ARRIS BLOCK - Magnetic Wooden Desk Fidget Blocks

I enjoy building/making things, particularly in a tangible 3D way, and one of the most rudimentary forms of doing so is with blocks. Most of us grew up with fond memories of either a set of random shaped blocks that grandpa cut up from his woodshop, or maybe the standard square "alphabet style" (you know the ones). Even with all the electronic gadgets and fancy toys, still today one of my favorite things is sitting down to build castles, towers, and all sorts of adventures with my own kids using just little blocks of wood.

Now, imagine taking that simple building block creative space to your desk...

Well, that is what the guys over at ARRIS BLOCK have set out to do with this debut Kickstarter campaign for a desk accessory of the same name with the goal of taking creative "fidgeting" to the workspace during needed attention breaks.

What they've created is a set of 165 small blocks or "tiles" that are 1" x 0.5" x 0.25" (I really, really love the proportions...) that can stack together to make a variety of shapes, and they are held together internally with powerful magnets. The guys were kind enough to send me over a set of the "natural" color blocks to check out and review, so many thanks to them.

When I say small, think like Scrabble board wooden tile small.

I'd have to say that this might be a first in this type of category here on The Clicky Post, but being a "desk" type accessory and based on my love for wooden products and design, I find it a fitting addition in the library.

Being on Kickstarter still, I'm sure packaging is still being finalized for how they'll be sold and shipped out, but I received a neatly stacked bunch of them which all-in-all took up only about a 4" x 4" (more a rectangle though) space on the desk which was a pretty small footprint.

These things beg to be played with. The first thing I did is sort of ripped off a chunk from the main block and let them fall into an unorganized bunch which created some interesting shapes on its own.

I love things to be right angles, symmetrical, and organized when it comes to design, so these seem to push my buttons pretty good...

The quality of the wood pieces are good without a lot of sharp edges or splintering, but they are wood which may allow for some variation. In size/thickness there is some variation, but I don't feel it distracts from the utility.

Each of the pieces is covered in a clear coat of sorts which is a great thing as it will allow them to be cleaned up from time to time if they get grimy, and prevents any oils from your hands from penetrating the wood.

The pieces are surprisingly responsive to each other, and the magnets are quite strong. I'd have to admit, for the first few minutes in building the only thing that I had to get the hang of was understanding the polarity of how the blocks "clicked" together which are either flush on top of each other, or in an alternating half and half scheme. This will limit the types of shapes that can be made, but I'm sure the ideas are endless and I'm just scratching the surface. 

I feel the execution on these little blocks is pretty fantastic, and they serve their purpose extremely well. And, they look pretty awesome while doing it... 

I could absolutely see these sitting on a wide range of desks without drawing the potentially unfavorable attention that other "fidget" solutions may gain. Actually, any attention they do get from colleagues or coworkers may be out of sincere interest due to their minimalist, yet interesting appeal.

And, they take black and white "architecture-esque" photos...

A set of these isn't on the super cheap end, but they're going on Kickstarter for about $75 a set which I feel is an honest value on an item like this.

These have been extremely enjoyable to play with and review, and special thanks again to they guys at ARRIS BLOCK for sending them over. Take a few minutes to check out their Kickstarter page and video if these may be of interest for you or as a gift!

Dee Charles Designs Leather Single Pen Sleeve - Rawhide Blue

As of late, I tend to carry my pens in my jeans pocket or in my bag, and rather than tossing them in I've been using various leather pen sleeves to keep the pens protected from keys, etc.

I'm always a sucker for new leather goods to try, so I was happy to oblige when Pen Chalet reached out to see if I would like to review a sleeve from one of their new product lines called Dee Charles Designs.

The sleeve came in a nicely branded black box, and rested inside was the new sleeve.

I opted for a more rustic looking leather which goes under the name "Rawhide" that is stitched with blue thread. This is different than what I would usually choose as a colorway (because I'm boring...), but I like it.

This particular leather shows wear really nicely when you start putting pens in the sleeve. As it stretches, the leather color adjusts and shifts a bit, giving it an instant worn-in aesthetic.

Branded/stamped into the leather is the Dee Charles Design logo which is a monogram in the shape of a fountain pen nib which I thought was tastefully done (and quite clever...).

