TWIIST 2 in 1 Pen by BN WORKS

I was contacted again recently by the folks over at BN WORKS about a new pen they were releasing called the TWIIST, a 2 in 1 pen and stylus combo which looked pretty cool and had some interesting features. They offered to provide a sample for review so special thanks to them.

If you haven't heard of BN WORKS, it is likely due to the fact that they are a bit newer on the scene in the pen stage. I reviewed their first pen, the BNdot ballpoint pen back in September of 2016, and the TWIIST is their second release.

Right out the gates I'm going to say that I've really liked the look of this pen from the start. It has a sort of "business" appeal, but also seems a bit on the edgy side. It certainly doesn't look like the standard pen you'd see at the office, but still fits into a more professional setting I think.

The TWIIST is an all metal pen which gives it a surprisingly solid feel. It is extremely sturdy in its build, but not overly heavy at 1.2 oz. Upon removing a the pieces I didn't see any plastic inside, so my thoughts are this thing is made to take some use.

Upon release, they opted for four colorways in combinations of silver, black, copper, and rose gold and I opted for the silver top with black clip and black grip section. I did mention to them that my first choice would've been an all-black model as they have the parts, but they told me that it would be a "coming soon" if that is also more your thing. Still, I think the color combos look sharp and I'm pleased with it.

The finish on the outside of the pens is beautifully done and is clean and sharp. Upon inspecting all the pieces closely I couldn't find any noticeable imperfections or blemishes.

Not sure exactly what the coating is, but it seems to be some sort of PVD or baked on finish. Although the silver part is somewhat "shimmery" with a metallic look, the overall appearance is more of a subdued matte. 

Even though they refer to it as a 2 in 1, I'd actually probably consider it a "3 in 1" due to the fact it can take both a Parker style refill (P900 included) or the popular capless Schmidt P8126 rollerball AND has the built in stylus. So, not really 3 at once, but you can adjust the pen quite a bit to fit your fancy.

While the P900 is a good refill, I immediately swapped in the P8126 rollerball for the majority of my testing. To remove the refill the grip section unscrews from the top half making it accessible. 

The reason they call it the TWIIST (notice the two "II" in the name) is because of what I'd consider a really unique mechanism system as there are two twists. The first, main twist is done by turning the grip to extend the refill for writing, and the second is in the knock which also twists extending and retracting a replaceable stylus. 

I mean, you have to admit that it is pretty cool to have double retractable mechanisms working independently in the same pen. Yeah, I'll say I'm geeking out a little as I think it is neat.

The twists are actually super smooth. With a smooth gradual turn the refill or stylus sort of "pop" into place letting you know they are engaged.

This is not uncommon with grip section twist style pens, but I found myself having to retighten the grip and top half of the barrel to allow the ink refill to retract again. No biggie.

Even though I mentioned that I swapped in the rollerball refill as my primary, I did take the time to compare how the writing was with each.

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Although minimal, I did find that the ballpoint (P900) had some slight play while writing (really, not bad at all, but somewhat there), but the rollerball felt rock solid. Not sure if the refill size and shape differences made up where they contrasted, but something to note.  

While writing the pen feels pretty balanced. Maybe a hair heavier towards the top, but is quite comfortable. The matte texture of the grip makes the pen less slick, but not "grippy".

The final point is regarding the stylus. I'll admit, I don't use a stylus personally so having one incorporated into the pen isn't a major selling point for me. But, I know there are a lot of people that do and having it may be a really convenient feature.

You can't argue with the awesome deployment discussed earlier...

Functionally, the stylus worked pretty well on my phone/iPad touch devices and seems fairly standard. 

BN WORKS includes two additional replacements in the package and they are kind of full-on fancy replacements. Not just the silicone tip, but a brass threaded screw, metal post, and the stylus all in one. If you're wearing out stylus tips like crazy, this would seem to be a plus for sure. 

