Enjoying Fountain Pen Day 2017 And Celebrating Writing (Even if you don't like fountain pens...)

Dear Reader,

If you didn't know, today is officially Fountain Pen Day 2017! Bust out those ink bottles and get those tines humming as we appreciate one of our favorite writing instruments.

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Admittedly, I wouldn't really consider myself the overly celebratory type, but the idea of taking a specific day to reflect on just about anything (particularly things important to you) can help us gain perspective.

What is the purpose of Fountain Pen Day? What is one supposed to do? What if I DON'T like fountain pens?!.... Let's take a step back and think about it a bit differently.

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For me, Fountain Pen Day isn't so much about only appreciating a certain type of pen, but appreciating what a pen can allow us to do. Think of a world where pens didn't exist, writing didn't exist, and where we couldn't record our thoughts, hopes, and desires onto paper. In the span of human history, the widespread access to writing (and even ability to do so) is relatively new, but is something we now take for granted.

Or, the idea of physically writing for pleasure (or simply to think) is even challenged by some as archaic, outdated, or now unnecessary altogether due to advancements in screens and devices that make things more "convenient".

Honestly, to heck with that. We aren't machines that need to constantly calculate experiences or practices based on time or efficiency. We are human and we think, feel, and express ourselves through a myriad of impractical ways.

We enjoy reading funny, sad, or scary stories. We enjoy looking at art that inspires us to think bigger or differently. We sit and listen to music for the sheer enjoyment of experiencing rhythm and sound. None of these things are efficient or practical, so why should writing be?

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Using a fountain pen (or any pen/pencil for that matter) is a time consuming and even sometimes messy process, but we love it. Seeing our own writing on a page (even with all of your messy letters and misspellings!) is something unique to you and should be celebrated. Our writings don't have to be a profound quote or a best selling novel, but could be your thoughts about the day, a grocery list, or a note to a loved one or friend.

Writing is a very tactile experience, but can also cover more senses like sight, sound, or even smell.

Seeing the swirls and shades of the ink drying on a page, listening to the slight "scratch" of the nib or pencil on the page, or smelling the pungent odor of your ink (Pilot Blue/Black anyone?...) or aromatic scent of a cedar from your woodcased companion.

Perhaps this all sounds a bit poetic, but it helps me to step away from my hectic daily routine and embrace even more something that I love and enjoy; the experience of writing.

Take time to enjoy writing today no matter what your writing instrument preference is. : )

Happy Fountain Pen Day everyone!

- Mike       

 

Bastion Bolt Action Pen - Stainless Steel and Carbon Fiber (Kickstarter)

Lots of Kickstarter lately! This is actually good to see as it keeps things fresh in the market and community.

The folks over at Bastion Gear are currently running a Kickstarter (wrapping up this week!) for a new bolt action pen and were kind enough to send me some samples to review.

A little about Bastion, started in 2012 they are a company that seeks to source all things EDC, and seem like a bit of a powerhouse in daily carry and tactical-type gear. From gun accessories to Apple Watch cases, they have a little bit of everything.

At first glance, their bolt action pen is sleek and streamlined without any textures, knurls, or protrusions. For being in the "tactical" style arena, this is a pretty conservative approach, but one I think that will appeal to a broader audience. Nothing super crazy, but a really sleek and attractive looking metal pen that will likely be noticed when someone sees you using it.

Actually, in looking through more of Bastion's catalog, they steer pretty clear from the tactical stereotype of all things needing an extra glass breaker, leg stabber, (and don't forget the bottle opener...) and go for a more streamlined approach. That being said, their new pen stays true to that design aesthetic.

The pen comes in two models: the all stainless steel and stainless steel with a carbon fiber sheathed barrel.

With both pens being stainless steel, this adds weight and puts both versions above 2 oz.

All Stainless Steel: 2.8oz
w/ Carbon Fiber: 2.3oz

The pens are also identical in length at just over 5 1/4 inches which for my larger hands leaves about 3/4" of pen hanging off of the fleshy part where the barrel rests. 

The pen is a bit wider than a lot of the metal pens on the market coming in at 0.45" which also adds to the weight. It feels like a somewhat big pen (not unwieldy) but if you are familiar with the County Comm Embassy pen, it is just about the same diameter as the barrel, but doesn't have the inset grip section. 

