For years, the knife was the most commonly used tool to sharpen the wooden writing instrument known as a pencil (which historians believe was invented in the 15th or 16th century). But whittling the wood away to eventually produce a point was a time-consuming, tedious, and inexact process. As pencils became more ubiquitous in everyday life, it became apparent that a faster and more efficient way was needed to sharpen them. Luckily, two Frenchmen were up to the challenge.
On October 20, 1828, Parisian mathematician Bernard Lassimone applied for and was issued French patent number 2444 for his invention of the "taille crayon," translated to English as "pencil sharpener." A year after receiving a patent, the "taille crayon" was advertised in the Le Constitutionnel, an influential political and literary newspaper out of Paris, as the preferable way to sharpen pencils. It employed two small metal files tilted at ninety degrees in a block of wood that worked to whittle, scrape, and grind the wood off the pencil to create a tip. Though this was the first mechanical pencil sharpener, it wasn't much faster, nor less work, than just using a knife.