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The enlarged home of the Pencil Sharpener Museum opened in January 2024. Capacity: 5000+ sharpeners.
The enlarged home of the Pencil Sharpener Museum opened in January 2024. Capacity: 5000+ sharpeners.

Pencil Sharpener Museum

Field review by the editors.

Logan, Ohio

According to those who knew the Rev. Paul Johnson, buying gifts for him was difficult. At Christmas 1988 his wife gave him three tiny metal cars that were actually pencil sharpeners. Johnson had no known interest in cars or pencils, but the sharpeners lit a spark in him, and for the next 20 years he avidly accumulated over 3,400 pencil sharpeners: none powered by electricity, no duplicates.

Rubber Bozo-head sharpener from the 1950s.
Rubber Bozo-head sharpener from the 1950s.

In fact, Johnson collected so many pencil sharpeners -- he sometimes had to buy a dozen just to get one -- that he gave away the extras to visitors at his Pencil Sharpener Museum, which filled a garden shed in his yard. "He was thrilled to get to show off his collection," said Karen Raymore, Hocking Hills Tourism Director, who visited him several times. "He just was fascinated by it."

Johnson died in 2010, and the collection could have gone the way of many other small personal museums: sold, or packed away in boxes and forgotten, or buried in a landfill. Not this time. Karen reached out to the Johnson family, who agreed to have the shed and its collection moved to the Hocking Hills Visitor Center, where more people could see it. The interior of Johnson's shed was thoroughly photographed, all of the pencil sharpeners were cleaned and numbered, and after the shed was relocated every one of the 3,400+ sharpeners was put back in its original spot.

Miniature sharpeners work the same as their big cousins, but take up less room.
Miniature sharpeners work the same as their big cousins, but take up less room.

However, time and carpenter bees eventually rendered the shed unsafe for people and pencil sharpeners. In January 2024 the collection was moved again, into a new building, with wheelchair accessibility, an HVAC system, and better shelves and lighting. The new building was also larger, because it now included the sharpeners of another obsessed (and deceased) collector, Frank Parades. The pencil sharpener total is currently over 5,000. Frank's collection has its own set of shelves, while Johnson's collection carefully conforms to his original organizational system. "We're very proud to be able to keep it alive," said Karen of the Museum. "It's a real honor for us."

Bill Clinton and ape invite you to stick something in their mouths.
Bill Clinton and ape invite you to stick something in their mouths.

The sharpeners are made of wood, metal, plastic, glass. The oldest in the collection are cumbersome contraptions that date to the 1880s, although sharpeners soon became smaller and more decorative, and today pretty much any shape, person, or thing can be (and has been) turned into a pencil sharpener. Johnson collected and arranged his collection visually -- "It's real obvious," said Karen -- into grouping such as cats, Christmas, space, Spain, the human body, Disney, dogs, Easter, food, games, globes, Halloween, hearts, history, horses, household items, famous buildings, Smiley Faces, dinosaurs, sports, snack foods, transportation, religion, U.S. Presidents, Batman, Barbie, Santa Claus, the Zodiac, and a hodgepodge category known as "Special."

Sharpening pencils is more fun in a carbonated beverage can or a chocolate bar.
Sharpening pencils is more fun in a carbonated beverage can or a chocolate bar.

Sticking a pencil in a hole has inspired the invention of broadly comedic sharpeners "where you really wouldn't think to put a pencil in there," said Karen. The museum has twin-holer sharpeners set into human noses, and animal sharpeners posed with surprised expressions on their faces. Karen speculated (at our coaxing) that unsavory human characters might be good subjects for such a pencil sharpener, although it would never be included in the Reverend's G-rated museum.

We asked: were any of the sharpeners owned by someone famous? "Not that we're aware of," said Karen. "Other than Rev. Johnson, who we think is very famous."

Visitors are welcome to bring a sharpener for possible donation to the Pencil Sharpener Museum, although they should understand that it may fail to meet the Museum's rigorous standard for uniqueness. The rule against electric sharpeners has been relaxed, but not the one against duplicates. "No two are exactly alike," said Karen. "We're very careful about that."

Pencil Sharpener Museum

Paul A. Johnson Pencil Sharpener Museum

Address:
13178 OH-664 S., Logan, OH
Directions:
In a little building next to the Hocking Hills Regional Welcome Center. US-33 exit onto OH-664. Turn south. Drive 100 yards. You'll see the Welcome Center ahead, on the left.
Hours:
M-Sa 9-5, Su 11-5 (Call to verify) Local health policies may affect hours and access.
Phone:
740-385-9706
RA Rates:
Worth a Detour
Save to My Sights

Nearby Offbeat Places

Ruins of Stewart's FollyRuins of Stewart's Folly, Logan, OH - < 1 mi.
World's Largest Washboard and FestivalWorld's Largest Washboard and Festival, Logan, OH - 2 mi.
Mini-Bethlehem in a WindowMini-Bethlehem in a Window, Logan, OH - 2 mi.
In the region:
Car Wash Art Gallery and Plant Library, Gahanna, OH - 41 mi.

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