This section is from the book "Complete Self-Instructing Library Of Practical Photography", by J. B. Schriever. Also available from Amazon: Complete Self-Instructing Library Of Practical Photography.
Sharpening The Lead. Insert one of the leads (preferably an HHH) in the holder, leaving about one inch projecting from the end of the holder, and screw the clasp moderately tight. Sharpen the lead to a needle point with a long slant. This is best done with an emery paper hone.
Study No. 1
B. J. Falk
Illustration No. 7 Holding the Pencil and Etcher See Paragraph 53
Do not use a knife for this purpose, but prepare a hone as follows:
51. Provide a piece of wood 1 1/2 to 2 inches wide by 6 inches long, and about one inch thick. Glue a piece of emery paper of medium smooth surface to one side of the block and on the other side a piece of moderately rough emery paper. Shape the lead with the rough paper and finish off with the smooth. To sharpen the lead properly you must hold the pencil almost level with the hone. In order to grasp the pencil properly proceed as follows:
52. Place the pencil flat on the table. Grasp it about the center, between the tips of the thumb and fingers. Hold it on the hone at an angle no greater than sufficient to avoid the metal clasp of the holder rubbing on the paper. To sharpen the pencil rub it over the hone, first on the coarse side and finally on the fine emery paper. Rub lengthwise (not crosswise), using quite a long stroke, continually rotating the pencil while sharpening. To hone the lead sideways would probably result in breaking the lead. A final finish may be put on the point by rotating it on a piece of ordinary writing paper. This will remove any surplus powder of lead which would adhere to the retouching medium immediatly upon placing the point in contact with the film.
Holding The Pencil. In Fig. No. 1, of Illustration No. 7, is shown the first method of holding the pencil. You will observe that about two inches of the pencil is extended beyond the index finger. The pencil is resting alongside the third finger, supported by the tip of the thumb, with the index finger resting on the top of the pencil.
54. In Fig. 2 we have practically the same position, only that the index finger slightly laps over the pencil. Either one of these positions is practical, and one should use that position which feels most comfortable to the hand. In Fig. 3 is shown the method of holding the etching knife for shaving and scraping, or, using its technical term, etching the negative. Instruction on the use of the etching knife will be given under Chapter XXI (Lesson Xiv. Elementary Etching) (Baby And Child Photography), Elementary Etching.