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A pencil sharpener museum?  Is that really a thing?

Yes, it is!  And I’m happy to say that I’ve been there!

We began Day 2 of Big Trip Lucky 13 in Logan, Ohio.  Rocco had us up early so while we waited for the museum to open we drove downtown to take a look around.  The weekend before our visit had been the annual Washboard Music Festival and the town was still decked out.  Lines of laundry hung across the road all along the main street.  Unusual but fun.  I stopped in a restaurant to ask about the decorations.  A little more internet research after the fact tells me that the festival is always held on Father’s Day weekend and that the festival’s focus is on celebrating the enduring role the washboard has had on American music styles.

Logan Ohio Washboard Festival decorations hanging across Main Street. We came to town to see the Paul A Johnson Pencil Sharpener Museum.
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Just a small midwestern town with laundry hanging across Main Street… I really liked these Washboard Festival decorations so I’m glad they were still up when we passed through town.
public market square planned by Thomas Worthington when he laid out the town of Logan Ohio includes a gazebo, Civil War memorial, and a mural of Chief Logan.
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Rocco enjoyed a short stroll down Main Street and a stop in this little market square park.

Now that downtown has been scoped out, it’s time to head back to the museum.

Paul A. Johnson Pencil Sharpener Museum

A small shed outside the Hocking Hills Regional Welcome Center houses a collection of over 3,400 pencil sharpeners in the Pencil Sharpener Museum.  This collection was started in 1988 by Reverend Paul A. Johnson.  According to an article posted in the museum, Rev Johnson’s wife gave him two metal car-shaped pencil sharpeners as a retirement gift in an attempt to encourage an interest in transportation models.  Things took off in a completely different direction, though, and his collection of sharpeners began to grow.  By March of 1999, he had more than 2,000 pencil sharpeners in his collection.

“I know of no history, no clubs, no projects involving pencil sharpeners. I just decided if I was going to collect something, I wanted to do something no one else did.”

The Paul A Johnson Pencil Sharpener Museum is located in a small shed outside the Hocking Hills Regional Welcome Center in Logan, Ohio.
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See that shed? It is full of more pencil sharpeners than I have ever seen before in my life! Welcome to the Paul A. Johnson Pencil Sharpener Museum!
big trip 13 is looking at the collection at the pencil sharpener museum in logan, oh
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With over 3400 choices, how can you possibly choose a favorite pencil sharpener?
Animal pencil sharpeners are just one category of many in the pencil sharpener collection of the Paul A Johnson Pencil Sharpener Museum.
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Just a few of the pencil sharpeners in the animal category…
Superhero pencil sharpeners on display at the Paul A Johnson Pencil Sharpener Museum.
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Many pop culture icons are represented in the collection.
An early rotary model pencil sharpener from 1913 is included in the collection of the Paul A Johnson Pencil Sharpener Museum in Logan, Ohio.
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Here is one of the early rotary model pencil sharpeners. It’s a simple design that just works.

The museum is small and depending on how much time you want to spend admiring the variety of Rev Johnson’s collection, your visit will likely be short.  It’s well worth your time to stop and look at the collection of pencil sharpeners.  Categories of sharpeners as originally labeled by Rev Johnson include animals, body, cats, Christmas, Disneyland, dogs, Easter, food, games, globes/world, Halloween, hearts, history, horses, miscellaneous, religion, space, Spain, special, and Zodiac.  Inside the Welcome Center you will find bathrooms and friendly people with even more information about the area.

Inside the Hocking Hills Regional Welcome Center is more information about the Pencil Sharpener Museum and how it was moved from Paul Johnson's house to the welcome center after he passed away.
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Inside the Hocking Hills Regional Welcome Center is more information about the museum and how it was moved from Paul Johnson’s house to the welcome center after he passed away.

Types of Pencil Sharpeners

There are three main types of pencil sharpeners – prism (or manual), cylindrical (or rotary), and specialty.  Before pencil sharpeners were invented, pencils were sharpened with knives or sandpaper.


