Galen Leather Extra Large Moleskine/iPad Cover

Sorry for the small break from the blog. The past month has been one of the craziest and most busy in awhile! I've got a whole lineup of products to review and share, so stay tuned.

But this has been an item I've been waiting to review for awhile now... 

Galen Leather out of Istanbul, Turkey was started by a duo of creative people, Zeynep & Yusuf, who began making small leather goods as a hobby but eventually turned it into their full-time work.

I am a sucker for new leather goods on the market and they kindly offered to send me one of their extra large Moleskine/iPad covers to review. Thanks so much!

I would consider the cover to be more along the lines of a "folio" (although it doesn't have a clasp or zipper of any kind) as it not only holds the notebook, but also has pockets, sleeves, pen loops, and slots for cards. It isn't overly complicated in design like some brands which I kind of enjoy. I think with too many hooks, loops, pockets, carabiners... you get the picture, but it can be too much.

Sometimes less is more.

One of the first things you notice about the cover is how thick the leather is. Not quite as thick as belt leather, but pretty darn close. This provides substance to the cover and it definitely feels sturdy. I absolutely detest thin, flimsy leather. It feels cheap, usually looks cheap, but the Galen cover is neither of those things.

I requested the black version (which is a bit of a variation for me as I usually enjoy brown), and it looks great. There were no noticeable blemishes in the cover when it arrived, but it will certainly age over time with nicks and dings from normal use. Also, with the thickness of the cover I'd wager it will last a long time.

The stitching is a lighter color which contrasts strongly against the leather. I don't have a real opinion on this, but I think that with some of the darker leathers they might be able to incorporate some red or blue stitching if they wanted to stand out, or, go straight black for a more sleek aesthetic. It looks great as is though, and the stitching is even, uniform, and strong.

To hold the notebook in place the cover has an attached elastic strap that is about 1.5" wide. The back cover of the notebook slips under the strap to secure it in place and there is also a loop from the elastic that can secure the cover shut while in transit.

Also inside is a single elastic pen loop which fits in between the spine of the notebook and the cover's fold so your pen is nicely protected and won't smash into the cover or run the risk of getting damaged.

There are also two inner sleeves that are the full size of the cover where you can safely tuck away an iPad Air. Now, if you have a protective cover on your iPad, this likely won't work unless it is extremely thin. So, those indestructible, bomb proof, Otterbox cases... probably won't fit.

Also for holding a small pocket notebook and some credit/debit cards (or business cards), they have included some slits cut out of the left inner section. If this folio were to turn into your carryall type of setup, these would be super handy. Personally, I haven't found myself using them only due to them not fitting into my daily need.

For what you receive with the Galen products I feel their pricing is extremely good. Solid quality, craftsmanship, and materials. This folio/cover runs under $100 and international shipping is only $13 to the US. I've been following them since last year and they have quickly been expanding their lineup to also include zipper cases, covers for Rhodia and Leuchtturm1917 notebooks, as well as many other products.

Again, special thanks to Galen Leather for sending this my way! Definitely give them a look.      

Karas Kustoms Copper EDK - Knox Series (shipwreck)

A now well-known staple to our community, Karas Kustoms (AKA Karas Pen Co), has just released a new series of some of their copper and brass pens called the Knox Series. Karas has been creating a full line-up of machined ballpoint and fountain pens in a variety of unique designs now going on five years, and this edition is something I was pretty taken aback by when I first laid eyes on them... 

They were kind enough to provide one of these new pens for review so special thanks to them for sending it my way. The pen I received is one of their smaller, pocket friendly retractable pens called the EDK in copper.

If you are unfamiliar with the EDK it is a portable, around 5" total in length, rugged pocket pen that is built around the popular Schmidt P8126 rollerball refill. It uses the same knock mechanism as their other "click" pen, the Retrakt, but just in a much more compact size. 

Also, the EDK has machined into the grip section concentric lines to add texture and interest. The copper version is a weighty pen, coming in at just over 2oz which could make it a little heavy for some.

The best way to describe the Knox Series is like if we went scuba diving in the Caribbean and stumbled across the remnant of an old sunken ship from the days of the Spanish Armada. Littered about are various artifacts like cannons, coins... oh, and a copper retractable pen, all of which have been corroding and aging under the salty waves for centuries.

I would give the Knox Series a nickname of "shipwreck' as it seems to describe perfectly what the artist they've partnered with, Don Knox, is trying to convey in his work.

All across the pen, the copper is eaten away exposing various nooks and crannies all now filled in with blue and turquoise colored oxidation. Except for a few parts which seem to have withstood the tests of time and are still shiny and brilliant; a stark contrast of old and new.

If I am being a bit artistic in my language, it is on purpose. Pens like these I would consider to be just that: art. Are pens like this practical or does their appearance in any way improve function or utility? Certainly not, but that isn't the point.

Not every pen can be this way, but at least some can. I feel like Don has done such an amazing job of transporting this pen to somewhere I know it doesn't belong, but does so incredibly well. I look at it and it tells a story that isn't real, but could be, which is is pretty fantastic.

