I admit it, I have a soft spot for leadholders,... especially when they are pretty. Every now and then, I come across a leadholder that I have to have, even though I sometimes don't know what to do with more leadholders. I guess most pen addicts won't expect much from a leadholder, since it is but a 'mere' artist's tool. Yet there actually appears to be somewhat of a niche market for design leadholders, thus there's quite a few gems to be found. These 'high-end' leadholders appeal to me with their minimal design and simple function, be it mostly from a collector's perspective.
Design and luxury comes first with these high-end leadholders, function seems to be less important. In a way, there's some resemblance to the fountain pen world: Once you get into gold-nibbed fountain pens, they are pretty much all the same, and you'll have to shell out extra if you want to get into special and unique designs and finishes. Same goes for the leadholders (be it in a slightly lower price class altogether!), in essence they all sport the same mechanism, but you'll pay more if you want it to look good as well.
Exotic materials, a clean design, and a higher price give away that the E+M Graphic Blackwood I have in my hands today is one of those high-end leadholders. It's not just a sketching tool, but rather a design object.
While not the most comfortable leadholder on the planet, the Blackwood is still one of my favourites. Reason for that is quite simply the fantastic design. Luxury leadholders are often designed with minimalism in mind. The Blackwood is no different, yet the simple design is accentuated by a unique finish that I'll come back to later.
E+M is a German family business, specialised in wooden desk items. They make a range of different writing utensils, amongst which a large assortment of leadholders in various shapes and sizes. The Graphic is one of the more high-end models amongst their offerings.
The overall design is quite simple and straightforward. A straight, cillindrical leadholder, clean, simple lines, nothing flashy. Every aspect about it is bulky, and the straight lines are very pronounced. The metal parts are silver-coloured and appear to be custom made for this specific model. To find custom hardware on a 5.6mm leadholder like this is quite rare, but it's definitely a nice detail as it adds to the overall sleek design.
At first glance, this pencil is far from elegant. It's bulky, minimalistic and utilitarian. Yet the material on the body of the Graphic is something else. The subtle but striking silver-veined black wood gives the leadholder a unique appeal. The wooden barrel feels luxurious and refined, quite the opposite from the minimalist overall appearance. I think it's this contrast, simple vs. stylish and refined, that makes the Graphic such a neat product.
The clutch mechanism, as I already mentioned, doesn't look like the run of the mill parts found on most other 5.6mm leadholders. It looks heavy and solid, and it contributes to the overall design. The brand logo can only be found on the ring right above the wooden barrel, it's subtle and it doesn't distract from the clean lines, just the way I like it.
The Graphic weighs in at around 50 grams. That might sound like a lot (and in fountain pen terms, it certainly is...), but it's not that uncommon for leadholders. Because it's a rather bulky (15mm/ 0.6 Inch) and long (115mm/ 4.6 Inch), I expected it to be even heavier, which might have been unpleasant. Overall, it's not the most functionally sized leadholder I've come across, especially its above average diameter makes the leadholder slightly unwieldy.
The not-so ergonomic shape doesn't really lend itself to being used for long writing sessions, but it's ok for quick scribbles or notes. The rather 'extreme' dimensions are more suitable for sketching, which is funny because I don't think a leadholder in this price class isn't really made for just that. I can't help but think of it as 'merely' a collector's item. That's fine by me, but I know some people will be immediately turned off by the word 'collecting'.
But for the artists and the people that want a dependable and comfortable leadholder for everyday use, I'd suggest looking elsewhere. For those interested in buying one, I got mine from Cult pens, a friend of this blog, and one of the most reliable retailers I know of. Cult pens is also one of the few shops I've encountered that has such an extensive collection of E+M products, as well as other leadholders and mechanical pencils.
Note: Cult pens Supports this blog. I received a discount on this purchase, so I could write this review. I was in no way influenced in the making of this review, the opinions shared here are completely my own! This review does not contain any affilate links.