No question, 2.8oz makes for a hefty pen. This thing feels indestructible, but if heavy isn't quite comfortable for you, it may be a tough one for usability.

For someone wanting a pen that could likely be run over by a tank and still write, this is probably right up your alley.

Aesthetically the all stainless version appeals to me most since I generally enjoy more monochromatic design, but I can see the appeal of the carbon fiber. In hand the steel is cold, but the carbon fiber is a softer, maybe more comfortable feel and also cuts down nearly a half an ounce of weight which, in a pen, is a lot.

The clip on the pen is bent, sprung steel that has had the edges smoothed out and has been polished to a nearly mirror finish. It flows really well with the pens design and fits right in. From a utility standpoint it is strong and clips comfortably almost anywhere. I've clipped it to my bag, my jeans pocket, (even tested it on a thick cardboard box for whatever reason) and it performed great. It is affixed to the pen by two domed, hex-head screws.

From a branding perspective, Bastion opted for a pretty conservative approach by having a small etching of their logo "shield" and name etched (likely laser) near the end of the pen by the bolt that runs parallel with the barrel. 

I think the logo looks pretty good where it is. It doesn't really distract from the design, but maybe feels a bit "tucked in" if that makes sense. I could also have seen a clip placement with the shield on top and BASTION running down letter by letter, or a "wrapping" logo at the top just under the domed end of the pen running perpendicular. This likely sounds EXTREMELY nitpicky, but is not meant to be seen as a criticism of the overall pen and certainly not something to be hung up about (I'm not). But, branding placement does impact the overall look and proportions of a pen and can make a difference to some people.

Ok, now onto my favorite part... the bolt and just how friggin' tough it is.

By tough I mean it takes a little bit of thumb torque to make it work. If I could have my way, all clicks or bolts would have stiff tension. Part of it is just that I know when I'm actually clicking/activating the pen, and it also means it has a strong spring in the front which impacts whether the tip wobbles around while writing. Think of a pen you've used that has a stiff knock/bolt mechanism... now, like 5x that. I think the folks at Bastion might have installed the spring from a truck suspension in here, but it is awesome.

Activation of the bolt is really on point. Even though it is stiff, you simply have to get it to the bottom of the "J" and I've found it just snaps into place in either direction with an audible "click".

The knob sticking out to activate the bolt is rounded which matches the domed end of the pen (for consistency of course), but is also comfortable to use on my thumb.

Some slight feedback, the inside edge of the bolt "J" cutout does have a couple of sharp corners that my thumb hits on occasion which may be annoying or uncomfortable to some. I'm not talking that we're drawing blood or anything, but there is a slight "prick" sensation if you get it just right.

And, as expected, the stiffness of the spring and bolt has made for a very firm writing experience with zero sway in the tip when hitting the page. 

The pen came fitted with an unnamed and unbranded Parker style refill which writes ok, but I'll probably swap in an Easy Flow or Fisher Space for longterm use. I can't tell for sure which Parker style refill is in there, but you have options.

In design they were going for a seamless look and they succeeded quite well at it. There is a break in the barrel where the tip can be removed to replace the refill which is noticeable, but not overly obvious on the all stainless version. On the carbon fiber it doesn't really matter since the break happens at the carbon fiber sleeve. The tip is also fitted with a rubber o-ring to prevent the parts from coming apart easily.

The biggest surprise to me on this pen was actually the price when I saw it. For the Kickstarter they have offered a first tier for the stainless steel at just $39 ($49 for the carbon fiber) which is a pretty solid value for what you get in the pen. I'd expect the retail to be about 30-40% higher than that.

Only potential downside (if you can call it that) would be that it is only offered (for now?...) in a heavier metal like stainless steel. Although an aluminum version may not be quite as rugged, It would cut the weight by about 2/3 which I think more folks might go for.  

I actually really like this pen and am surprised at the value of it. I think this makes it really accessible to a lot of people in a more mass-market approach.

Special thanks again to Bastion Gear for sending the sample for review and make sure to go check out their Kickstarter before it closes.

D Caston Design SpaceX Folding Knife

This review is diving into some new territory for the blog, but something I've actually wanted to do for quite some time.

People that love analog writing tools generally also love to carry unique and useful other items with them, their "every day carry" so to speak (or EDC). This could be their wallet, a watch, a pocket knife, and of course, their favorite pen. All of these things come together to create a core of daily utility which is such an interesting topic.

