I was recently contacted about a Kickstarter campaign for a wooden lead holder called Sostanza, and was kindly offered a sample for review. Special thanks to Sotterranea Officina Sperimentale for sending it my way!
My sample didn't arrive until only a few days prior to the Kickstarter coming to a close (ended on the 6th successfully), but I was still excited to provide my review nonetheless.
The Sostanza is, in essence, a wooden lead holder, but is a unique, beautiful, and very functional piece of desk art.
Milled from various wood species, the overall shape is close to a traditional folded nib or dip pen handle being larger towards the tip and then tapering off to a thinner piece towards the tail. A slit and channel are milled into the pencil which provides the "gap" the lead fits into as well as the small space to create pressure via a metal ring to hold the lead in place.
The sample I received is made of amaranth which naturally ages into a purple/violet color (think purple heart-ish), and is adorned with a metal ring plated in rose gold for a little bling. The walnut one would have been my first choice to receive, but they did not have additional samples of that model which was totally fine. The amaranth is very pretty.
To extend the lead, the small ring needs to be loosened toward the tail end, the lead manually moved, and then the ring pushed back towards the tip to tighten it down. To some, this could be seen as a cumbersome process and is not a "quick deploy" type of action. Over time I'd wager that the ring will ultimately create a small channel in the wood from pushing it back into place.
The overall experience of receiving the pencil has been very well conceived. It comes in a glass vial with the logo etched on the side plugged with a special cork that the end of the pencil fits into to keep it from jostling around. Finished off it is within a nicely executed and branded cardboard piece that holds the vial with an elastic band.
Not a jab, but personally I'm a bit of a minimalist when it comes to packaging and see what is done here to be on the slight bit excessive side, but for this product I think the presentation is appropriate. Although very simple, it is a piece that is meant to attract attention (in a good way) and is deserving of a well thought out packaging experience.
I would consider the Sostanza to be a desk item, not so much something I'd be toting around in a bag with me. Partly due to fear of it being broken and also that it wouldn't be something I'd choose to carry around for convenience as well.
For pure functionality, other lead holders do the job better having traditional knock mechanisms, built in sharpeners, etc, but that really isn't the point of Sostanza. It is a natural, beautifully crafted, and very elegant piece that could easily be given as a well received gift to an artistic person or someone who would appreciate "what it is" if that makes sense.
Being only wood and a small metal ring, the pencil is very light coming in at just 0.2 oz. For me this doesn't detract from the overall experience, but for some it may be too light. It is roughly the same weight as an unsharpened Palomino Blacking for reference. The various wood species could also play a subtle role in changing the weight, but not enough to be noticeable.
The Sostanza isn't what I'd consider to be an inexpensive item coming in likely at a retail of €30-40 ($33-45), but are said to be handmade in small batches and, again, are more of an artistic piece.
Thanks again to the group for sending this out. It is a piece I can definitely appreciate. Perhaps a bit on the pricey side when compared to other lead holders, but may be just the right piece for someone looking for a unique alternative.
Although the campaign is closed, you can still take some time to check out the project for ongoing details and an official release.