These "Might" Be The Droids You're Looking For: R2-D2 Cross and Shaeffer Rollerball Pens

If you're a Star Wars fan, how better to show your undying love and commitment to the amazing saga than by purchasing your very own themed writing instruments!

Well, thanks to a few companies, you can. It all just depends on how much you want to spend, and are the pens worth the buy?

Goldspot Pens was kind enough to offer up a couple of pen ideas for review, so I opted to do a side by side comparison of two Star Wars pens that have seemed to be a bit at odds with each other...

The two pens in question are made by Cross and Shaeffer, two companies deeply rooted in American pen manufacturing heritage (although, actually one company now due to a merger).

To start out, I opted to review the rollerball versions of the pens to try and touch on a more "normal" pen experience rather than the fountain pen versions. Not all Star Wars fans are fountain pen users but, darnit, they can buy a nice pen to accompany their fandom.

These two pens, although sharing a common R2-D2 themed design and writing experience, couldn't be further from each other in overall execution and price. It really just depends on what you're looking for and what your budget is for novelty.

Shaeffer Pop Series

Let's start out with the R2-D2 Shaeffer Pop, the less expensive of the two. Starting at around $20, you get a fun, printed plastic barrel of your favorite friendly droid wrapped up in pen form.

The Shaeffer is definitely a "retail" and novelty designed product coming in a plastic, pegboard ready blister pack. Nicely done with some good dual branding, but nothing special.

The pen is lightweight being nearly all plastic parts that has a wonderful resemblance of the R2-D2 lines imprinted on the barrel. I believe it to be a sort of silk screen as it does have subtle texture so it is likely to wear off over the years as it is used. But, for $20 we can't complain too much!

The cap of the pen pops on and off through a stepped friction fit and also posts in the same way. Posted the pen is a bit on the long side, but being so light isn't a bother in the least.

Spoiler alert, both pens share the same refill being under the same umbrella, but with each being branded with their specific company names. The refill used is actually one of my favorite "roller" refills all things considered. It is the Cross/Shaeffer Gel Rolling Ball in 0.7mm which lays down one of the darkest, smoothest lines for any rollerball which is a plus. It probably doesn't trump the P8126 for versatility or overall convenience, but is still quite good.

The grip section on the Pop Series is a grippy rubber texture which makes it easy to hold.

So, the fact that this pen is $20, Star Wars themed, and has a great refill out the gates are all good signs that you might be pleased.

Is it a fancy pen? Not by any means. It feels like a novelty, nicely made (although cheap at the same time) pen that fans will enjoy using. A great stocking stuffer for either yourself or a Star Wars lover in your life.

Cross Townsend

The next pen takes us on a completely different journey from being a mere inexpensive novelty to that of high-end ultra fandom. The bulk of the review will be spent on the Cross as I feel there is a bit more to tell...

Coming in at $450, the Cross Townsend R2-D2 pen is not for the faint of wallet, but we'll discuss my thoughts on whether it is "worth it" as I really dislike tying price to value when you get into this territory.

Rather than a retail blister pack, the Cross comes in a branded cardboard sleeve that includes a nice-ish (not really blown away by it) yellow and black clam-shell cardboard pleather (lots of description here) where the pen lives. Also included is a separate similar box holding a piano black acrylic stand that has Star Wars on one side in silver letters, and Cross on the other in yellow.

What immediately distinguishes the Cross from the Shaeffer is the overall attention to detail and execution. While the Shaeffer is a nicely printed piece of plastic, the Cross in contrast is done in brushed stainless steel with the R2-D2 lines actually etched/engraved into the surface. The blue accents are a cleanly executed paint inlay that provides some "pop" against an otherwise monochrome barrel.

The Cross is weighty, feels solid, and has a certain amount of stage presence that the Shaeffer just doesn't have. Granted, it is 20 times the price, but these are not comparing apples to apples.

Adorning the ends of the pen as well as the center band are polished chrome accents which provide a bit of bling when butted up against the stainless as well.

Wrapping around part of the finial is a laser etching of the limited edition number of 1977 (the year Star Wars came out) and at the very tip is a black jewel to crown it all off.

