*D* Rocket Titanium Oval Bolt Action Pen Prototype by d.caston.design

A recent Kickstarter campaign that launched by Darriel Caston of d.caston.design is one that caught my attention and he was kind enough to reach out to offer me a sample for review here on The Clicky Post.  I am excited to share my thoughts.

The pen is offered in two materials: titanium and zirconium.  I asked Darriel if I could get my hands on one of the raw titanium versions and he very kindly obliged.

As a notice, the pen I received from Darriel is a prototype version (although close to final), so adjustments undoubtedly will be made for production to make sure it is tip top.

Darriel's pen is called the *D* Rocket Oval pen.  Why oval?  Well, the shape of the pen barrel is not your average cylindrical shape (or hexagon...lets be real...rOtring) which makes it unique in my book.  I've yet to use or recall seeing a pen machined in this way.

The rationale behind the design is stated as wanting to create enough space in the pen to create a true, flush bolt action mechanism which he succeeded in doing.  Most bolt action pens have a protruding knob which is used to extend and retract the refill (think, TiBolt...which I've yet to use).  The Karas Kustoms Bolt is flush as well, but uses a knock at the top of the pen to work the mechanism, so Darriel's design is definitely unique.

The first question I'm sure that comes to mind: is the pen comfortable with this seemingly odd shape?  Actually, yes.  You would think the wider barrel would make it feel like writing with a butter knife, but I find my "triangular" standard grip hugs the barrel between my middle finger and thumb on the flatter sides, with my index finger resting on top on one of the "points" if that makes sense.  I've found the experience to be unique, but also comfortable.  (see image)

Not a hand model...

From the pictures I also thought the pen was going to be longer than it really is.  It comes in at just about 5.25 inches long putting it on par with some other favorites.  The pen is also not overly heavy so the writing experience overall has been great from a hand fatigue standpoint.

The pen takes as a standard the Parker style refill which allows for some solid options: Schimdt EasyFlow 9000M, Fisher Space Pen, Itoya Gel (a new personal favorite).  It came with an OHTO Soft Needle refill which, personally, doesn't really perform to a level I prefer, so I swapped in the Itoya.  If the thought was to ship the pen with the OHTO as standard, my recommendation would be to survey the backers to see if there is a preferred Parker refill collectively.  

To swap in the refill, you do need to have an allen wrench handy of appropriate size.  There is a screw (made from titanium) at the tail end of the pen that unscrews via this allen wrench which when removed is a cool looking part all its own.  It has really chunky threads so when I was reinstalling it took me a second to line up, but snugged down easily.

With the tip of the pen, there is a slight movement while writing, but not in the range of what I would consider to be offensive.  With retractable pens, it is difficult I'd imagine to remove all traces of wiggle due to the need of springs for the mechanics.  You could likely increase the spring tension which would add more pressure against the tip when compressed, but then you might have TOO stiff of a spring which would be uncomfortable when extending and retracting the mechanism.  Also, even though it takes the "Parker" refill, these refills may have varying tolerances from each manufacturer which can impact things.  While writing there is that slight sound of the innards shifting right around the tip, but I wouldn't consider it moving too much for comfort. 

The pen, less the refill and spring, is made up of only four parts: barrel, clip, bolt, and screw.

The bolt mechanism where your thumb presses is a thin piece with six lines machined in for grip.  I like the way the bolt feels when you use it.  It is easy to use and put into place and I don't feel like I'm fumbling with it to try and get it to work which is a plus.  Since it is metal on metal, there is some distinct noise with it when it springs into place either open or closed like a "click".  It isn't quiet, but isn't offensive to me.

With many retractable pens, a fear and question many people have is "will this pen open up in my pocket?"  With this pen, I would say no.  The design of the barrel and mechanism don't really allow for it to be caught on something and pushed into place.  This isn't a worry I have in the least.   

A seemingly strange observation, but the bolt mechanism seems to be in a left handed position.  Let me explain: when I hold the pen to activate it, the clip of the pen is pushing against my finger and then, unless I twist it, against the fleshy part of the hand.  That would be uncomfortable so we are naturally going to spin it around so the clip faces away from the hand.  This puts the mechanism back away from the thumb requiring the need to spin it back to find it.  I don't necessarily feel that this is a complaint, but an observation.  I mention it as all other bolt action pens that are pretty mainstream (Maxmadco, The Bolt, and TiBolt) have the mechanism on the side where the clip is facing up (away from the index finger) when activating.  

No offense to lefties, but you only make up about 10% of the population which means, from a utility standpoint, most production model pens should be designed for righties... love you all still! 

