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.
12 Replies to “Nava Pencils: Quality and Style”
These are definitely not Incense Cedar pencils as no Incense cedar to my knowledge is being stained black anymore. We exited this product line as results with black stain were better with other species than cedar and the process was quite expensive for the very limited volumes involved.
The slats used to make these pencils are most probably Weymouth Pine and were most likley produced in Czech Republic. There is a sall slat producer there that has this capability to do various colored wood slats. The pencil design itself looks similar to something Schwan’s Promotional Products Group offers and so I’m guessing the pencils themselves may have been produced by Schwan’s plant also nearby that factory in Czech Republic.
Woodchuck – thank you for the correction and the great information. It
is most appreciated.
There are some much better know black-dyed pencils – from the Faber-Castell Graf series that accompanied the perfect pencil. Any chance you would know if those are cedar? I think the promotional insert they come with claims they are.
Where would I buy Nava pencils? I hit Google and eBay without success.
J. – Let me say that I was hoping that others might assist with suggestions about how and where to purchase these pencils.
There has definitely been some interest in these pencils since I posted the above piece. Even the Central Committee has contacted me about them.
Here is what I can say. For me, they were a local neighborhood purchase. Unlike the Palomino, vintage pencils, etc., I didn’t have to use the services of either my ISP or the post office to acquire them. They were darned easy to get. And, their cost was about half the local cost of a Grip 2001, though still much more than a local office supply store pencil. So they’re relatively inexpensive as well as being great pencils.
Nava is not an extremely well known name, but their products are in many stores that sell agenda books, luggage, and leather accessories, rather than stationers or office suppliers.
I also did a search, and found online European retailers. I also found many U.S. retailers with other Nava products, though not specifically these pencils, even if they have nice photos of them such as Paperhaus.
I found these places with search terms like “matite” and “nero” (Italian for “pencil” and “black”) and “Nava Design”.
Nava is more formally known as Nava Design, based in Milan. They also have a U.S. office in Chicago. And they have a website, here. Quite fascinating, naming the actual designers of their products, including these pencils (which I see also come in other spectral ranges).
So here are some ideas about getting some of these pencils:
1. Contact retailers that have other Nava products to see if they have or can get these pencils.
2. Try a European vendor.
3. Contact the Chicago Nava office.
4. Maybe our friend Don at PencilThings would like to stock some of these?
They also have the same black wood pencils in green and other colors, according to their catalog. A wedding registry in Pasadena shows the black, white, etc., pencils in a “studium” for $63.00. Envy . . .
I gotta get some of these…
I am a Graf Von Faber-Castell Pencil User and I do know that the pencils are not cedar. They are crafted from alderwood. (For the record, these Graf pencils are not as smooth as my Palominoes but they are light to the touch, and you can’t beat the replacable eraser and cap.) I will have to keep my eyes out for these Nava Pencils.
1. Here’s some pencil gossip for those who like this black dyed look: Rhodia of Rhodia Pad fame is apparently going to release a triangular shaped pencil with black dyed wood, finished to match their famous signature orange colour. A photo of this pencil was published on Moleskine Art last November. Now companies make sample and promotional items all the time, so I wasn’t sure what to make of the photo. Good news – I recently spoke with a local Rhodia vendor who said he knew about the pencil, and that it is part of an upcoming product line.
2. Adam – are you sure? Faber-Castell’s website says the Graf von Faber-Castell “desk pencil case” is made of alderwood, and the pencils of cedar.
wow here is my opportunity to be useful.
i found these pencils in 2003 or so at a store that was then called THE ART STORE but which now belongs to dickblick.com.
last wednesday i got a handful of them at dick blick pasadena. they also come in colors like raspberry, turquoise, lemon yellow, bright green, etc and you can buy them in packs of six both in black and in colors.
i am sure that there are ART STORES all over the US.
That’s great news about the Rhodia pencil. I remember drooling over Patrick’s photos a few months ago:)
I haven’t seen them at Dick Blick here. :(
I saw them at dick blick today while picking up a rhodia pad. Man, I love that store, they have EVERYthing. Sadly they don’t sell them online. I’m sure that if you called them you could order some. The store I was at was in Schaumburg, IL.