Appelboom Pens and Stationery (sponsor)

Appelboom is a pen retailer that has been serving the Netherlands for over 20 years and has a fantastic reputation for customer care and value. I've made several purchases from them myself and I always receive my pens promptly and well packaged (gift wrapped actually!).

They carry an extensive variety of pens from our favorite brands like Sailor, LAMY, Kaweco, and others and are even a distributor for Montblanc. I've personally found several unique models that I've not seen carried by other retailers, so definitely take a look at their lineup.

For buyers outside of the EU, the pricing removes the included 21% VAT (value added tax) which can often translate into big savings for more expensive pens with Appelboom's competitive pricing.

Also, when placing an order use the promo code FRIEND for 10% off of your purchase* for more savings.

Thanks so much to Appelboom for sponsoring The Clicky Post! 

(*The promo code is not applicable for Montblanc pens due to their non-discount policies, but is available for all other brands.)

DUO Pen and Stylus by 529 Studio

A new pen to the Kickstarter scene is the DUO minimal ballpoint and stylus pen by 529 Studio in the UK. They were kind enough to send me a sample prototype for review, so many thanks to them for providing it to share here on the blog.

The DUO is a pen machined from aluminum (aluminium...this is a British pen...) and the model I received is in a bright anodized (anodised?... ok, enough) Electric Blue finish. The machining is nice, simple, and didn't appear to have any noticeable blemishes or issues. Etched in the top section of the pen is the 529 Studio logo, a crescent style moon which is tasteful and not overly distracting.

It is manufactured and assembled locally in the UK where 529 Studio resides which is a huge plus for me. Not that getting things manufactured elsewhere is "bad", but I always enjoy seeing companies strive to support their local economies and businesses when they can. 

It is a very skinny pen at about just over 1/4" in diameter. Think about the size of a normal woodcased pencil and is fairly light weight coming in at 0.6oz.

The grip area of the pen (and the rest of it) is completely smooth, and being so narrow I did find it a slight bit difficult to be comfortable and hard to get a good grip on it. At least I felt I was constantly moving it around in my fingers to get a better handle on the pen. Not sure there is a lot to be done here without losing some of the "minimal" design like adding some machined rings, etc. 

The pen is built upon the Cross-style twist mechanism and takes the threaded, screw-in style refills. A lot of people love these ballpoint refills and there are quite a few varieties of these to choose from, but if you're hoping to swap in a gel or rollerball there aren't really options for it.  

With the barrel being a bit on the slick side, getting a hold of the two pieces to twist the mechanism doesn't seem to be the most comfortable and actually took a bit of conscious effort each time opening and closing. Also, when twisting, the two pieces seem to "flex" out of alignment a little creating a small (like, really small) stair stepping effect between the seam. With a little wiggling they go back into alignment, but seemed a bit odd.

Granted, these are prototypes and I'm not certain how the actual mechanism is fastened to the lower, grip barrel section, but there seems to be some slight fluidity or give in there that would be nice to get tightened down in final production.

If you are familiar with the Cross Century (of course you are...) which I think everyone's parent or grandparent used in their Franklin-Covey or checkbook (usually gold), then you can get a sense of the size and overall feel of this pen. Normally, the Cross pens have a clip and I think this is where some of the "twist" problems come in as you usually have something extra to hang onto when extending the refill which the DUO does not.

If I can be blunt, the stair stepping thing did bother me quite a lot as it feels a bit wobbly and set a tone for the overall feel of things. 

The stylus tip is on the smaller side which is a plus and works well. I don't really use a stylus often, but it was responsive when I did some tests on my iPhone. If you use a stylus tip often, this one works well.

I find this pen to fit a pretty unique taste: the Cross refill and mechanism, stylus, really skinny... It is definitely unlike other pens hitting Kickstarter these days, but at the same time doesn't offer much in uniqueness or novelty in my opinion. And, in functionality it is similar to a Cross Century or Tech2 pen, just sans a clip for the more minimal style, but I'm still not super clear on how it stands out in a crowd of similar pens. It is machined and not quite as "flashy" as similar pens, I'll definitely say that.

Overall the DUO is a nice pen that has a lot of visual appeal when you see it. There are things I think they can refine a bit more like the flex in the barrel (if possible), but I know they are looking to make an excellent pen and hope my feedback/thoughts are seen as constructive or helpful.

Thanks again to 529 Studio for sending the DUO my way! Check out their Kickstarter campaign for more details on the options and pricing for the pen. 

