Ensso Pen Uno Review

Kickstarter seems to be hopping with pen projects these days! The folks over at Ensso currently have a return campaign for their Pen Uno, now with an optional pencil insert. They were kind enough to send me a sample to review, so special thanks to them.

The Pen Uno is touted as one of the most minimal writing instruments designed and, I can't really argue with that. Short of a stick of graphite, there aren't a lot of pens that come to mind that are more minimal than this.

Machined from aluminum, the overall shape of the Pen Uno is sort of a thin "stick" that eventually becomes a bigger "stick" that acts as the mechanism to expose the tip as well as the grip section. It looks pretty cool actually and definitely catches your attention with how sleek it is.

This particular sample is in the "space gray" color variation (Apple colors seem to be a thing right now...) and the finish is really well executed. The finish is uniform and outside of a few places near the edges where things got a little "chunky" (under a macro lens), I haven't noticed any imperfections or issues. Over time, I'd be curious as to how well the pen will hold up to use.

This pen is really light and really, really skinny. The grip section "stick" is about 3/8" in diameter, so is pretty comfortable, but the main barrel piece is extremely thin. That being said, it isn't much of a bother while writing due to it simply resting in your hand.

Regarding holding up to "heavy" use, I'm not super certain this is what it is designed for. While it certainly could be portable via a bag, pen pouch, or pencil case, it is not very easy to transport by other means. This is NOT a pocket pen and one I would see as more of something you'd use at a desk or drafting table.

The barrel is designed around the Hi-Tec C Coleto refill, Pilot's retractable multi-pen variation of the popular Hi-Tec C refill. The ēnsso crew was kind enough to send me a big pack of various refill sizes and colors, but the 0.4mm in blue seems to be my sweet spot.

Admittedly, the Hi-Tec C refill is not a huge favorite of mine due to being finicky. Slow starts, dryness... Amongst a lot of pen people this seems to be a common sentiment, but there are the die-hard Hi-Tec C fans out there that completely love them. If you're in that group, this pen may definitely be for you!

Although, when the Hi-Tec C is working perfectly, it is pretty awesome on smoother paper like Rhodia.

What makes this pen unique is how you retract the tip. Rather than a click mechanism of some sort, the refill stays fixed and stationary in the barrel while the user twists the threaded grip section until the barrel moves its way up and the tip is exposed. Pretty neat! On average, I find it takes around 10 "twists" to get the grip section securely tightened down and the tip exposed.

The refill is secured in place via a long set screw that is removed from the end of the barrel. It is also machined from aluminum and has a matching color scheme to the barrel. One thing I felt with the pen was that it might seem a little on the lengthy side. Even with my bigger hands there is about 2" of thin "stick" overhang into the fleshy part of my hand. More than enough to shave a little bit off which could have possibly put it into a more "pocketable" position.

Although I didn't receive the pencil mod portion of the pen for review, I'm thinking that the added length has something to do with this. The set screw is pretty long (about 2") which seemed strange to me, but thinking more about it I bet this is it. At first I was thinking, "why did they make this pen so long?!"

Overall I think the Pen Uno is pretty slick and is sure to turn the heads of anyone around when you decide to take it out to use. There is this "what is that?" type of reaction when you see it (I know I had that experience). The campaign runs until August 10th and if this pen catches your eye it may be worth taking a look!

One thing that might be cool is to do the pen out of a heavier material like brass...

Thanks again to Ensso for sending the sample to check out.  

SQ1 EDC Pen by RNG Products - Kickstarter

I love small business. I love the passion, ingenuity, screw-ups, and downright scrappiness that comes with taking your idea and then pushing it out into the world. From the outside, it seems like an easy task, but for the person doing the making/creating it often means huge sacrifices of time, energy, money, stress... 

Sometimes the small business is super calculated, has investors, a "business plan" and all of that and sometimes it is just a guy (or gal) with a full time job working nights and weekends out of their home shop inside their garage, closet, or spare bedroom that wants to make something awesome and share it. I can relate to this for sure.

Currently on Kickstarter is a pen called the SQ1 by a gentleman named Ryan, the owner of RNG Products LLC, who was kind enough to send me a sample for review.