And, it seems that people willing to buy a nice writing instrument also appreciate your non-traditional, non-run-of-the-mill type products like handmade leather goods, custom products, and other bespoke pieces that are connected to a specific artisan or craftspersons. Over the years I've tried to incorporate handmade goods or goods from small business owners into my every day life and I always appreciate them more.

It may not be all the time, but I want to incorporate more product reviews into The Clicky Post that fit this segment.

For our maiden voyage into the world of EDC, I'll be revisiting a maker I reviewed this last week, Darriel Caston of D Caston Design.

In the recent review of his Titanium Retro Pencil currently on Kickstarter, I mentioned that Darriel's extensive background and reputation has been in custom folder knives that he designs and produces.

He kindly sent me one of his most recent designs, the SpaceX folding knife, a product he has been collaborating on as a possible standard issue for the SpaceX team. (Yes, THAT SpaceX...) I am thrilled to give this knife a review and to showcase his exquisite work, so special thanks to him. 

I had seen pictures of the SpaceX that Darriel had posted on his Instagram feed, but once it was in hand I was pretty taken aback by it. There are a few nice knives in my collection, but I feel that pieces like this take function and art to a completely different level.

Also mentioned in the previous review, Darriel's design vibe is very futuristic and space themed which provides it a unique, but also timeless style. This knife has the look of something that would be used hundreds of years in the future on a space cruiser by the crew. It looks like science fiction, but is reality.

There are so many products in the world that are purely utilitarian, play it safe, or follow traditional design trends. Seeing pieces like this are inspiring which is a bit hard to explain. He isn't just trying to sell you a knife like everyone else, but is seeking to create an experience, maybe even an emotional one.

Does this idea appeal to everyone? Maybe not, but for those that it does, these designs resonate powerfully.  

In size, the SpaceX is actually an extremely compact blade. Closed it is only 8cm in length, 2cm wide, and 1cm thick including the clip.

It feels lightweight, but is built like a tank. Everything is tight, sturdy, and it moves like a precision instrument when in use.

For this particular variation of the SpaceX, he went with an all-matte, textured titanium for the scales, framelock, and clip. The overall finish and attention to detail really is impeccable. While using the knife I find myself constantly looking over the intentional cuts, lines, and textures, all of which came from Darriel's mind.

Interesting elements like how the lines on the scales line up with lines on the blade whether open or closed.

In spots, the knife handle has intentionally crisp edges, but are not sharp to the touch.

The knife incorporates a double-pump, half stop mechanism on the blade for safety. I really like this feature as the blade is razor sharp.

What this means is that when opening the blade there is an initial stop at 90 degrees when both opening and closing, which then requires an additional movement to fully extend or close the blade. This is so if your fingers are between the handle and the blade, the blade stops before nipping them.

This is accomplished by a tiny ball fitted to the frame lock that catches a hole in the blade as it is turning on a radius.

The blade is made from CTS-XHP, a special steel high in carbon, chromium, and is corrosion-resistant. The blade is a 6 grind, and is close to what is called a "razel", but with a special design by Darriel. Razel blades have two separate edges, but no point. 

The center of the blade has a machined channel specifically for assistance in opening the blade (works really well), but also adds some visual texture.

Matching with the compact size, the blade is a comfortable 5.5cm.

The clip is extremely sturdy and easy to use. It connects tightly to the handle due to an intentional indent and is then fastened with a star head screw.

I love the shape of the clip. It is machined with multiple angles and curves to create several non-uniform facets, but come together nicely. Clip design is sometimes an afterthought for many products, or seem out of place, but this one fits well with the knife.

He also makes a clipless version of the knife.  

To protect the knife during carry, Darriel sent out a handmade, custom leather snap holster that can connect to a belt loop. Since the knife is so small, the holster is quite conservative in size as well and the fit is perfect.

The snap holster is also stamped with D Caston Design's rocket logo, the same as appears on the inside of the frame lock.

I've really enjoyed using and putting together the review for this knife. Not only because it is an impressive and incredibly made product, but it allowed me to branch out and write about something new and share some of Darriel's awesome work in the process.

Being a small-batch, small maker knife, the price point on the SpaceX is on the higher side with this model ranging in the $400+ (completely reasonable in the custom knife market...), but for someone looking for something extremely unique, Darriel's work may be a nice place to look.

Thanks again to D Caston Design for sending the SpaceX to review and share.