One thing that originally concerned me was the clip, but I've since discussed it with Darriel and he mentioned that the clip I received was a prototype primarily to get the form down, but is not the final production.  This clarity gave me a lot of comfort because upon pulling the pen excitedly from the packaging, the first thing I did was try and give the clip a little twang, and I do mean little.  What occurred was a very easily bent out clip.  Bent clips do not equal peace of mind, so I appreciated Darriel clearing that up.  Even the prototype clip does the job, but I'm glad to hear that it will be made up to spec with what customers would expect from the pen.

The *D* Rocket Oval pen starts out at $95 which may seem a little steep, but I find it in line with most of the other titanium pens on the market, particularly the bolt action ones.  The Maxmadco Ti runs around $125 and the TiBolt starts at $140.  The experience you receive with this pen is pretty on par and is worth the asking price in my opinion.  Granted, I received a prototype for review, but to show that I believe the value is there I am backing the project to get the same raw titanium version shown here in the post.

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I'm stoked to get my hands on pens like this to check out, and a big thanks again to Darriel for sending it my way as it was a pleasure to review and I'll be excited to get my production model in the months to come.  Please go and check out his Kickstarter campaign and I hope this review provided insight into the experience.

Pilot M90 Fountain Pen 2008 Limited Edition - F Nib

I have to admit, I've been a bit reluctant to review the Pilot M90 fountain pen.  As it is a discontinued model it kind of stands really close to that line of "is it fair to review if people can't find them?"  Personally, I think it is ok (hence the review) as it helps to spread awareness of older models that may intrigue people to dig a bit deeper on their own.  This is what lead me down an unhealthy path to the rOtring 600s and vintage Pilot pens... consider yourself warned!

That being said, head into this review with two disclaimers: these pens can be difficult to find and, if you find one, expect to drop some money on one.  We're talking Montblanc kind of money... (although I don't own a Montblanc; another discussion) and may not be realistic for everyone to delve into.

The history of the M90 actually takes us back to 1971 when Pilot released a pen called the MYU 701.  We'll consider the MYU 701 to be the M90's dad or older brother...

The MYU is a stunning work of art.  The nib is made from a single piece of steel that extends to a point which consists of both the grip and nib.  This is referred to as an integral nib meaning the section and nib share the same material. 

Sadly, Pilot discontinued this line of pens back in the 1970's.  Why?  I don't know.  Cost, demand, economy... who knows?  

For Pilot's 90th birthday in 2008 they decided to produce a pen that was very similar to the MYU 701 and called it the M90.  Made to look almost identical (although with some slight modifications and upgrades), the M90 shares the same iconic integral nib made from stainless steel which is a total stunner.  Futuristic, modern; nothing really touches it in comparison.

Sadly, Pilot only made 9,000 of these units (with a relatively small number coming to the USA) which now makes them sold only on the secondary market where I purchased mine.

I was really nervous about this pen as it was pricey.  Full transparency, I think when I purchased mine it ran me close to $400.  Gulp.  In seeing the resale value staying pretty consistent on them, I figured that if for some reason I didn't completely fall for it that I could pass it on to another collector.  At the point I purchased it, the M90 was by about double the most expensive pen I'd bought.  I've seen them now (in less than a year) ranging still from around $450 all the way up to people asking $700+.  Would I go as far as to call it an investment pen?  Meh.  But you can't argue with the supply/demand issue and its apparent toll on the price.

It arrived and upon taking it from the box I was pretty much awestruck by this pen.  Hard to say if I've laid eyes on anything quite like it where pens are concerned.  I have a vintage MYU pen so I had an idea of what to expect, but the M90 is like the MYU 2.0 if that makes sense.  

The overall build quality and finish is top notch.  It is slightly larger than the original MYU and has a different posting mechanism.  The older MYU pens had three spring pressure "flanges" that fit into the section from within and poked out.  Think LAMY 2000 fingers.  When the cap was placed on the pen, these little fingers held it in place.  When posting the pen for writing, the cap simply slipped onto the tail of the pen with no clasping other than a tight fit between the barrel and the cap.

The M90 employs a duel posting system where a ring in the center with fingers serves as the mechanism to hold the cap whether closed or in the writing position.  The cap seems to have a bit of a recess that these "clip" into gently.  A seemingly subtle change, but definitely an engineering advancement for the pen.

The pen can take either the Pilot/Namiki cartridges or a CON-20 Pilot converter.  Some people are funny about this converter (I was) as it is the squeeze type, but it really seems to do the job well.  I've yet to have any emergencies, but I always try to make sure the converter is snugly attached.  

To fill the pen it works like most others: dip the nib into the ink, squeeze the converter a few times, and voila.  Being stainless steel, the nib/section is easy to clean up.