Overall, the execution is pretty impressive and the pen looks and feels great. Certain to turn heads by anyone that sees you using it.

The cap pops off through a plastic insert in the cap, kind of like a vacuum seal almost with a pretty good tug, and also posts. Writing unposted seems most comfortable given the weight of the pen.

The grip section is a polished black acrylic that goes into an all chrome tip that ties together with the other furniture on the pen. I'm not completely in love with the black section (blue may have been better, or even stainless to match), but it still looks nice.

From a quality standpoint where the wheels come off a little is when you start to unscrew the grip to replace the refill. The pieces start to squeak and wobble and underneath you find some "unfinished" parts with molding seams and rather cheap looking material. In my opinion, not $450 material. It doesn't really matter if the parts are only seen when you take the refill out, on a pen of this price (or even half its price), you expect a level of attention to detail. Do I think this will dissuade someone who's buttons this pen pushes to not enjoy it? Likely not, but to me it takes it down a few notches.

For the sake of validation, I took apart a few pens that normally run comparable or even cheaper to the Townsend rollerball and fountain pens in price, and found that NONE of them had similar issues in quality control. Or, at least they pay better attention to detail than Cross.

(Pens I referenced were a Sailor Pro Gear, Montblanc 146 Platinum, Platinum 3776, and even a Kaweco Elite for good measure.)

For being one of Cross' flagship products, upon further inspection it did leave some things wanting.    

Referencing back to the acrylic stand, quality control on these didn't seem to go so well. The silver Star Wars lettering is a bit wavy where the lines should be straight and even looks a bit on the crooked side. May seem like a small detail to some, but getting the actual logo wrong (wavy lines means "wrong" to any company) cheapens the pen experience.

In conclusion on the Cross, I don't like to make prescriptions when it comes to luxury goods, but while I feel there are some really great aspects to the pen (it really is a stunner), not sure I could see it holding up to the high price tag for me personally. That definitely doesn't mean that there aren't others that would absolutely love using this pen every day.

Special thanks again to Goldspot for sending these over for review!

What do you think about the two pens?

One Star Leather Goods - Custom A5 Notebook Snap Cover With Pen Sleeve

One of the makers that caught my attention early on with this whole "pen thing" was Keegan from One Star Leather Goods. He has been manufacturing higher end leather products for over 5 years and has a stellar 5-star reputation on Etsy with over 2000 reviews. 

Actually, my first review of one of his products that I purchased was his wallet/notebook cover called the Park Sloper Sr. (don't judge the old photos!) back in 2013. Since then he's made me a variety of pen sleeves, notebook covers, a belt, some watch straps... I keep going back because his work is excellent.

Keegan has recently been working on expanding a custom notebook cover offering where you can work with him on getting exactly what you want, all using some of the finest leathers.

Heading into the holidays he wanted to see if he could put together a custom notebook cover for me (based on my specs) to review here on the blog to give an idea of what options are available. Special thanks to him for providing the opportunity to once again review some of his work here on the blog.

My notebook of choice as of the last year or so has been the softcover Leuchtturm 1917 A5 notebook (in line ruled surprisingly) due to its high quality when accepting fountain pens, but not quite as glossy as a Rhodia which takes longer to dry. I consider it kind of the perfect middle range notebook that seems to work well in most instances for me. So, I instantly knew that this would act as the "base" of the cover.

I've always seemed to like the A5 size. Some people enjoy a smaller, more pocketable book, but the A5 gives me enough space to work without being constrained while also being your "normal" notebook size so it isn't un-rule-y. (Pun? Couldn't resist.)

If I'm totally honest, one of the hardest parts when working with Keegan is the wide range of leather types and colors that you can just from. It is A LOT. But, that also means that you will likely get exactly what you want. 

Now, I've had him do several pieces for me and every time I'm still like, "um, what color is this one (sending him a specific picture from a listing in his store)?" As much as this is likely a constant battle for him, he is super cool to work with and willing to answer questions or help with decision making.

His motto is: "Buy good things, own them for a long time." He truly lives this philosophy himself and is anxious to make sure your purchase will serve you for years (if not forever).