The sleeve is made from thick leather which is a total plus. I absolutely detest those thin, flimsy, "leather" sleeves (if they are even made of it), like the cheap-o ones that sometimes come with inexpensive pens to try and add some fanciness to it (which they fail at), that feel like they are going to fall apart.

That certainly does not describe this sleeve as it is thick and sturdy, as it should be.

The sleeve isn't overly big, but I would put it on the larger size compared to some other sleeves. Although you could squeeze a smaller pen down into the sleeve, fishing it out would be a chore. For this product I'd use it for my more full size pens, although really large pens could be problematic.

For example, a Lamy 2000 fountain pen is about a perfect fit.

This particular sleeve comes in at $22, although the current listing has it squeaking in just under $20 which I feel is worth the price based on the quality of the product.

In addition to the single pen sleeve, Pen Chalet also carries a Dee Charles double sleeve as well as a pocket notebook/pen combo cover. If you are doing some shopping at Pen Chalet and haven't picked up a sleeve for your pens (or 5... I never have enough), these may be a good option to consider.

Thanks again to Pen Chalet for sending the sleeve to review!  


LP-5 Compact Pen by Vision Metal Design - Kickstarter

One thing I really enjoy is a solid pocket pen. I love how compact they are, portable, and the fact that they go from a small pen to a "normal" size pen when in use is fun to see from a design standpoint.

On Instagram about a month or so ago I stumbled across a maker I'd not yet heard of before called Vision Metal Design, but when I first saw the pen he was planning to release on Kickstarter I was pretty enthusiastic about its launch.

Vision Metal Design is run by a long time machinist, Robert Shirley, out of Ohio. He has been making and selling a popular extendable X-Acto knife holder for awhile now, but decided to venture into the world of pens. What he came up with he called the LP-5.

At a glance, the LP-5 may look like your ordinary pocket pen size, but in reality it is much, much smaller. Even shorter than the Kaweco Liliput which is saying something...

I knew this was a project I was most certainly going to back (in titanium), but Robert and I also discussed reviewing the LP-5 on the blog to give a closer look at them (and some opinions). Many thanks to him for sending me a few of the sample prototypes to check out and share.

One thing I like about the LP-5's aesthetic is that it has some texture and character, but not overly done. It has sort of a machined part appeal, but we're not going for all-out tacti-cool like some we've seen.

Initially, the LP-5 was slated to be designed for only the Lamy M22 ballpoint refill, most notably found in the Lamy Pico, but after some additional feedback and designing, Robert also created an alternate version which takes the D1 style which greatly expands the options available to go into the pen, but without sacrificing the ultra compact size he's shooting for.

To remove the refill, the conical tip of the pen unscrews which allows it to be exchanged. The M22 fits snugly into the pen barrel, while the D1 is at this point suspended in the pen and held in place with a spacer. Robert mentioned that these will be a metal part in the final versions, but for prototyping a Delrin material is used.

It really is impressive just how small this pen is.

Below is a shot I sent to a friend of the LP-5 alongside some of my other pocket pen favorites, and the others dwarf it in comparison.

While the LP-5 may take cues from "pocket pens" in general, I feel that it has a really unique take on it, and is quite innovative which is sometimes a rare thing to see.

Closed, the pens come in at under 2.75" (roughly 7cm), and then extend to nearly 5", a comfortable writing length.

The grip section of the pen has two sets of threading: one set nearest the tip to secure the pen when closing, and the second set just over a design "bump" in the pen (with decorative lines to match the overall aesthetic) to allow the cap to post and extend the length of the pen.

For added grip, the section is also machined with grooves to make it easier to hang onto.

Like any pen with exposed threads like this, there is always a risk of dropping it on a hard surface which could mash or mar them and make the parts no longer connectable.

The pens come in four different material options: brass, copper, titanium, and aluminum. And, for the Kickstarter campaign these are incredibly reasonable in price starting at $35.

I was able to take a closer look at the brass, copper, and titanium versions and they all have their own appeal. Generally, I opt for aluminum, titanium, or stainless steel pens as I like the color (and then also avoid the brass and copper "smell" that comes with age out of preference), but the brass and copper versions feel great in the hand, and for being so small, only weigh a bit over an ounce.

I must admit, I really, really like this pen and wish Robert the best as his campaign is wrapping up. Definitely check out his campaign and back if you love pocket pens (and always looking to add more). I'd love for this pen to succeed as I feel it is a solid addition to the EDC market.

Thanks again Robert!