The Høvel Pencil Plane has featured in a previous article ‘Pencil Sharpeners: A Journey’ but this small-yet-mighty piece of kit is having a moment so deserves its own dedicated article.
Since the renowned TJ Cosgrove, creator and blogger under the brand ‘Wood & Graphite’, posted his stunningly shot review video on YouTube in February, it would seem that a great many people around the world are enjoying the tactile delights of the Høvel Pencil Plane. If you are at all interested in the Høvel Pencil Plane, the Wood & Graphite video is well worth a watch. So, what is it about this £55 pencil sharpener that has everyone talking?
The Høvel Pencil Plane: Origins
As a slight change of pace from the discussions of stationery empires, the creators of the Høvel Pencil Plane are the fresh faced; Ben Weininger, Odin Ardagh & Noah Bier who have set their sights on disrupting the world of product design.
The three creative minds behind the Høvel Pencil Plane met as design students at Central Saint Martins College in London. Instead of going out to placement in their second year of study they were compelled to take their combined design ethos into the ‘real world’. Originally known as Brahman Design, Makers Cabinet (as it is now known) was the product of the three creatives rejecting the usual convention of practically disposable products and sought to create items which would not only serve a practical purpose engineered to perfection, but would also last a lifetime.
Makers Cabinet found inspiration in disrupting the norm and creating the antithesis of the disposable culture which has been growing since the middle of the 20th Century. In an interview with Nanosphere, Odin expresses “For me it’s old hand tools passed down, let’s say from your grandfather. You’ve got this item which has been imbued with 70 years of use and can still perform the function.” Furthermore in that interview, all three express their love for Blackwing Pencils...Which we can totally get behind and explains the iconic silhouette of a Blackwing featuring in much of their marketing materials … but I digress.
The Høvel Pencil Plane is, in its simplest descriptor, the product of an identified issue (that of disappointing pencil sharpening products), a need (sustainability in manufacturing) and a desire (long-lasting, heritage products which are beautifully designed and impeccably engineered).
The Høvel Pencil Plane: Bringing the Concept to Life
One of the key inspirations for the Høvel Pencil Plane was when Norwegian Odin, returned home for Christmas and found himself playing with a hand plane to sharpen a pencil whilst doing woodwork, only to experience a eureka moment with both the efficiency of using the tool for this purpose, but also with the pleasure that the tactile motion created. Armed with an idea, he joined forces with Californian Ben and launched a Kickstarter campaign to develop the idea further. Just under 500 people contributed to the campaign and raised over £25,000 to allow for the development of the product and the launch to market. They were later joined by the sharp minded Londoner, Noah, who guided the company through their first storm which was the first batch of the Høvel Pencil Plane - but we will come back to that!
The simple dissatisfaction of using the common twist sharpener, which often amounted to broken leads and the need to have different sharpeners for different shaped pencils, was the spark which ignited a passion for simplicity re-imagined into a experience of elegance and engineering with a conscience.
The success of the Kickstarter campaign and the surrounding interest meant that a great deal of Høvel Pencil Planes were to be shipped out in time for Christmas. With the main manufacturing elements taking place in China, a delay in customs saw the shipment finally arrive on the last day which they could be shipped out to ensure everyone received the much anticipated pencil sharpener! With both Ben and Odin due on flights, it was Noah who saved the day by taking charge and ensuring every order was fulfilled. Noah has remained an integral part of the Makers Cabinet tripod. Since that first batch was shipped, the company has benefitted from the UAL Creative Business Accelerator programme which has allowed them to hone their business skills to match and align with the raw talent and dedication of the design aspects of Makers Cabinet.
It is interesting to note that although the Kickstarter campaign was incredibly successful, Makers Cabinet initially struggled to find retailers to stock the Høvel Pencil Plane. The reason being that many of the retailers they approached required a minimum of three products to be able to display the brand in store. Although incredibly frustrating for Makers Cabinet, this barrier has been fortuitous for the stationery world. Makers Cabinet have always intended to apply their mission for excellent products which are sustainable and built-to-last to products outside of stationery, but because of the issues which faced them trying to market the Høvel Pencil Plane, the team dedicated themselves to create a capsule collection of exceptional writing tools.
The Høvel Pencil Plane was a jumping off point and with some market research and some reflection on their own requirements as students of design, the Iris was conceived.
The Iris is an impressive looking drawing circle with a beautiful moving aperture mechanism providing a solid and stunning alternative to a compass. The third product in the drawing and writing tool collection was announced in July 2020 and became available for pre-order on Kickstarter in August. The Stria is a folding ruler which is CNC machined to precision and is a substantial piece of kit, measuring in both metric and imperial with the added functionality of offering tactile haptic feedback from all angles.
The Høvel Pencil Plane: The Product
A modern take on the early whittle-based designs, Høvel (translates to hand plane in Norwegian) functions as a miniature plane with the freedom to craft the point required for the job at hand. Although small, the Høvel Pencil Plane is a precision machined brass piece weighing in at 90 grams which can be placed in a wooden base for extra impact.
Designed to be practical, environmentally friendly and attractive, The Høvel Pencil Plane has been crafted to last a lifetime although the elements of the plane are fully recyclable. The substantial and weighty feel of The Høvel Pencil Plane is a delight, but also aids in its purpose to sharpen pencils (and similar items) to any desired point with ease. When placed in the wooden stand (sold separately but totally worth the purchase) The Høvel Pencil Plane is a stylish addition to the workplace, desk or workshop.
Furthermore it can be housed in a gorgeous leather sheath (also a Makers Cabinet product - they thought of everything!) allowing for safety and a touch of additional style.
Using the Høvel Pencil Plane is an experience part-way akin to using a pocket knife or a single blade sharpener yet with its own characteristics and an aspect of skill. But don't worry, you don't need to possess skill to use it - of the myriad reviews of the Høvel Pencil Plane I have come across, all speak of the enjoyment of the first few uses of the plane and the development of your own unique style of using it.
The design of the Høvel, unlike the typically enclosed single blade sharpener, allows for freedom of movement in the sharpening process and therefore a variety of outcomes for the pencil itself. Every aspect of this handy tool has been carefully considered, trialed and refined, and constructed to perfection.
The longevity of the product as well as beautiful characteristics and brilliant efficiency means that the naysayers who took issue with the products price point have been quietened...it should also be considered that the combined price of the oft replaced alternatives would likely exceed the price of the Høvel Pencil Plane. Plus it comes with replacement blades, and additional blades are very reasonably priced, so the long term 'running' cost of the Høvel Pencil Plane is pretty low.
It is an item to be treasured and passed down, gifted and retained for oneself...just as Makers Cabinet's original concept dictated.
The Høvel Pencil Plane at The Hamilton Pen Company
Explore the full collection of Makers Cabinet products at The Hamilton Pen Company, including the gorgeous walnut or beech bases, spare blades and leather pouches!