I opted for a black and chestnut combination made from Wickett & Craig harness leather (a tannery out of Pennsylvania that has been at it since 1867) that looks pretty traditional, but still has some interest due to the contrast of colors. He has a wide array of colors like blue, green, red, burgundy... so, if you want to stand out a bit more than mine he can likely accommodate.

The leather has a slick, somewhat glossy feel, comes a bit on the stiff side, but is still pliable and will break in over time. It is beautiful stuff and smells amazing.  

In addition to being a notebook cover I was interested in adding a pen sleeve to keep one close at hand. Stitched between the interior and exterior covers was sewn in a folded "loop" of leather that sits below the top cover made from the same interior chestnut colored material.

I wasn't expecting it, but really like the way he accommodated the pen sleeve. Well, part of what I like is actually by accident. You see, this cover is traditionally made for the hard cover Leucchturm notebook, but I prefer a soft so the cover fits a little large but that's alright. I like this because it creates a little bit of a cover for the pen that doesn't completely hide it, but tucks it in a bit. I also like the option that I can use it for either soft or hardcovers...

Like the cover, the pen sleeve will need to break in a bit to make adding and removing pens easy.

The final design feature is the addition of a brass snap closure. Connected to a strap of black exterior leather it loops around the outside edge and pen sleeve and snaps the notebook shut. As it is brand new the brass is bright and shiny, but over time it will likely gain an aging and patina all its own.

To stitch it all together I opted for the golden thread which brought the two colors together nicely.

Whenever I get one of Keegan's pieces in I'm always impressed at how impeccable everything is. Every seam is hand stitched, every edge is hand burnished, and they are always perfect. It is extremely obvious that this is not a mass-produced, quick turnaround leather goods outfit and it shows through his quality. 

From a branding perspective, his covers and many of his products do come with some makers marks. In the instance of this cover there are two, one small circled star logo on the inside of the front cover and then the larger One Star Leather Goods "seal" in the back which is about 2" in diameter. 

As a final personalized touch, he also stamped my initials on the front cover.

From a price standpoint, One Star Leather Goods tend to run slightly higher than some, but the quality is impeccable and he uses only the finest materials. And, the brand reputation stands to reason that the goods produced are worth the price. They certainly are in my opinion and I've been happy to spend money with them.

If you are looking for a special gift this holiday season, definitely give One Star Leather Goods your consideration. I'm certain that the recipient of a custom leather notebook cover (or if you are the recipient!) would be sure to see it at the top of their favorite and most meaningful gifts.

Special thanks again to Keegan and One Star Leather Goods for sending the cover for review.

The "New" Tactile Turn Mover and Shaker Pens - A Review

The machined pen world has seen the rise of a few key names over the last five years, and Will Hodges from Tactile Turn is one of them.

With 7 successful Kickstarter projects (now on his 8th), Will has created products and designs that seem to resonate with consumers which has spurred a tremendous amount of growth and success for his company.

When I say "company", I mean it is actually Will and likely a couple of shop helpers to keep things running, but a small outfit nonetheless. That is one of my favorite aspects of the small makers; that they can produce awesome goods without the need of a big company infrastructure.

About 3 and a half years ago, Will launched a campaign for his second pen designs called the Mover and Shaker series. A set of retractable pens that could accept either a Parker style refill or Pilot G2 sized depending on your preference. 

The original Mover and Shaker pens had a fairly simple, cylindrical design except for a small section in the grip that had a spiral texture. The retractable mechanism Will leveraged is one that several machined pen manufacturers have used that was made by Schmidt. 

Now, this isn't a bad mechanism in the least being made from nickel coated brass, but they do tend to break down over time with heavy use. What sets the new Mover and Shaker pens apart are a newly created mechanism Will is producing himself made from titanium instead of brass. So, needless to say, it is likely to last a lot longer...

The new mechanism is very similar in style to the Schmidt being two overlapping metal sleeves, but the different is in size. It is probably close to 3x the size as the original which does change the overall aesthetic of the pen.

When comparing the utility of the new mechanism over the old, they feel pretty similar to me (of course, a Schmidt that is in full working order), so if you're familiar with the original Mover and Shaker, the experience isn't that far off.

