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An unexplained physics puzzle, at least for me



Squirrel

Skilled Investigator
I've wondered about a little physics puzzle for decades, and I'm hoping some of the highly insightful members of this forum may have a solution. Is it "paranormal" - I'm not sure, but let me ask about it:

I use pencils a lot, as a crossword do-er.

I find that every year or two, even the highest quality hand-turned sharpeners suddenly (not gradually but suddenly) refuse to sharpen. Overnight.

No matter how hard I push in and turn, the pencil simply will not advance into the conical sharpening chamber.

Pushing the pencil sideways against the blade shows the blade is perfectly sharp and easily peels off the wood and graphite, but not if I push the pencil into the conical chamber along its axis.

So, toss one sharpener out, purchase another.

I have disassembled the sharpeners, taking the blade off, and I can't see any obstruction which should stop the pencil from advancing.

Has anyone figured out the physics of this anomalous prevention of movement?

-- Squirrel
 

Randall

J. Randall Murphy
I've wondered about a little physics puzzle for decades, and I'm hoping some of the highly insightful members of this forum may have a solution. Is it "paranormal" - I'm not sure, but let me ask about it:

I use pencils a lot, as a crossword do-er.

I find that every year or two, even the highest quality hand-turned sharpeners suddenly (not gradually but suddenly) refuse to sharpen. Overnight.

No matter how hard I push in and turn, the pencil simply will not advance into the conical sharpening chamber.

Pushing the pencil sideways against the blade shows the blade is perfectly sharp and easily peels off the wood and graphite, but not if I push the pencil into the conical chamber along its axis.

So, toss one sharpener out, purchase another.

I have disassembled the sharpeners, taking the blade off, and I can't see any obstruction which should stop the pencil from advancing.

Has anyone figured out the physics of this anomalous prevention of movement?

-- Squirrel
I've run into that same ( or a similar ) problem and what it's been for me is that a small piece of the lead breaks off and gets lodged at the end, preventing the pencil from going in far enough to sharpen. I didn't notice it the first couple of times because it's easy to miss and they can self-dislodge in the process of simply changing the orientation of the sharpener, or even turning the blades. I'm not sure what design your sharpener is, but mine has spiral rotary blades ( not the flat screwed on ones ). Anyway, that was my experience. It may or may not apply to your situation. I'm doubtful it's anything paranormal.
 

Squirrel

Skilled Investigator
I've run into that same ( or a similar ) problem and what it's been for me is that a small piece of the lead breaks off and gets lodged at the end, preventing the pencil from going in far enough to sharpen. I didn't notice it the first couple of times because it's easy to miss and they can self-dislodge in the process of simply changing the orientation of the sharpener, or even turning the blades. I'm not sure what design your sharpener is, but mine has spiral rotary blades ( not the flat screwed on ones ). Anyway, that was my experience. It may or may not apply to your situation. I'm doubtful it's anything paranormal.
.
I'm far from believing this is actually paranormal too - however, it is odd enough that I though I'd tap into the talent pool who hang out in this forum.

I've had a number of broken-graphite blockages over the years too, but in the cases I'm referencing, none of them have broken graphite. Because this is such an odd thing, I actually remove the blades, and I haven't seen any broken pieces of anything which could explain the blockage.

When I say I push down, I mean HARD, not gently. This blocks almost all sharpening action, though very tiny bits of material are sometimes trimmed. But getting anything close to a normal point just doesn't happen once this sudden event takes place.

My sharpeners are all the little cylinders, maybe 1-1/2" (38 mm) diameter, and maybe 2-1/4" (57 mm) long, which screw apart to dump the shavings. The conical sharpening chamber has a slot along one side with a straight edge razor blade screwed down and further restrained by a depression molded into either the plastic or metal chamber. The blade cannot move.

-- Squirrel
 

henris42

Paranormal Maven
Maybe the "lead" in the pencil is not that high quality.

Are you using high quality stuff? I mean most expensive?
 

Squirrel

Skilled Investigator
Maybe the "lead" in the pencil is not that high quality.

Are you using high quality stuff? I mean most expensive?
.
These days, one doesn't have much variety in choosing a pencil. Whatever's on the shelf is it. So I'm not really sure what the quality is.

I can report that breaking points hardly ever happens - I've kind of learned how to avoid that. And definitely, at the point where the sharpener suddenly stops sharpening, there are never any broken points involved. Believe me I investigate thoroughly.

-- Squirrel
 

Randall

J. Randall Murphy
.
I'm far from believing this is actually paranormal too - however, it is odd enough that I though I'd tap into the talent pool who hang out in this forum.

I've had a number of broken-graphite blockages over the years too, but in the cases I'm referencing, none of them have broken graphite. Because this is such an odd thing, I actually remove the blades, and I haven't seen any broken pieces of anything which could explain the blockage.

