever rotating
cap design

In an attempt to resolve these two issues, I picked up the Uni-ball pencil lead sharpener. It’s quite a cute little device. Made of medium-grade plastic, it has a wonderfully ergonomic design. There are no sharp edges or projections to catch on pockets or clothing so it can be slipped into a shirt pocket or even thrown into a pencil case along with your other supplies.

The mechanism is quite simple and basically allows you to sharpen any type of clutch pencil by simply extending the lead into the hole and turning clockwise. Unlike the Staedtler tub sharpener, it doesn’t require the lead to be extended to a specific length.


I’ve included some shots to the right of the sharpener in use to give you an idea of its size – one word, it’s small. Very handy but quite a bit smaller than you might imagine given the product shots.

There is one drawback to an otherwise perfect little sharpener. The  price. At $9.00 USD, it’s simply too expensive to make it a simple solution for most casual pencil users. I draw 5 hours every day so this is sort of a no-brainer for me, especially when I’m at shows. But for those who are casual users, this is most likely too high.

If you happen to break the lead off in the sharpener, see my post on how to rescue your sharpener!

Overall, this sharpener earns 4.5 out of 5 pencils, and is highly recommended for those not on a tight budget and who don’t abuse their pencil sharpeners. I would recommend purchasing this sharpener through JetPens.com but be forewarned, you might end up spending a lot more than you planned after browsing through their selection!

4.5 Pencils
Highly Recommended

A sketch tribute to J.C. Leyendecker

Sketch from J.C. Leyendecker painting

James Gurney posted a great overview post of J.C. Leyendecker’s drawing process. After looking over some of this basic technques, I was truly impressed by how confident Leyendecker’s approach appeared on canvas. His strokes are purposeful yet organic. A rare combination, found only with the true masters. I took it as a challenge to create a sketch of his  little boy portrait included in Gurney’s post.

The aspects of the painting that really stood out the most to me were the wonderfully bold line work in the painting. There’s no doubt that he is a master illustrator and understood the importance of clarity of form. But the other aspect was the beautiful way he captured the reflected light along the cheek, lips and nose in the painting. It really speaks to his knowledge of lighting and his emphasis on keeping things bold yet simple.

I wasn’t very familiar with Leyendecker’s work, but Gurney’s post really makes me intrigued with his techniques. I found a wonderful online portfolio of his sketches and studies for some of his Saturday Evening Post cover pieces. This one made me chuckle aloud…