Published September 19, 2013
Someone just paid David Rees, of Beacon, N.Y., $35 to sharpen a pencil.
"I think people think: 'Wow, I can't believe he actually did it,'" Rees said. "I wasn't sure what would happen when I sent this guy my money."
Now before you write him off as some con-artist whittling away on pre-packaged No. 2s from a farmhouse upstate you should know Rees is a sharp guy.
"Internet commenters have definitely made this argument before," Rees said. "Now, a pencil is a completely transparent communication tool. There's no secret to it."
As for his pencils, he began sharpening those after leaving a job as a political cartoonist to work for the 2010 Census, where he spent all day recording his findings with a No. 2 pencil.
"I thought there's got to be a way to get paid to sharpen pencils for people," he said.
1,804 flawlessly sharpened mostly No. 2 pencils later, Rees has penned a book on his art form, collected an arsenal of different sharpeners, and taught classes to students who sharpen better than he does.
"I'm always really simultaneously happy for them and always really intimidated," he said, "like please don't go into business against me. You're going to crush me."
But after two years of collecting pencil shavings with tweezers for his customers, Rees is nearing his breaking point.
When Rees started, he hoped every busted tip would lead the writer to pay for a sharpening. Instead, most customers order David's pencil points and display them as artwork.
"The whole point of the business is to remind people to appreciate yellow, No. 2 pencils because they're really cool and interesting," he said. "And to make a ton of money."
But at this point, work feels like work.
"You do anything long enough for money, it just starts to become a job," he said.
So as he nears the nice round number of 2,000 sharpenings, Rees suggested that soon he'd like to clean out his sharpeners for good, leaving the world a much duller place.