Mark One Minimal Pen by Studio Neat

Do you know Studio Neat? Well, to me they are a company that likes to attack a wide range of problems that are generally completely unrelated, but awesome nonetheless. Actually, it is hard for me to think of a company that does what they do quite like they do it, and that makes them stand out a bit.

This past year they made their way into the stationary world by releasing a product known as the Panobook, which was a cool, thinner than normal spiral notebook that fits nicely when working around a desk keyboard (review here).

Well, they're back with a new minimal pen called the Mark One and they were kind enough to send me a prototype to check out and review during their Kickstarter campaign

As an overview, the pen is a cylindrical aluminum barrel about 5 inches long, a "clicky" mechanism, and is covered in a Cerakote finish to give it a new form of protection. There are quite a few pens that use DLC, PVD, or anodized coatings, but I think this is the first I've used one that has Cerakote.

What is Cerakote? It is a polymer-ceramic coating that gets applied and then baked onto the surface that is highly resistant to abrasion, chemicals... let's just say this is tough stuff and is usually reserved for things like gun parts.

In shape, the pen is very simple: no taper or curves in the barrel until you get to the tip, and a slight chamfer at the top near the knock. And, the version they sent is the matte black edition which gives it a uniform, monotone look. Although, the knock is a raw silvery metal (likely aluminum on this one) which provides a stark contrast against the rest of the pen.

I enjoy the feel of the Cerakote in hand. It has a soft texture, but tends to also have some grip. And, the coating really doesn't show a lot of fingerprints/oils.

For the refill they opted for the highly popular Schmidt P8126, a capless rollerball that lays down great, dark ink flow, and is shorter in length than many rollerball refills which allows for a more compact pen design.

For this pen they also machined their own all-metal mechanism, although, the one I have in my pen is different than the version on Kickstart. The guys sent me this one a few months back to check out in anticipation for a slightly earlier launch, but they opted to rework the mechanism a bit to make it a bit more "satisfying". So, this version I'm reviewing is not EXACTLY like their current production model, but I'll explain a bit more as to why I think they made the adjustments.

The mechanism is machined from all metal and activates well. This early prototype has more of a "press" (more a squish), rather than a satisfying "click". Although, it works really quite well but I did find that it was a little light and easy to press which did lend to some problems.

One thing of note is that the pen is clipless which means it goes right into the pocket. And, with a light mechanism I found that it would extend the tip while in my pocket so I tended to carry it in one of my leather pen sleeves.

I can't confirm whether or not the new "click" created some added tension to prevent the unwanted pocket extensions, but I would probably assume it helped some.

Speaking of the lack of clip, this can be a pretty divisive feature (or non-feature?...) to a lot of people. There are the groups that are ok with no clips (I consider myself in this group since I always carry a pen in a sleeve, clip or no clip), but then there are the staunch "must have a clip" rule people which I can absolutely understand. It all really depends on how you carry your pen, where you carry it, and whether or not you have a mad phobia of your pen rolling off your desk...

One additional thing I noticed about the knock mechanism is that it tends to get some wear on the sides, even after short use. This seems common in pens that are metal-on-metal between the knock and barrel, but something to certainly be aware of if it will drive you mad over time.

I think the length is really good. It is a rather light pen at 0.7oz, and the 5" length allows it to rest comfortably in the fleshy part of my hand and doesn't come up short. While writing I'll also note that I only experienced very mild tip movement, almost undetectable, something of which I am somewhat extreme in my lack of tolerance of. There are pens I've been really excited to buy since their design was great, but the tip movement prevented me from ever enjoying it, so I'm glad they sought to address it in their engineering.

The guys have already blown way past their funding goal which is really exciting for them, and, I can confidently say that I think they've created a sound product. The pricepoint on it is $50 during the Kickstarter campaign which I think is super reasonable. Definitely check this one out and thanks again to Studio Neat for sending the prototype to check out! 

JetPens $25 Gift Card Giveaway!

A staple in the "pen nerd" community (of which I'm a member) usually goes hand in hand with a company like JetPens. They sell A LOT of stationery goods, but their specialty definitely seems to be getting in Japanese imports of almost every type of gel, multipen, or markers you can think of.

They're making some changes to their blog sponsorship programs so I thought we could go out with a bang by doing a quick giveaway for a $25 E-Gift Card good for anything in their store!

Special thanks to JetPens for their sponsorship/support of The Clicky Post over the years.

CONTEST RULES (the "fine print"):

- Contest will run through Friday, March 23rd and will end at 11:59pm Arizona Time, USA

- To enter, leave a comment below by adding a link to one of the products you'd like to buy from JetPens if you won the giftcard! (I'd love to see the variety, and you get to do some shopping...)

- I will arrange the entries in numerical order and randomly select a winner.  The winner will be announced on the blog on Saturday, March 24th and will need to connect with me within a week to claim their prize. 

- This giveaway is open to both US and International readers.

Nock Co Seed Folio - A5

I've found through using a lot of products that hands down my favorite notebook size is the A5. Not too big, not too small, but more the perfect all around note taking/journaling space.

