Penwell - A New Accessory to Make Any Pen a Desk Pen

Something new and interesting to share today, a new desktop accessory that helps you turn just about any fountain pen into a "desk pen".

I was recently contacted by Dan Keller, an inventor of sorts that had a new product to share called the Penwell. This has actually been a product that Dan has developed over several years to get right, and he is finally ready to take it into production and mass market.

In corresponding with Dan, what I really liked about his perspective was that he wasn't simply "making a product to sell", but was doing it more for his own use and satisfaction. He found a need in his own day-to-day work, so set out to create a solution for himself first. The fact that a neat, innovative product came out of it is a bit of a bonus.

Dan was kind enough to send me one of his black walnut Penwell products to review and share here on The Clicky Post, so special thanks to him.

So, what exactly is the Penwell? How does it work?

The Penwell is a small, self-adhesive (by suction actually...we'll get to that) individual pen holder that uses a snug friction-fit foam to hold the pen in place as a desk pen. Rather than having your favorite pen roaming around your desk, or having to stash the cap somewhere while writing, the Penwell holds it at attention so you can quickly grab and go.

From a presentation standpoint, Dan has done a great job of making the Penwell seem like a legitimate product (I hope that comes across right!) rather than just a small batch, niche offering. What I mean is that his presentation makes his brand look professional and I could easily see these in online and retail stationery shops around the world. 

The Penwell comes in a silver metal tin which is well branded and even sealed with a gold "wax" seal with a silhouette of the product as the stamp. Inside the tin is a custom foam insert that holds the Penwell snugly and safely during transit.

Dan even provides some instructional drink coasters as well which is a nice touch.

Branding on the Penwell is minimal with only a small etched script of "Penwell" right above the pen slot.

To use the Penwell is pretty straight forward:

- Clean a spot on your desk
- Peel off the adhesive cover
- Adhere to desk with some slight pressure
- Stick in your favorite pen and away you go!

I found this to be pretty true overall, and the "adhesive" is pretty cool. Apparently it isn't your standard 3M sticky stuff, but is actually a series of micro-suction surfaces so it just kind of sticks like a normal suction cup would.

Some issues I see with this setup are that you need a pretty smooth desk surface. We're not talking that you need a glass top that you can fog up before you stick the suction to it (everyone has done that at least once...), but if you're working off a reclaimed railroad tie desk that still has dirt on it or really deep grain, this likely won't stick to it.

My desk is smooth, so had no problem adhering it. Once stuck, removing it is actually pretty easy with just a slight twist and some pressure.

And, when the Penwell's sticky pad gets unsticky, you simply have to wipe it with water, let it dry, and it is ready to go again.

Underneath the Penwell is a metal frame that fits inside and acts as the support for the foam insert. I think there may be a slight pinching effect going on inside so when you put your pen inside it grabs it a bit. 

I found for your normal sized fountain pens that they worked great. They set in snugly and I was able to screw and unscrew my pen with ease while the Penwell stayed put. 

In testing, I tried a pretty good variety of pens to see how they would go and found that normal sized pens with clips seem to work best due to the added "grip" texture the clip provides. Smaller diameter pens, or clipless pens I had a little trouble with. For example, the Kaweco Supra is a good sized pen, but the smooth, metal, clipless surface made it tough for the Penwell initially to grab onto. But, with some work and by initially loosening the cap a bit, even the Supra worked out pretty well.

I did find that pressure fit caps (non-threaded that you pull apart) caps were kind of a no-go, at least for me. The pressure of trying to pull the cap off tended to unstick the Penwell from the desk. But, all the larger, threaded pens worked fine.

The fit and finish on the Penwell is quite good. Perhaps I've trained my eye a bit when it comes to finishing walnut thanks to Dudek Modern Goods, but overall there are minimal tooling marks to be seen (likely unnoticeable to most) and the satin finish also allows any minor imperfection to blend in with the wood grain, harder if it had more of a shiny look. It is a handsome looking piece.

I love the cleverness behind Dan's product. It is something unique and something most pen lovers wouldn't think they'd need, but could probably use and enjoy.

At the moment, the black walnut version is the only one available on the site, but soon he'll be offering other materials like brass.

Thanks again to Dan for sending a Penwell to review here on the blog, and definitely take a look at his site for more info. 

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.