I will say that for those of us that don't use a stylus, having one could dissuade a purchase, being so central to the design. I really, really like the style and feel of the pen, but could see myself not buying one since it has a stylus. In an ideal world what I'd love to see is potentially just a rollerball pen with the same design, but sans a stylus as part of the lineup. Maybe wishful thinking.

Overall I think this is a solid execution on the pen by BN WORKS. Everything feels great and the fit and finish is pretty flawless. The price point of $85 is on the higher side, but not completely unreasonable.

Special thanks again to BN WORKS for sending the TWIIST for review!

Baron Fig Heavy Metal - Stainless Steel Squire

About three months ago Baron Fig released something new into the wild: a brass version of their popular Squire rollerball pen paired with a notebook called Lock & Key. Why this was such unique release is because their Squire pens have traditionally been made from aluminum, so digging into the "heavy stuff" was definitely newsworthy. 

This lead us to speculate that there would someday be other metals used in later releases, but never expected it to be so soon!

To my surprise a few weeks ago I got a message from Baron Fig letting me in on a sneak peek of their newest Squire that would also be breaking the mold a bit being made of stainless steel which was exciting news.

They were kind enough to send a sample my way to check out and give my thoughts on, so special thanks to them.

I do enjoy a good weighty pen, but sometimes tend to stray from brass/copper (although they always feel super awesome) due to the smell of using them at times. I've found that for me personally stainless steel is a great alternative when brands offer it to give the "heft" but without the smell of old pennies.

The first thing I noticed when opening the parcel from Baron Fig was that the pen was no longer housed in the tubes/cylinders that they've normally come in, but a box similar in style to their Confidant notebooks. Very minimal with an all dark grey aesthetic and a silver foil profile of the Squire pen design. Inside the pen was nestled in a custom foam insert. 

I actually like the shift, and I'm sure they are easier to stack on the shelf!

Upon removing it from the packaging, the pen is definitely hefty! 1.7oz doesn't seem like a lot, but in a somewhat smaller pen it is considerable. And, it feels like a sturdy tank.

One thing I really like about the Squire is it's fluid, teardrop shape. Most pens are either a stick or are usually always more bulbous in the middle, but this shape pushes the majority of the weight down towards the page which makes being top heavy pretty much non-existent. And, the shape feels easy to hold.

The Squire is also a pocket or sleeve carry only pen as it is clipless. 

From a branding perspective, the stainless edition shares the same "sword" on one side and "BARON FIG" on the other, but being laser etched against raw, silvery metal it is a bit more subtle when compared to the anodized aluminum versions where it really pops.

This version really is such a striking model. I'll admit, I am a bit of a sucker for very monochrome, metallic design, and love the uniformity and silver bullet, streamlined visual it creates. To some the pen might be just another "boring metal pen", but to me it pushes all the buttons.

As with the other Squire pens it uses the popular Schmidt P8126 rollerball refill (Baron Fig branded) which is super smooth and lays down consistent dark lines. I'm so glad over the last few years more and more pens are using this refill as it really is rock solid and appeals to more people than traditional ballpoints. And, the twist mechanism they use works really, really well and I enjoy how the knock incorporates so nicely with the design.  

Without a doubt, this pen is heavy for its size. I would say for people sensitive to weighty pens this one may be a no-go, but if you don't mind a heavier experience this one won't disappoint.

From a price point, the stainless Squire has a $30 price increase over the aluminum versions which is a pretty big hike, but this doesn't feel uncommon with many brands that carry both metals. Just depends on if the extra weight and durability (and the sleek, silver look) is worth the extra ask for you personally.

Special thanks again to Baron Fig for sending the stainless steel Squire for review. What material is next?...

What do you think of the Squire? Have you used one?     

The Future of The System Retro 51 Exclusive - Can you still get one?

Ho. ly. cow. That was crazy everyone! I knew it would be popular, but didn’t think it would go that quickly! If you didn’t get one, don’t fret…

Everybody strap in because there is some news on the future of The System Tornado design, and there seems to be a need for some clarity around things in general.

