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Competitive… Pencil Sharpening?

You were spoiled if your teacher had an electric pencil sharpener, because real heroes sharpened pencils by hand! Now, it’s finally time the world recognized those who’ve spent their lives trying to become the fastest pencil sharpeners in the world. So put on your gloves, grab your favorite No. 2, and let’s get to the point.

Photo from LionLight Photography

We’ll be the first to ask, “What does Pencil Sharpening have to do with video games?” Well, a lot. In 2015, ArteF4ct released Pencil Sharpening Simulator to the world, in which you sharpen pencils. That’s it. The game’s tagline is, “It is a game about pencil sharpening, seriously.” The objective of the game is to sharpen pencils, either by hand or with a drill, until they’ve been sharpened down to nubs. It’s a meme game, and like any meme game, the gaming community took it to heart, and a dedicated speedrunning community formed.

There are numerous speedrunning categories for this simulator. According to, In both “Drill” and “Drillless,” there are 10 pencils, 69 pencils, 100 pencils, 420 pencils, 1000 pencils, 1500 pencils, and 6942 pencils, the last of which no one has completed yet. There are over 100 speedruns across these two categories, with times ranging from a three minute 10 pencil world record to a 10 hour 1500 pencil world record.

However, these aren’t the only categories.

In addition to the simulator speedruns, there is another subgenre of pencil sharpening speedruns: In Real Life percent.

The simulator has been removed from the equation, and real actual people sharpen real actual pencils in real actual life. The category headings are the same, “Drill” and “Drillless,” but this time the only categories are 10 pencils and one pencil. Since people are doing this in real life and there is no game to verify when a pencil is considered “sharpened,” there are a set of rules for In Real Life Percent.

The Rules, according to

  1. Pencils must be unsharpened, unmodified, 19cm (7.5in), #2 pencils made of only wood and graphite.
  2. Only one single-blade sharpener can be used at a time. It must be a regular manual, non-mechanical, non-crank sharpener.
  3. Pencils must be sharpened to a length of less than 5cm (2in) from end of the eraser to the tip of the graphite. Erasers cannot be removed. If they fall off, they must measured side-by-side with a pencil of the same type with an eraser for an accurate measurement.
  4. Neither the pencils nor the sharpener can be mounted or attached to anything that is not a part of your body.
  5. Visual aids to help determine when to stop sharpening are allowed as long as they do not interact with the sharpening itself (a pen marking or a single small indent).
  6. All runs must have video proof (including the pre and post-sharpening measuring).
  7. You must start and stop your own timer (this is to have a timing system similar to rubik’s cubes solves.)

While there are not as many entries in this category — and even less in the 2-player version– there is still a dedicated community; arguably, a more dedicated one, since people have to go out and actually buy pencils and sharpeners, possibly a drill, without a simulator to assist them.

This community lived in somewhat quiet obscurity, almost like their own micro community. Enter Smallant1.

One day on his stream, he revealed to the world this amazing discovery and set out to become the fastest pencil sharpener in the world.
And he succeeded.

Photo courtesy of Smallant1

For weeks, he would enter the stream, pencils in hand, ready to let the graphite sink into his skin. As he kept sharpening, he slowly inched his way up the leaderboard, but never quite got to where he needed to be. Either he’d get tired near the end, or the sharpeners would jam, or the pencils themselves wouldn’t sharpen fast enough. Whatever the reason, Smallant1 was determined to win this incredibly important title.

Then one day, a user by the name of FootCream reached out to our hero asking if he was looking to sharpen his skills. FootCream was the fastest pencil sharpener in the world in the 10 pencil “Drillless” category before Smallant1 took the title. He taught Smallant1 new methods for sharpening, going as far as recommending specific sharpeners and pencil brands, and soon the student had surpassed the master. To add insult to injury, Smallant1 improved his record on September 9, 2020, with a new record of 2:21.

FootCream does still best Smallant1 in one category, 2-player 10 pencil “Drillless,” which FootCream shares with his sharpening partner bgrimm34. Smallant1 is in second place, which he shares with his mother. That isn’t a joke or an insult, Smallant1 had his mother on stream and they sharpened pencils.

If you’d like to compete for yourself, grab some pencils and a sharpener, and get to work. Maybe you’ll earn the title of “World’s Fastest Pencil Sharpener,” or at the very least, it’ll be a great arm workout.

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