When I say I push down, I mean HARD, not gently. This blocks almost all sharpening action, though very tiny bits of material are sometimes trimmed. But getting anything close to a normal point just doesn't happen once this sudden event takes place.

My sharpeners are all the little cylinders, maybe 1-1/2" (38 mm) diameter, and maybe 2-1/4" (57 mm) long, which screw apart to dump the shavings. The conical sharpening chamber has a slot along one side with a straight edge razor blade screwed down and further restrained by a depression molded into either the plastic or metal chamber. The blade cannot move.

-- Squirrel

Mine is this style


1615344907923.png


ApscoSharpener-01b.jpg
 

henris42

Paranormal Maven
Wow this is cool! I have a turbocharged one!

(Parrot token for any one who tells me what that is.. ;)


20210310_052347.jpg
 
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Randall

J. Randall Murphy
.
These days, one doesn't have much variety in choosing a pencil. Whatever's on the shelf is it. So I'm not really sure what the quality is.

I can report that breaking points hardly ever happens - I've kind of learned how to avoid that. And definitely, at the point where the sharpener suddenly stops sharpening, there are never any broken points involved. Believe me I investigate thoroughly.

-- Squirrel
I guess it's true that pencils don't grow in the wild, so we have to get them off-the-shelf, however there is a wider range than you might suspect, ranging from those found at convenience stores, to gift shops, to office supply stores, to art supply stores, all ranging significantly in quality, design, and character. Cheap lead for mechanical pencils found at dollar stores sucks BTW.
 

Squirrel

Skilled Investigator
I guess it's true that pencils don't grow in the wild, so we have to get them off-the-shelf, however there is a wider range than you might suspect, ranging from those found at convenience stores, to gift shops, to office supply stores, to art supply stores, all ranging significantly in quality, design, and character. Cheap lead for mechanical pencils found at dollar stores sucks BTW.
.
Here in the bush, and with no vehicle, whatever's on the shelf is it! :cool:

-- Squirrel
 

Martin W.

Paranormal Novice
I've run into that same ( or a similar ) problem and what it's been for me is that a small piece of the lead breaks off and gets lodged at the end, preventing the pencil from going in far enough to sharpen. I didn't notice it the first couple of times because it's easy to miss and they can self-dislodge in the process of simply changing the orientation of the sharpener, or even turning the blades. I'm not sure what design your sharpener is, but mine has spiral rotary blades ( not the flat screwed on ones ). Anyway, that was my experience. It may or may not apply to your situation. I'm doubtful it's anything paranormal.

That has been my experience also .... lead on lead is very slippery and the pencil will turn like its on a bearing , I would pick out the broken piece with a needle and then it would work fine again.

I think the lead in a pencil is graphite which is also used as an excellent powdered dry lubricant in machines ... like I said ... its "super slippery"
 

Squirrel

Skilled Investigator
That has been my experience also .... lead on lead is very slippery and the pencil will turn like its on a bearing , I would pick out the broken piece with a needle and then it would work fine again.

I think the lead in a pencil is graphite which is also used as an excellent powdered dry lubricant in machines ... like I said ... its "super slippery"
.
In my case, there are no pieces broken off to block ingress. That's the part I call a mystery. In some cases I've removed the blade and looked with a magnifying glass, and probed with a dental pick.

-- Squirrel
 

Randall

J. Randall Murphy
.
In my case, there are no pieces broken off to block ingress. That's the part I call a mystery. In some cases I've removed the blade and looked with a magnifying glass, and probed with a dental pick.

-- Squirrel
Possible explanations that come to mind for that is that the piece has self-dislodged between the time you attempted to sharpen and before or during disassembly of the sharpener, but at a time when you didn't or couldn't notice. So the question for me would be: After doing the cleaning and inspection, does the same pencil still fail to sharpen?

If the same pencil refuses to sharpen then by the sound of the description in the OP it's the geometry of the existing end of the pencil, such that the angle between the tip and the outer edge is smaller than that of the orientation of the sharpener blades. The explanation might be that you used another sharpener ( or method of sharpening ) with a smaller angle previously.

Either way, the solution there would be to cut the end of the pencil off square and start from scratch.
 

nicholascam

Paranormal Novice
Quite an interesting discussion. I thought about this recently when I was doing a crossword puzzle, but I had difficulties. Therefore, I had to use the internet and find the answer. And I found Swiss River - Crossword Clue Answers - Crossword Solver. I was writing down the answer in my notebook and realized that broken the pencil was. I had to look for a sharpener. That's when I noticed that I didn't have a single working sharpener left. Therefore, it was exciting for me to read your points of view on this. I discovered a lot of essential things from physics. Although it's just a sharpener..
 
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