Prism, or manual, pencil sharpeners were first patented in 1828 by French mathematician Bernard Lassimone.  This first design was no better than sharpening with a knife, which is how it had been done for years prior, so it didn’t really catch on.  Lassimone’s design was improved on by Thierry des Estivaux. Des Estivaux’s design was a single blade inside a conical housing.  This efficient and effective design was improved upon slightly by Walter T. Foster in 1851, making it possible to mass produce the sharpeners. This basic design is still used today in manual pencil sharpeners.

The basic manual pencil sharpener, also known as the prism model. Most of the pencil sharpeners at the museum are prism sharpeners.
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The basic manual pencil sharpener, also known as the prism model.


Cylindrical pencil sharpeners came about to correct the one flaw of a prism pencil sharpener.  In a prism design, the user must hold the pencil steady.  If held wrong, the lead will easily break and additional sharpening is required.  In an attempt to solve this problem, a design was concieved which involved the cutting surfaces rotating on an axis and also rotating around the secondary axis of the pencil.  (Look at the picture below to see what I mean.)  These types of pencil sharpeners are what we commonly see in schools and are the basis of electric pencil sharpener designs.

The first cylindrical pencil sharpener, the AB Dick Planetary Pencil Pointer, was produced in 1896.  The Olcott Climax Pencil Sharpener offered an improvement on that design in 1904.  Since then, the main changes to pencil sharpeners have only been to the materials used in manufacture.  The basis of how it works has remained the same.

[Side note – in an interesting small-world connection… Albert Dick (of the AB Dick Company) was born in Galesburg (a small town in Illinois near my dad’s side of the family) and he coined the term mimeograph. (You can read about my mimeograph adventures here.)]

A cylindrical, or rotary, model pencil sharpener.
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Here you can see how the rotary model pencil sharpener works. When the handle is cranked, the cutting spurs each rotate while also rotating around the pencil which is held stationary.
[Image by Coyau and found on Wikimedia commons]

The Man Behind the Collection

A retired minister and a US Navy World War II veteran, Reverend Johnson, along with his wife, Charlotte, was inducted into the Ohio Senior Citizens Hall of Fame in 2004.  As I dug around the internet trying to learn more about Reverend Johnson, I found numerous examples of what a kind and generous man he was, as he served his community for years.

  • Traveled over 1 million miles, serving as Pastor of Hocking Valley Parish which includes 5 parishes
  • Inducted into Ohio Veterans Hall of Fame in 1996
  • Organized crew reunions for his shipmates from USS Pamanset (AO-85)
  • Was a self-published author of the book Grandpa Is A WWII Veteran
  • Received multiple awards and honors from local community groups including the Red Cross and the Boy Scouts

In his spare time once retired, Reverend Johnson focused on his hobbies – searching for pencil sharpeners and searching for shipmates.  He hoped that his search would also encourage others to begin their own creative pastime.

“My hope is that it encourages people to do something creative – to look for something different.”

I love that Rev Johnson so carefully displayed his vast collection of pencil sharpeners and opened his shed to share his unusual collection with others.  I am also thankful that the family decided to allow the Hocking Hills Regional Welcome Center to act as host and caretaker of the collection so that we can all continue to enjoy it even after he has passed.

How does pencil lead stick to paper?

Have you ever wondered how pencils work? How does the pencil lead stick to the paper? Check out this super short podcast episode that explains the secret workings of pencil lead!

I can’t believe I missed this…

Also in Logan, Ohio, is the Columbus Washboard Factory and the World’s Largest Washboard.  The factory offers tours and is the only washboard factory in the United States.  The old brick factory uses vintage equipment and the washboards are hand-assembled.

Well, you know what this means, right? I have to go back!

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The town of Logan, Ohio is known for its Washboard Music Festival, its Washboard Factory, nearby state parks, and... The Paul A Johnson Pencil Sharpener Museum! This tiny gem of a museum is worth your time on your next visit to the Hocking Hills region of Ohio.
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