The Pen Rollerball by Ajoto - Stainless Steel Model Review

A pen is a pen, right? Wrong. Although, if you are reading this blog, you already knew that…

Even within the realm of “nicer pens”, there is a spectrum of quality, design, and overall appeal that can vary to create different overall experiences for the end user.

Around 4 years ago (really that long?!), a small design company out of the UK launched their Kickstarter campaign for what they simply referred to as The Pen.

Even though I recall hearing about Ajoto at the time, I unfortunately did not get in on backing that initial run and The Pen drifted a bit into the back of my mind as others came across my desk and attention.

I’m not sure what sparked my recollection, but it prompted me to reach out to Brad Dowdy of The Pen Addict to see if he had one, him loaning me his for a few weeks, and then ultimately me buying my own… here we are.

Brad had initially loaned me his all brass version which was great (it converted me!), but I opted to purchase the stainless steel as the weight, color, and “smell-less” factor all appealed to me.

By description, The Pen is a sleek and minimal teardrop style pen with a flowing uniform shape and slight, bulbous contour as you approach the “grip” section.

The Pen is clipless, so it is designed for a pants pocket, bag, or folio type carry. Some folks are very picky about their pens having a clip, but I am not one of those people. Honestly, even when pens have a clip I tend to stow them in a leather sleeve and carry them in my pants pocket anyway.

I ordered my pen directly from Ajoto, and when sending me my pen they kindly included one of their red leather pen pouches (sold separately) to review with it.

The first experience with Ajoto is their very elaborate (and beautiful) packaging. Each product is encased in it’s own sealed, custom box or envelope that is covered in foil stamped letters and the Ajoto emblem pattern. To open each sealed box there is a perforated pull tab that allows access to the contents inside.

The Pen comes in a molded cork container that is encased in an aluminum (aluminium…) scabbard that slides off. Very fancy indeed.

Now, this level of presentation will seem excessive/unnecessary to the conservative packaging crowd for sure, so be warned. This, no doubt, adds to the overall cost of the Ajoto products (which we’ll discuss shortly), but it is so well executed. It felt like I was opening a custom gift someone had made for me and I could easily see their products being perfect as a present for a special person/occasion.

Speaking of “luxury”, I would put Ajoto into this category based on the overall brand and pricing model. Even though they don’t have the mass brand recognition of companies like Montblanc, the quality they strive for (and deliver) is what I feel makes them stand out.

As far as branding, the only evidence of the company is their Maker’s Mark logo that is engraved tastefully (almost enigmatically) near the top of the pen.

The Ajoto pen takes the extremely popular Schmidt P8126 cap-less refill (one included) that is extended with their own proprietary twist mechanism. In design, I really like the contrast between the smooth barrel and the fluted twist.

Extending the refill takes a good strong twist of the mechanism which moves slow in about one full resolution. The twist definitely has some tension which is created by a leather (yes, leather) o-ring, but also prevents the refill from inadvertently extending.

I don’t have a lot of fears around the o-ring ultimately breaking down and needing replacement, but time will tell. This pen is definitely built to last, but this is the only piece I could see being potentially problematic, but Ajoto says they are happy to send new ones out if this ever occurs.

One thing I love about this pen is the simplicity of all the parts and pieces which are all metal. The barrel is one solid piece of steel with no breaks, and the twist mechanism are a combination of brass and steel pieces connected together with a hex set screw.    

In the world of machined pens, pricing usually range from $50 and up, and Ajoto is on the upper end of the spectrum. But, their quality is impeccable, particularly on The Pen.

The stainless steel version which I bought retails at £180.00 (£150.00 when removing VAT for US buyers), roughly $240.00 US, which comparative to others in the machined pen market is high.

That being said, I find this pen to be an exquisite product that I know I will use and enjoy in my regular rotation AND was willing to spend my own money on to review. Although, I did get the opportunity to “try before you buy” with Brad’s pen which did help me pull the trigger, but I am extremely pleased with it.

I know for a lot of people in the community that this pen may be out of reach or there are people that can’t see themselves spending this kind of money on a non-fountain pen. Are there products that may seem comparable to the Ajoto pen? Certainly, but I personally consider The Pen to be of extremely high quality and the price is justifiable to me. 

The last 18 months or so has shown me that my daily use pens are usually rollerball or fineliners, so my enjoyment comes from finding high-quality or unique barrels to hold these refills. The Ajoto certainly fits.

Overall, the Ajoto pen is a pleasure to use and I find myself reaching for it almost daily. If these are of interest, definitely take a look at Ajoto's online store

Parker IM Premium Metal Chiseled 5th Mode - Pen Review

A few years back the Parker Ingenuity line came out and I've been meaning to try one since and Goldspot was kind enough to send me one of the Parker IM Premium pens in the shiny chrome metal chiseled edition for review. Special thanks to them!

What is the Ingenuity pen? The Ingenuity line uses a proprietary technology called the Parker 5th, a special refill that is a plastic tipped, marker style refill, kind of like a fineliner.

The pen comes packaged in a simple, but tasteful gold and black Parker box.

This particular model is an all-metal, completely chromed edition that has a series of decorative textured lines and squares across the barrel. With the barrel being all chrome it tends to be a bit of a fingerprint magnet, but looks great; classy.

The textures give it a very "Parker" look which usually resonates with me as an homage to the Art Deco styling that graced so many of their earlier models. Over the last couple of years it seems that Parker has sought to "modernize" and revise their brand by updating the aesthetics, but I feel this pen is a nice blend of both worlds. 