The nib on this M90 is a fine, but they also produced a medium.  Definitely expect a Japanese fine with this pen, but what I've found is that the flow is fantastic and the nib is surprisingly smooth.  I've stuck pretty much with either Pilot or Namiki blue/black (not the same) and have really enjoyed writing with the pen.  I would put it in the good everyday category as long as I have the right paper.

The nib does not have a sweet spot and has taken well to almost any angle I've thrown at it.

Going back to the build, the entire pen isn't made from solid stainless steel as there are some plastic parts inside.  The feed looks pretty cool (what you can see of it) as it is a sculpted piece that molds up into the tip so you don't see any fins.  Pretty neat and doesn't distract from the streamlined goodness of the design.  The threading in the barrel and the section are made of plastic, but the join together by a middle piece made from metal.  The M90 shares this with the MYU and I haven't heard of major issues of cracking, stripping the threads, etc.

One final point on the design/aesthetic, Pilot adorned the top of the pen with a blue stone or piece of glass to pay some homage (with slightly more flair) to the MYU which had a small, dark inlay at the tip of the cap.  I think it is tastefully done.  I'm really not a "jewel" pen person, but the M90 is a bit on the classy side so I'll let it slide.

At this point, buying one of these pens is going to take some commitment from you.  This is definitely not a fly-by-night kind of pen purchase and I wanted to try and showcase the pen as best as I can.  Is it worth $400-700?  I'm going to leave that up to you.  The original price tag on these was in the sub-$200 range which was likely underpriced in hindsight.  

I look at the M90 as part of the legacy of the Pilot MYU, Murex, Elite family of which I've become a fan (ok, obsessed).  My reasons for buying aren't necessarily for the "how does it write" factor, but also the appreciation of its history and the way I feel about the design and engineering marvel that it is.  It writes great and I enjoy the function of the pen, but there are a lot of pens for less money that can give you a great experience.  The question is, are you smitten enough with the design to justify the M90?       

Nock Co. DotDash Pocket Notebooks

The fellas at Nock Co were kind enough to send me over a pack of their DotDash Pocket Notebooks awhile back and I'm finally getting the chance to write down some thoughts.  

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Get out the sunglasses as the first thing you'll notice about these particular pocket notebooks is the cover.  A bright and shining yellow that is sure to catch the attention of those around you and possibly low flying aircraft.  In my opinion, this is fun.  I'm not generally the type to buy overly bright objects (I'm sort of a grey, blue, black... boring type of guy), but these were a really nice surprise.  When I buy or receive products, I sometimes think to myself what color choice I would have made if I was the creator and I know that yellow wouldn't be it, but that's why having so much creative diversity in the world is important.  If left up to me, things would be pretty neutral all around.

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That being said, just know that they are yellow and if yellow may not jive well with your conservative aesthetic, then consider yourself informed.

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The guys have also taken a slightly different approach to your average pocket notebook by choosing a top staple design (like a little reporter notebook almost).  By shortening the amount of stapled edge by almost half, it provides the flexibility of using the book in both a portrait or landscape format much easier.  

When I hold a Field Notes or Doane Paper Utility Notebook I never think to turn it on it's side to write.  With the the Nock books, I could totally see myself doing this if I needed to sketch a quick design or drawing.  I'm sure it is all psychological on my part, but I feel this removes some of those boundaries.

How is the performance?  Good overall for most everyday writing.  I've put down to the page a variety of different pens/pencils and have some thoughts to share on each.

The paper is 50lb which holds up well and is printed with the Nock DotDash pattern in grey.

I found some of the best result with micro gel pens like the Uni-ball Signo DX.  The lines were crisp and there was no bleed through.

I've only used one fountain pen with the book, my Pilot M90 with an F nib (inked with Pilot Blue/Black) and found that it didn't really maintain the line width very well.  Not a ton of major feathering, but it sucked up a lot of ink and bled a bit through the page.  Broader fountain pens would probably be a no-no.

I used two rollerball pens, the Schimdt Cap-less (like found in Retro 51 Tornados) and the Uni-ball Vision Elite and these also tended to bleed through pretty heavily and onto the next page with the Schmidt.

My conclusion would probably be to try and stick with ballpoints, gels, or use with pencils (maybe really fine and drier fountain pens...maybe) for the best possible experience.

Pretty heavy on the Uni-ball it seems...

Pretty heavy on the Uni-ball it seems...

From a price point, they are on par with other pocket books out there at $9 for a 3-pack.

I really enjoy these books from a utility standpoint.  The highlight to me was the ability to easily choose the landscape vs portrait option with the simplicity of top staple binding.  A seemingly small thing, but something that stood out.

Thanks again to Nock Co for sending these over!  Check out their website for more info and to pick up a pack if you feel these bright beauties will fit your fancy.