These mechanisms don't really have your standard "click" feel to them, but are more of a press. There is no obvious snapping into place or popping like you find in some pens, but more of a press and it engages.

Being raw titanium and with the sleeves being really tight in tolerance, I have noticed some wear on the mechanism's top section, which is occurring from the parts rubbing up against each other. I'm not sure if there is anything that can prevent something like this, but something to be aware of long term. Without any adjustment to the design I'm pretty confident that the mechanism will last forever, but may not LOOK the same forever, even without abuse.

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With the mechanism being wider in diameter, one of the major aesthetic adjustments is the loss of the nice chamfer where the old mechanism met with the pen. What we see on the new version is only a slight step where the barrel of the pen and mechanism meet.

They are extremely close in diameter, so close in fact that I could have seen Will just make the pen a smidge narrower so they lined up seamlessly. These are design discussions that don't impact the utility of the pen, but matching those diameters up may have provided a slightly more streamlined look.

Alternatively since Will is making the mechanisms himself, the lower half could have been made slightly wider and with the matching texture we see now along the whole barrel.

An additional change just referenced is the move to have the Tactile Turn "texture" (subtle spiral grip) along the entire barrel of both the grip and barrel section, similar to what he has done with his other recent products, the Gist fountain and Slider/Glider bolt pens.

Personally, I like this approach much better. It unifies his lineup a bit more from a design standpoint, but also has utility by making the pens easier to hold. Oddly, his first desk pen and X, Y, and Z pens had texture along the whole barrel. The original Mover and Shaker pens were the odd ones out!

I've owned one of Will's pens almost since the beginning when I bought a "Z" pen back in 2013 and I've really enjoyed seeing him perfect his craft. The quality of his goods, and just the tightness of everything has gone up over the years with each new model. I love seeing this as it shows progression and is maybe even a bit unique in the world of products we buy day to day. It makes us remember that we are buying from a person that is learning and growing and not merely an "entity". Thinking back to his first projects, I wonder if it took a sense of courage to share his creations with the world, even before he may have considered himself a master of his craft.

The clip maintains a nearly identical design to the original being made from sprung steel. They work well, are sturdy, and are more function than form, although they don't distract from the look of the pen.

With the mechanism being taller, this pushes the top of the clip down about 1/4" which is a good amount. Although the new pen is pretty much the same length as its predecessor, it sticks out of your pocket a bit more.

The new models are available in the suite of materials Will generally offers like copper, brass, titanium, stainless steel, and aluminum.

Will was kind enough to send me one of the Shakers (shorter version) in the titanium, and the Mover (longer version) in blue anodized aluminum. It was nice to have the length vs weight comparison side by side for the review.

The Ti Shaker comes in at about 1.1oz, while the longer Al Mover is only 0.9oz. I think I prefer the slight heft to size ratio of the Shaker, but I was surprised by how airy the Mover feels in the hand. Solid, but quite light.

The Shaker comes with the Easy Flow 9000, one of my favorite Parker refills, but can now also accept the popular P8126 rollerball (which I swapped into mine) which is a major plus.

The Mover comes fitted with the 0.38mm Pilot G2 refill, a great refill for small letter writers, but a wide variety of refills can be swapped in like the Pilot Juice, or the Pilot Precise V7 which I loaded into mine.

While writing, not sure why but the Mover tends to have a little more tip movement (although minimal...) than the Shaker. Perhaps this is due to the spring being used. I am fairly sensitive to this and can say that even though there is some movement, it isn't on the offensive end of the spectrum. With some pens it is like you're broadcasting morse code with the amount of "clicking" the tip does... Not in the case of the Mover and Shaker.

These are definitely Mover and Shaker 2.0 versions. Really, with the myriad of changes Tactile Turn introduced, it could potentially be a new pen! Nonetheless, I think the new additions will serve Will's fans and new customers alike well. They range in price from about $50-80 depending on your material choice, but are well in-line with the normal going rates in the machined pens market. 

These new pens can be found and backed on Will's current Kickstarter campaign that runs through November.

Special thanks to Tactile Turn for sending these samples for review!