Over the last year or so I've seen the guys over at Nock Co showcasing their Seed line of folios in the A6 (too small for me) and knew that an A5 would soon be coming which got me excited... Well, the time is soon at hand for their release and they were gracious enough to send me a sample to check out and share when they were ready.

If you are unfamiliar with Nock Co, it is a stationary accessories/goods company run out of Atlanta, GA by a couple of guys, Brad and Jeff, but their specialty in my opinion is in their range of soft cases for pens and notebooks for the writing enthusiast. 

They aren't the first to make soft cases, but they've really taken to heart ways to innovate them into products they themselves would like to use that are durable, highly functional, EXTREMELY well made, and usually come in fun bright colors (although they have more conservative colorways for the likes of boring people like me...). 

The newer Seed lineup takes the pen case a bit further by creating more of an all-in-one solution to grab and go that holds your writing instrument, notebook, and some extra space for things like a charging cable or business cards.

All of their case exteriors are made from a nylon mesh fabric with a DWR (durable water repellent) coating, often the same material used in nicer backpacks. This makes them flexible, lightweight, and can hold up pretty well to the elements. I've been using Nock cases since the company began and they've never failed me. Granted, I'm not taking them on an expedition to the arctic or anything, but I've yet to be disappointed in their quality.

The case is fairly simple in design, but I don't mean that in a negative way. It is very utilitarian which I really, really like. And, speaking of more conservative colors this sample is a Steel exterior (dark gray) with a Silver Dust interior (light gray) which fits me perfectly. As things progress I'm sure they'll have bright, fun colors similar to that of their other cases.

To keep things sealed up the case is provided with two YKK black metal zippers which are known for their quality. Having two zippers allows you to have zipper placement to your heart's content. Bottom zipper, top zipper, side zipper... whatever fits your fancy. Personally, a single bottom zipper would've sufficed for me, but no complaints! Opening and closing the case is smooth with very little snag/drag when you hit corners.

On the outside front cover is a pocket over the entire surface which is accessible through a simple flap. Love this feature and also that it doesn't have another zipper as it would've added some additional textures that could impact writing. That being said, I wouldn't go stuffing this pocket to the brim with odd-shaped items that will make writing hard, but things like a charging cable, earbuds, or mechanical pencil lead. Or, maybe even a peanut butter sandwich (bagged). Mostly kidding about the sandwich, but some snacks for sure could fit nicely for those late night writing stints.

I loaded up the case with a fresh, hardbound A5 made by Leuchtturm 1917 which tends to be my go-to notebook these days. Nock does have their own line of dot-dash pattern A5 notebooks that I'll need to try out sometime as well.

Inside the case there are "flaps" on each end of the inside case that hold pens and note/business cards, but also act as the means of holding the notebook in place inside the case. The flaps are fairly narrow which, coupled with the flexible materials, made installing the book easy. I do love leather notebook covers as well, but find they are sometimes a chore to get the books in and out of. 

Using the hardbound notebook adds some considerable rigidity and I feel makes the fit a bit more snug. With the flaps being a bit more narrow I could see softbound books popping out a bit from time to time if you are really flexing it. 

On the left flap are two slots for pens and pencils, while on the right flap is a small pocket for business cards or Nock's really tiny notecards.

The pen slots are quite generous in size and could easily accommodate some pretty thick pens, and the sleeve extends up around 4.5" which creates enough of a height barrier to where most pens wouldn't run the risk of sliding out and about while inside the case. You could certainly keep clipless pocket pens like the Kaweco Sport or Schon DSGN pen in the sleeves, but may have to push them out through the fabric.

One thing I have found with the pen slots is that the inner most pen sleeve when loaded up can somewhat interfere with writing if you use the inside page of notebooks pretty often. The pen props up the outside edge of the pages which can make writing tough unless you take that pen out too. Deal breaker? Of course not, but is something to work out when using if you use both sides of the page regularly.

If you keep really thin pens or pencils in that slot, you'll be alright to not take them out.

Even though there is some added bulk with the nylon material, the design actually lends itself to lay-flat type notebooks really well. Heading back to the beginning of the review to reference the front cover pocket, if you jam that thing full of oddly shaped, non-flat items the deal is off at least for the left side of the open folio. Seems like a common sense type of observation, but is a serious consideration when looking into buying a product like this. You have to think about what you'll carry and what you may need to leave out.

Overall I really like this product. As said before the guys at Nock are sticklers for quality and it shows through in the Seed A5. Like most products there may be points that require some concessions and workflow to use (like the inner pen sleeve), but these felt pretty obvious to me.

Brad let me know that these should be hitting their store next week and retail at $70. At first glance the pricepoint might look a little high, but when considering that high quality zipper folios (primarily in leather) run for $100+ easily I find the ask pretty fair. Keep tabs on those guys over the next week or so if you're looking to get one.

Thanks again to Nock Co for sending the case for review. What are your thoughts about the new Seed A5?