The SQ1 is a machined aluminum barreled pen that is slim, pocketable, and houses the trusty Fisher Space Pen refill. I'm just gonna go out and say it that I think there will never (ever) be enough machined pens on the market that house the Fisher refill.

Ever.

It is probably the most versatile refill in existence and I love the idea of options to house it in various shapes and forms. Keep 'em coming!

I'd consider the SQ1 to be more of what I call a "stick" pen, meaning it has no taper or contours. This would seem pretty high on the "boring" side, but some of my favorite pens are this way like the LAMY cp1 and unic designed by Gerd A. Müller.

The pen is pretty small in size coming in between 4.5" and 5" and is about the same diameter as your average pencil. Slim, pocketable, not bulky, and fits nicely in your hand while writing.

The SQ1 is made up of 6 major components: the barrel, cap, tip, end cap, set screw, and refill.

The barrel is made from aluminum and comes in a variety of color schemes and the caps and end caps are made from either brass or copper. Personally, I'd kind of like to see an option where the components all match if possible which would require doing all aluminum or all copper/brass versions.

I requested the black anodized barrel with the copper "shipwrecked" cap and end cap. I must say, the "shipwrecked" finish is pretty fantastic. Ryan nailed it as it seriously looks like something salvaged from the bottom of the sea. I'm not certain, but it appears that he has sealed the finish somehow which is a plus. I'd hate to buy this special, oxidized version simply to have it wear off after the first few uses.

The cap is designed to post on the end of the pen, which it does, but I was having a bit of trouble with the threading. It will catch for the first 1 to 2 rotations, but then gets a bit stuck. Not certain if this is an issue with the finish on the barrel being slightly thicker, or whether there is an issue with the thread compatibility in general. Or, maybe some of the sealer on the cap got into the threads (don't think this is it). Also, catching the cap on the tip threading occasionally took a few tries to get right.

Either way, I know this is something that Ryan can work out in final production, but wanted to call it out.

As mentioned, there is a set screw that is deep within the pen barrel holding the refill snugly in place. I can absolutely see why this is necessary because simply shortening the pen wouldn't have worked out due to being too short. While the set screw adds the need for a specific allen wrench to swap the refill, I like it better than a spacer which is loose and could be lost.

Overall the pen is comfortable to use and highly functional.

That being said, there are things I like about it and others not so much. More of aesthetic things I think.

Understandably, the cap of the pen needs to hang over the barrel making it possible to post it, but this does create a bit of a "magic wand" kind of look. This isn't necessarily bad, but doesn't really make a "sleek" look. 

Another design area that seems a bit out of place is the dimpling used for the grip section. They are executed perfectly and look really great! Although, with all of the lines and straight edges and sharp chamfers, round design elements seem to contrast the very linear feel. As an alternative, concentric rings across the whole barrel or even knurling may have fit a bit more? Not trying to be overly nitpicky, honest....   

I do enjoy the interesting lines in the cap and end cap quite a bit.

The only real feedback I can give would be to try and work out the potential issues with the threading, but other than that I think Ryan has come up with a solid EDC pocket pen. And, the pledges start at only $25, so totally reasonable to pick up one to carry with you. If interested in backing the project, head over to the Kickstart campaign to check it out.

Thanks again to Ryan from RNG Products for sending the sample!

    

Fisher Space Pen Infinium - Titanium Nitride

I've been a long time fan of the Fisher Space Pen in all of its various forms. Some people find them very un-special, but I love them. 

One of my very first "nice" pens was when I splurged (about $35 come to think of it) early on and bought myself the true astronaut pen, the AG-7. This is the pen the Apollo astronauts flew with so it has some pedigree and story, and the construction quality on it is awesome. And it has this double knock mechanism which is neat to fidget with.

Since then I've tried other versions of the space pen like the Shuttle Series, the matte black Zero Gravity series, a vintage space pen called the Futura, and a couple of others. They all work off of the same replaceable Fisher cartridge that is an all-weather, all-condition ballpoint that stands up to almost anything.