The pen is weighty, but not overly heavy and quite comfortable. The cap is attached to the barrel via a pressure "snap" system held inside, which also posts securely on the barrel. Surprisingly, posting doesn't make writing uncomfortable or create an overly unbalanced feel.

Also true to Parker branding is the arrow clip made from pressed steel that is also a polished chrome finish. The clip is quite sturdy, but with a good tug or snag I could see it bending out a bit.

The only part of the pen that isn't a polished chrome is the section which has a bit of a bead blasted finish to add texture and interest. I'm actually glad Parker opted to do this as polished sections tend to be overly slick which this is not.

The tip of the pen is probably the most interesting piece in the Ingenuity line as it has a faux appearance of being a fountain pen nib, split tines and all, but this is merely a metal shroud (referred to as the hood by Parker) that covers the refill as it protrudes from the grip and barrel. The underside of the "nib" is open to expose the textured tip of the refill that is also designed to look like a feed you'd find on a fountain pen. 

I'm sure this aesthetic choice has many people puzzled in the fountain pen community. Why would you make a pen look like a fountain pen, but not actually be a fountain pen?

Personally, I actually appreciate the design choice here and think I understand Parker's rationale. They aren't proposing that this IS a fountain pen, but they are merely paying tribute to history and the art of writing, and the style of a fountain pen in general. I think of it like companies making those old-timey Edison style bulbs, but with LEDs instead of filaments. Modern tech with vintage style and appeal.

As mentioned above, the Parker 5th refills are a porous, fibre tipped pen that write similar to a fineliner which provides some expressive handwriting possibilities.

In comparison to other fibre, felt, or plastic tipped pens, I find it to be a bit on the stiff side, similar to that of a Sakura Pigma Micron or Sharpie Pen. While a Papermate Flair and Schmidt fineliner are not soft like a brush pen, I feel they are softer while writing than the Parker 5th which is my personal preference. If you enjoy the Micron or Sharpie Pen, this may definitely be a way to class up your barrel for sure.

The refills for the pen aren't cheap running around $8 apiece, but for a more "upscale" refill this is comparable to the Montblanc fineliners that run about the same price.   

This particular pen normally retails at around $85, but Goldspot currently has them on sale for $49.95. They also have a variety of other Parker Ingenuity pens to choose from that can go all the way up to the $250 range depending on materials, but definitely keep this one in mind if wanting to pick one up for a great price.

Special thanks again to Goldspot for sponsoring the post! 

Aluminum Pen1 by BaughbLabs (Robert Isaac) - A Review

Obviously, being a pen blogger, I enjoy pens... a lot. Dozens of pens come to my desk throughout a given year, and always enjoy trying new things.

Some pens excite me and some fall a bit flat, but the ones that seem to inspire me the most are those that are dreamed up and made by individuals out of a passion for designing something they want to use themselves.

On Instagram I follow a lot of pen folks, but I also seem to gravitate towards artists, designers, and craftspeople. One such person I stumbled upon a couple months ago is Robert Isaac (@baughblabs) and saw that he had designed (and made) his own minimalist aluminum pen.

I knew that I needed to get one... 

Actually, seeing Robert's pen made me think way back to the first time I heard from Chris Williams of Ateleia Craft + Design (at that point it didn't have a name!) back in 2013 when he talked to me about "a pen he was making" and how excited I got. It wasn't corporate or overproduced/marketed; just a dude that was passionate about making an awesome pen that shelled out his own cash to make a small first batch (20 in total I think) just to see how it went. 

I visited Robert's website and saw where to purchase, so I placed my order. The pen was $49.95 which included domestic shipping (which I find an immense deal), and within a couple of weeks my pen arrived in the mailbox.

Now, I said "weeks" as each pen is handmade by Robert in small batches on his lathe. I think I caught him right about when a batch was wrapping up, so the wait wasn't too long. This didn't dissuade me as I can relate with my Dudek Modern Goods brand and how I generally take a couple of weeks as all of my stands are made to order.

The pen arrived nicely stowed in a simple, brown paper envelope with Robert's "b" logo stamped on it. No frilly packaging which was totally ok.

I love how simple this pen is. A straight, stick-like aluminum barrel that is pure function, but that simplicity is what makes it great. I've used other "stick" pens that didn't quite get the proportions and design right as they added rings, grips, or other textures that distracted from the sleek minimalism.

The pen is thin being machined from 3/8" aluminum rods, a smidge larger in diameter than your average wood cased pencil for reference. Being aluminum, it is also light weighing in at around 0.7 oz, but a very comfortable heft for it's size.

To extend the Parker style refill, you simply screw in the threaded end cap until it creates a near seamless barrel. To retract, unscrew it until the tip is safely stowed inside.

I find this to be extremely clever, even if to some this may seem overly simplistic.  

The design doesn't lend itself to lighting quick deployment (about 4 or 5 turns), but also prevents the pen from inadvertently being "clicked". I don't mind the exposed threads, but have thought in my mind how Robert could potentially machine away the top two threads to create a more stair step look. This would make the inset appear drastically deeper, but might act as a good guide for when the pen is extended and prevent the threads from possible damage.

The tip of the pen has a sharp, conical design which functionally allows you to see the tip while writing, but also adds just enough "shape" to the pen.

The workmanship on the pen is excellent, considering that Robert hand machines and finishes each of them. The pen is high quality, but does have some subtle, human-made elements that, to me, increases my appreciation for it. A person hand made and shipped this product to me which adds to it's story. Every time I use it I can connect it back to this.

Overall, extremely happy with my purchase from BaughbLabs and I'm looking forward to years of use from this pen. Take a minute to check out Robert's site, and here is hoping to more designs from him!