With heavy use, I'm not certain how the finish on the pen will hold or whether the greenish/blue will eventually wear off, but even with just the corroded metal it would still have a cool aged appeal.

Now, the pricing on these pens is a bit steep when compared with again, more "practical" options, but being that they are all individually hand treated and altered, they are all unique in their own way and warrant the price for the buyer that is looking for something just like this.

Since these are small batches and are each different, they are sold as one-off listings on the Karas Kustoms blog rather than on their main website. If interested in the selection they have of of not only EDKs, but Bolts, and Render Ks as well, definitely give these a look.

Thanks again to Karas Kustoms for sending this one my way to review and share.


Pilot Vanishing Point Ballpoint Pen - Gunmetal

I love the Pilot Vanishing Point fountain pen a lot. It is the type of pen that seems to get a hit or miss type of response from people, but generally not a lot of "meh" type of folks out there. Either you love it, or hate it. Kind of like Marmite.

I've known about the ballpoint version of this pen for quite some time and was always anxious to try one out. Pen Chalet started carrying them and was kind enough to send me one to for review on the blog, so special thanks to them for providing it.

If you are familiar with the fountain pen version, the size of the ballpoint is about the same, but also feels a bit different. The barrel is definitely slimmer in diameter by about a good mm or so which, in pen diameters can feel like a lot. Pilot does make a smaller version of the Vanishing Point called the Decimo, but I've never used one so can't say for sure if this is closer to that in size.

The model I received is the chrome and gunmetal, which is a metallic grey, lacquered finish. It is glossy and picks up the gleams of light in the room. The chrome section is, well, chrome and is one of those fingerprint magnet surfaces. The finish on everything is excellent which is what I always come to expect from Pilot products.

One thing about the fountain pen version is that it comes in about a zillion color schemes, and Pilot is always releasing more. Not the ballpoint version though. From what I can tell it comes in only a few color variations, generally in the more "businessy" palette of black, white, grey (gunmetal), and silver, all with the chrome accents. I was hoping for a matte black version.

And, the chrome is so shiny that one can also make cameo appearances in their own reviews...

The tip of the pen where the refill extends is a rounded, dome shaped feature that cuts off sharply. Now, being so familiar with the wider fountain nib opening (which I think has a bit of an aquatic vibe), this looks weird to me, but only due to the fact of familiarity. If I'd never before seen the fountain pen version it would be fine, but my brain is telling me it is off...but it isn't.

What makes the Vanishing Point series different than most retractable pens is that the opening faces UP when in your pocket, versus down with the knock mechanism visible. This is for the obvious practical purposes of not leaving an open (so to speak) fountain pen upside down in your pocket to let gravity have its fun with your nice oxford shirt. This is also true with the ballpoint version as they are in essence the same pen, just with different insides.

The ballpoint version is considerably lighter than its fountain pen cousin coming in at around 0.6 oz. Compared to 1.0 oz inked fountain pen version, this is extremely noticeable in the hand if the Vanishing Point is one of your regulars. It doesn't feel cheap, but doesn't have quite the same substance to it. It almost feels like they are made from slightly different materials.

To extend the tip the knock has quite a bit of spring movement before it kicks in and the refill appears. It easily takes about 0.5 - 0.75" of push before you see the tip of the pen show up. There is also an audible "crrrrriiiiiing" type of noise (best I can muster phonetically) from the inside spring which is also different. Kind of like a tinny metal noise then followed by a loud "click" when the refill snaps into place. This, of course, doesn't impact utility at all, just a noticeable difference in the experience worth noting.

The refill inside is the Pilot BRFN-30-M (M for medium), which is compatible with other ballpoint barrels like the Ageless and Dr. Grip to name a couple. It is a very smooth and enjoyable ballpoint refill that lays down a dark and consistent line (no rollerball or gel mind you). It is available in either black, blue, or red in fine or medium line widths.

While writing there is literally no movement in the tip which is always a good thing. 

Going back to the thing that those that adamantly dislike the pen call out most, is the clip placement. For some, depending on your writing grip, the clip is in your hand while writing which I could see being uncomfortable for people. I have what I'd consider a sort of stereotypical pen grip or, the "three point" placement of thumb and index finger at the 10 and 2 o-clock positions with the pen resting at 6 o-clock on the side of the middle finger, so the clip doesn't impose on me in the least.

I like this pen, probably since I enjoy the fountain pen so much, but am not certain I'd put this one in the daily use category for me. When using a ballpoint, I just seem to have a variety of pens that I gravitate towards more, but I'm sure it will see use from time to time. I actually think for a pen person in your life these could make a great unique gift of a pen that they've likely not seen before.

Retail on these babies is pretty high (in my opinion) at $136, but the street price is much less. Pen Chalet actually has them for a steal at $68 if you were itching to add one to your collection, but not sure how long that will last as it says "limited quantities" on the site. 

Thanks again to Pen Chalet for sending this one my way!