Fisher came out with a pen called the Infinium which seemed pretty fancy and turns out to be the highest priced (short of some commemorative sets) pen in their lineup. Coming in at $150 retail, whoa, what a price jump! This, my friends, is a curiosity post at its finest and I want to thank Pen Chalet for working with me to acquire one at a reasonable price. They have a good selection of various bullet space pens at great prices, so check them out.

So, what is the Infinium pen? Well, it is a pen that has no removable refill, but claims to have enough writing juice to last its user a lifetime. If you ran it dry, Fisher says they would replace it for free. If you buy one of these you should be able to write nearly into Infinium...

Fisher refills themselves are pressurized which forces the ink through the ball which makes it possible to write in all directions and even without gravity. My thoughts are, but I'm not certain, is that there is a pressurized reservoir inside the Infinium pen that acts similarly to the refills, but at a much larger capacity.

The Infinium comes in a few different finishes from a flashy gold plated version, black titanium nitride, or standard chrome finish. I went with the titanium nitride which is a shiny, black/grey finish and looks pretty cool. In retrospect, I probably should have gone with the chrome finish version as it would match all of my other space pens... oh well. Like any shiny pen, this one is a fingerprint magnet.

I would consider the Infinium to be a "bullet" shaped pen inasmuch as the standard Fisher Bullet Pen could be considered one. All brass construction, small and pocketable, elongated rounded cap posts on the back to extend the length for normal writing. It is a bit wider than the standard bullet pen... probably to accommodate all of that ink! The pen is sturdy and well put together overall.

The pen comes with its own "Infinium" etched clip but, frankly, it is pretty disappointing for a $150 pen. If you've ever used the purchase-seperate, slip-on clip that Fisher sells for their regular Bullet Pen, that is pretty much what to expect here. They work, but leave something to be desired...

Albeit a nicer quality and finish than those add-on ones, but it still moves about freely, is removable, and is a pretty flimsy bendable metal. I had it clipped in my jeans pocket one day recently and the seat belt of my car caught it and bent it out slightly.  Easy fix by slipping it off the pen and bending it back, but for a pen that is supposed to last me into Infinium (this may be a running theme...probably not), I certainly hope the clip holds up to normal use.

When you buy a standard space pen brand new it usually comes with the Fisher cartridge in a black, medium tip. Personally I prefer the blue, fine tip which is what I've always swapped into my other space pens. Unfortunately, the Infinium can only be ordered in medium of either blue or black and, again, is not replaceable via refill. Choose wisely... I got blue. 

The section of the pen is interesting. It is made of two parts: a cone shaped front section where the tip lives that connects to the barrel where there is a tightly engraved spiral grip section similar to Fisher's other pens. The grip section is toothy and effectively does the job. 

I don't really enjoy how the cone piece connects aesthetically. It seems a bit unfinished and smashed together which leaves a strange lip right where you hold it. Overall I think (unsure though) I'm cool with the aesthetic and shape of the pen. It is very "spacey" and kind of looks like a rocket or space ship of some kind. 

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The end of the pen is adorned with what appears to be a little rubber/acrylic sticker type of insert that has the Fisher Space Pen logo on it. Honestly, this looks super cheap. I would have much preferred another piece of titanium nitride coated metal to fill that space instead, or at least I nicely engraved metal logo. This is the piece that sticks out of your pocket for the world to see for goodness sake. Around the barrel of the pen there is a tasteful engraving that says 2010 Space Pen by Fisher - USA. This could have easily been enough branding that wouldn't start drifting into unnecessary. 

I may be on a bit of a rant here but, again, this pen is $150 and provides no more functionality than the standard bullet pen which can be had for $17 apiece. Yes, it is supposed to last me forever, but I could buy 22 more independent refills (in a fine tip no less) which would surely last me forever as well. For the price I would expect nailing it on the "luxury" side of the design elements. Perhaps something Fisher could remedy moving forward?

I will no doubt use this pen, but I would be reluctant to recommend it to people I think. You know I usually find the good in most pens, and while the Infinium is a nice enough pen, doesn't blow me away like I feel it should. 

Now, if you are familiar with and a huge fan of the space pen series and find the Infinium to be breathtaking, I don't think you'd be displeased with it. Personally, I would recommend an AG-7 any day (or three of them at this price) if someone is looking for a unique piece from Fisher.