There’s a new pencil in my life.

For years, I bought Rexel Cumberland Derwent Graphics, made at my favourite pencil factory in Keswick. Yes, I had a favourite pencil factory – mostly because of this one glorious range. The graphite was smooth, silky, and a pleasing mid-slate colour, but I liked them not so much for their writing action as for their feel in my hand.

See, Derwent Graphics weren’t just smooth and black – they were really really black. Matte black. One didn’t merely pick them up: one’s hands were caressed by them. The sensuous body, the jaunty gloss orange ring, the contrast with the squeaky gloss black heel of the pencil…

They were glorious pencils. Glamorous pencils. Dangerously sexy pencils. Pencils for people who adored pencils. Pencils for people who were, perhaps, vaguely fetishistic about pencils. We didn’t quite meet on furtive street corners and obsess over a 6H, but just like Moleskine aficionados or Crumpler fans, we acknowledged each other with a knowing nod when, by chance, we happened across a fellow devotee.

We loved our Derwent Graphics.

So they changed them.

As of a few years back, the modern Derwent Graphic is no longer matter black, but rather bears a uniformly gloss finish. The whole point of the pencil – its feel in the hand – is destroyed.

So, I complained. At the factory. I walked into the shop and asked if they had any of the old ones left over. It turned out they’d been dealing beneath the counter (literally), to people like me. Tragically, they’d run out of even this illicit stock, and search parties of sales assistants and even middle management could turn up no more. “We know,” they said, sadly, “They were lovely pencils to hold.”

For the last three years I’ve been nursing my dwindling supplies, eeking them out, my heart heavy as every turn of the sharpener sloughed off another fraction of my future graphitic pleasure.

No more.

Last weekend, at Salt’s Mill, I happened across the Lyra Art Design range.

Fine pencils. Good leads. Good weight. And… and… and… matte black. With a cheeky glossy ring and a stub-end in glossy black; the former white rather than orange and the latter a hair too short, but no matter:

The world once again has matte black pencils.

Oh, happy day.


  1. Steady on, there! Mind you, if Pentel stop making the P205 mechanical pencil, I’ll have something of an identity crisis. But I’ve recently become reacquainted with wooden pencils as it turns out they’re very good, especially when the lead’s broken, at erasing permanent OHP ink from acetate.

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  3. I feel I have a window in your psyche that I never knew existed. Does it help to know that all of my socks are Pringle Argyll Waverleys?
    FWIW, this comment was tapped out on an iPhone 3G. Not quite a Newton, but all that iSteve is going to give us.

  4. Nigel, I hardly think this is the appropriate forum for discussion of your (frankly deviant) sock peccadilloes.
    I mean, pencils are clearly an essential of life, about which any right-thinking person should care. Socks are… ugh.
    Feeling a tad queasy, I think I shall have a gentle lie down now.

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