TiScribe-Bolt by Urban Survival Gear - Stonewashed Titanium

There is hustle, and then there is... HUSTLE.

I would definitely put Kelvin from Urban Survival Gear in that second category as he has been designing and producing new pens at a pretty amazing rate. Especially being a one man show! (not discounting the help of his awesome family, of course) In the past 18 months he's produced three different Kickstarter campaigns and is quickly expanding his lineup of goods.

The newest pen is the TiScribe-Bolt, Kelvin's take on the popular bolt-action mechanism design and he kindly sent me a sample to check out and share.

His design of the bolt-action pen incorporates the clip into the bolt itself. Being fastened to the internal bolt cylinder with two hex head screws, to extend and retract the refill you move the entire clip into the "J-slot" positions. The movement is surprisingly easy to use and works really well.

Personally, I'd love a slightly stiffer spring in the pen, but the existing one has enough tension to be comfortable and not "loose" in all the parts. I find that with most retractable pens I am this way though, so it may be more of my own preference. I find that pens with slightly more tension seem to sure up the tip and all the parts so the pen feels nice and tight when writing.

The TiScribe-Bolt is being produced in three materials: brass, copper, and titanium which is a nice blend, and the pricepoint on them for the Kickstarter campaign are very reasonable from around $50 - 75 depending on what you get.

Also available is a stonewashed version which has been tumbled to provide more of a matte finish. This also helps remove any blemishes and gives it an already "worn in" type of aesthetic. I received the stonewashed titanium version as my sample and I love how it looks.

One thing Kelvin did really well with the stonewashed is making sure all the parts and pieces look uniform. The clip, the INSIDE bolt cylinder... all of the pieces are tumbled to a consistent finish which looks awesome when put together as a final product. Kudos! I've received other products in the past that are inconsistent in the finish which really distracts from the overall design.

I would consider the pens Kelvin makes to have a very simple design, but I don't mean that in a negative way. Straight lines, cylindrical shapes, simple angles and chamfers; these all come together well into a highly functional product that looks good, but isn't flashy.

His designs have evolved over time as he's discovering what works and what doesn't, which ultimately will help shape what his overall lineup looks like long term I think. A couple of examples of this are the grip "lines" on each of his pens being spaced slightly different, or some caps having a sharp top edge rather than the chamfer. Eventually, I'm sure they will all look the same.

A new addition to the pen is his decision to add a logo to his product. Previously the pens were without brand or mark, but to remedy this he has added an engraved emblem from his logo (not the full logo) on the very end of the pen which is tastefully done. I'd consider it a nice addition the the pen and glad he opted to do it. If we wanted to get EXTREMELY compulsive about it, from a design standpoint I'd try to figure out how to align the logo to the top of the clip when the pen is retracted, but, definitely not a deal breaker. 

The pen comes standard with a Pilot G2 refill which is a great, everyday choice which most people can use or appreciate. There are others like the Pilot Juice, Precise, and others that could be swapped in to change up the writing experience to your preference.

The tip of the pen is held snug with an o-ring to keep things from coming undone, but I found it to be a bit TOO snug. Now, I can open a really tight jam jar when needed, but either Kelvin has super grip in his fingers when tightening these down, or maybe the o-ring is adding a little too much tension.

To loosen mine I had to get a piece of rubber to get it open and even with hand tightening it back down with my fingers it is a bit of a chore to get open again. The removable tip section is about 0.75" long, so not terribly big and is smooth which is likely adding to the issue. I'm just gonna say, for most people this is going to be a pain in the butt when swapping refills.

If I have one other observation is that there is a slight bit of movement in the clip and bolt mechanism. This doesn't impact the utility of the pen in any way, but if you put your thumb on the clip and move it back and forth, there is definitely a little play. REALLY small tolerances of 1000ths of an inch I mean that if the J-slot was the slightest bit smaller would prevent some of this. Again, not something to impact the pens utility, but will be noticeable. I have several bolt action pens and some have this movement and others don't.

Overall, I really, really like this pen and I know I'll put it to good use. I've gone and backed another titanium version of the pen as well to have one with the more machined look to add to my set.   

If this type of pen is up your alley, I would definitely give the Kickstarter campaign a look. Thanks Kelvin!

(Sponsor Disclosure: Urban Survival Gear has also purchased a sponsorship ad space on The Clicky Post, but this in no way has influenced the objectivity of this review.)