The pencil I purchased is hardly as graceful as the photos on the Kickstarter, found here, but it is every bit as novel an item as the website describes it to be.
First, let’s dig into what kind of pencil this thing is. A clutch pencil is more or less a shell of metal or plastic that holds a thick line of lead (1.0 mm and higher), and can be advanced via button or other method of loosening the “clutch”. You’ve probably heard about the Staedtler Mars Technico, which is eaaily the most accessible of clutch pencils, but Mitsubishi also has its own line of lead holder with varying degrees. They are also color coded. This is the point where I start drooling aggressively.
The Sostanza comes in a variety of real wood bodies, with metal finishes to match, since the clutch is released by sliding out a metal ring (it is extremely minimalist and extremely hipster, which makes me very happy). Mine is Black Walnut with a chrome silver finish. You can find online other woods such as pear, a deep red or a black.
My concerns for this pencil were, first, the price. I knew I would have to save up. Maybe it’s the fact that it’s handmade in Italy, but the price is pretty high. My purchase was approximately 35 USD. The second potential issue was the body of the pencil; growing up in the woods of Michigan taught me how hard and how brittle the material can be. Being a percussion major showed me that any of the right force will break it.
The Sostanza held up. I can squeeze the thing when I write, and I press pretty hard to the page. When positioned at the tightest spot the ring won’t move,and will even take some coaxing when you want to advance the lead, which is a stony HB grade. Also note that the Sostanza has the tapered design of a fountain pen, which is really neat to behold in person.
When I write with the Sostanza, I describe the experience as “wood and stone”. The core that comes with the pencil is a very tough HB, scratchy but not as bad as the Field Notes pencil, which I nicknamed “Scratchy Sails”. I would say that the Field Notes is tougher, because you can feel the give of the Sostanza as it writes. My peeve about this pencil is that there is no way to sharpen the core, in addition to the fact that the wood seems to me a little thin, which brings on my aforementioned worry that the utensil will break.
I have read a Facebook comment on the Erasable Podcast group that described the Sostanza as a “little cello”. I can’t say that I have heard the musical quality that my fellow stationerd has, but I definitely feel the lightweight aspect of the Sostanza in my hand. Spare leads can be found online and at OfficeMax next to the Mars Technico.
The Sostanza is by no means at a price point that many would find within their taste. It is handmade in Italy, so that’s probably the reasoning, ha ha. I could easily see this pencil appearing in an episode of Frasier. I do appreciate the pencil for its experience and the way that it simply is. I would highly recommend it for a stationerd after something highly unique that is mostly functional.