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)
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.
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.