Sotterranea Officina Sperimentale Sostanza Pencil Quick Look3 August 2016
The Sostanza is a simple but beautiful wooden clutch pencil designed by Sotterranea Officina Sperimentale (SOS) in Italy. It’s currently (as of 3rd August 2016) an active and funded Kickstarter campaign but it runs out on the 6th. SOS were kind enough to send me a sample to have a quick look at before the campaign ends.
The Sostanza’s available in a variety of woods: mahogany (this one), pear, walnut, ebony and amaranth. For the protoypes, SOS used leftover pieces of wood from other projects. For the production pencils, they have told me they are working hard to ensure all wood comes from sustainable sources. Each pencil has a silver ring which is plated differently depending on the wood used for the barrel.
That’s all the Sostanza is: a length of wood with a metal ring. The wood is drilled all the way through and cut along about half its length. The 2mm lead slides through the hole when the ring is pushed up the barrel. When the ring’s pushed back down towards the business end it pushes the two halves of the split together, holding the lead in place. It’s a good length and width, and very light, making it a comfortable pencil to use.
The mechanism is beautifully simple and works well. The hole keeps the lead lined up straight and overall it’s as effective as a traditional clutch pencil. The only drawback to this arrangement is that if the lead snaps the end that isn’t clamped by the ring falls out of the other end of the pencil. It would have been better if this end of the pencil didn’t have a hole, then this wouldn’t happen. However the pencil is able to hold even a short length of lead securely at the writing end. [EDIT: SOS got in touch to let me know the hole is there so that if the lead does break, it’s possible to get it out. Without the hole it could easily get stuck.]
The lead included with my pencil was from Koh-I-Noor, a company not famous for high quality graphite. It’s reasonable but a little gritty.
The Sostanza campaign promotes the idea that this is a revolutionary new pencil. That’s the Kickstarter way. It isn’t revolutionary but it is functional and it is very beautiful. There are compromises to be had for that beauty: there’s no clip, no lead pointer and it will only hold one piece of lead. Are those compromises worth it? To me, they are and, as I’ll be giving this sample away, I’ve backed the campaign myself so I can have my own.