Here we go.


Open Numbered Edition - What is that?

In all the frenzy of trying to get one of the first batch of The System Tornado design, I’ve found that this was a key piece of information that many people overlooked or it wasn’t super clear.

On social media and through email a lot of people have been upset in thinking there were only ever going to be 300 pens which is a total bummer. If you made comments and felt left hanging, consider this my mass reply to all of you. : )

First of all, I think this design is pretty awesome. So awesome in fact that it would be crazy for Retro 51 and I to think that only 300 people would want one! If I will be honest, I designed this pen because I knew I would want one just like it and figured many other people might too. A lot more than 300 over time...

Well, we accounted for that from the beginning.

As noted in the official post announcing the pen and pre-order, and on the product page, The System Tornado is classified as an Open Numbered Edition, which means, it is a numbered series, but not limited to any given number of pens to be produced. We started with 300 to initially test the waters and then move forward from there.

This language of Open Numbered Edition was recommended by Retro 51 to use on The System as they’ve used it before in other pen releases like their Flying Fortress design in the Tribute Series. They continued to make more of that pen in numbered sequence as demand required, but ultimately retired it at some point when things died down. Retro 51 sought to clarify this language on their recent Facebook post announcing The System as well.

In short, “Open Numbered Edition” does not equal “Limited Edition”.

In a way, I'm glad that this discussion is happening now as it showcases the precedent Retro has already set with other releases in a much clearer way that will make the community run into less confusion like this moving forward.

If this was a point of confusion I'm definitely sorry, and take this as my official statement that neither Retro 51 nor I meant in any way to be misleading. If you bought during the pre-order and this information changes your decision to purchase the pen, please feel free to reach out to me directly so I can issue you a refund for it.


Retro 1951 Collectors

There is no doubt that there is a strong following for Retro 51 pens, and a community of collectors that particularly seek out their limited editions. The new pens often get scooped up super fast right out of the gates and often end up on eBay for tremendous amounts of money.

I can totally appreciate that there is supply and demand and people are willing to pay prices that they feel is a “fair” exchange. Capitalism is great, but can be super frustrating at times for people wanting to enjoy somewhat scarce products. Field Notes and Blackwing lovers have experienced this too.

Shoot, I paid $100 to buy one of the discontinued Tron Legacy series ballpoints from Retro 51 a few years back, so I get it! It originally retailed for like $35. Love that pen...

But, that was not the intent of this pen. By design, as an Open Numbered Edition the goal was to continue creating this pen until no one else wanted them.

The creative vision I had for The System which I expressed in my announcement is as follows:

“The Solar System is home to all of us and has played such an important role in human civilization. For millennia, our ancestors have looked to the stars and planets for guidance about who we are and where we fit within this crazy existence. I thought it only fitting that such an important and universal part of our lives be translated into something we can carry with us.”

Those aren’t just words; my hope was that lots of people would get joy out of this pen and help them think about the bigger picture. (And have a pretty sweet pen too.)

We want everyone that will enjoy this pen design to be able to get one, not just 300, or at extreme prices.

Will this clarification on the Open Numbered Edition frustrate some collectors and the resale market? Maybe. But the original intent was that this would be an ongoing release from the get go.

Again, if this changes your decision with your pre-order, please let me know and I'll get it refunded.


Will There Be More of The System?:

Yes! The Open Numbered Edition is still open and Retro 51 and I are excited to put through an order for more pens soon that continue the numbered series.

***Actually, preorder for the second round of The System #301-1000 is now live!


And, Thank You:

Biggest point of all, thank you. This has been one of the coolest things creating a new pen design with one of my favorite brands (and that was so well received) and I’ve been ecstatic to share it with you all. And I’m excited for more of you to get one!

And, special thanks to Retro 1951 (especially Richard and Ross) for their amazing help in making it a reality.

- Mike Dudek