I’m quite pleased to be able to report on a first rate pencil discovery!
Sometimes writing instruments present us with choices between form and function: something that writes well, but doesn’t meet our aesthetic standards. I don’t think this is a major issue for pen users – high price points can be realized for fountain, rollerball, and ballpoint pens, which means that pen manufacturers are able to attract significant design resources and talent. But for the woodcase pencil, who apart from Faber-Castell seriously invests in design?
The answer is Nava. They are an Italian brand known for leather journals and briefcases. I recently discovered that they make pencils – and what pencils they are!
Beautiful round pencils, in finishes called Nero, Anthracite, Silver, and Bianco. They all have a small silver Nava logo, an orange band, and the top of the pencil is black. The lacquer is very nice – a refined slightly matted finish rather than super smooth, and very nice to handle. The wood (I think cedar) is dyed black. They are really eye catching. The Nero (black) pencil in particular with the dyed wood just looks spectacular, though they all look great. They perfectly match black notebooks like Moleskine.
Now here’s the thing – I really doubted these pencils were anything more than a fashion-type product – but I was wrong – they are absolutely first rate. The lead (unidentified grade) is rich and lays down a nice line in what might be a B or perhaps a 2B in other lines. They are as good as the best pencils that we are familiar with.
They also just “look like pencils”, if that makes sense. No bright colours, no extras – just the basics, done very, very well. They truly have achieved elegance through understatement.
Nava probably doesn’t make the pencils – they’re not a known manufacturer, so the task was likely outsourced – but unlike 99% (maybe more) of those who start a pencil line, they clearly didn’t say “get us the cheapest” – they said “get us the best”. I think they succeeded, whoever the manufacturer was. Bravo.