Aluminum Pen1 by BaughbLabs (Robert Isaac) - A Review

Obviously, being a pen blogger, I enjoy pens... a lot. Dozens of pens come to my desk throughout a given year, and always enjoy trying new things.

Some pens excite me and some fall a bit flat, but the ones that seem to inspire me the most are those that are dreamed up and made by individuals out of a passion for designing something they want to use themselves.

On Instagram I follow a lot of pen folks, but I also seem to gravitate towards artists, designers, and craftspeople. One such person I stumbled upon a couple months ago is Robert Isaac (@baughblabs) and saw that he had designed (and made) his own minimalist aluminum pen.

I knew that I needed to get one... 

Actually, seeing Robert's pen made me think way back to the first time I heard from Chris Williams of Ateleia Craft + Design (at that point it didn't have a name!) back in 2013 when he talked to me about "a pen he was making" and how excited I got. It wasn't corporate or overproduced/marketed; just a dude that was passionate about making an awesome pen that shelled out his own cash to make a small first batch (20 in total I think) just to see how it went. 

I visited Robert's website and saw where to purchase, so I placed my order. The pen was $49.95 which included domestic shipping (which I find an immense deal), and within a couple of weeks my pen arrived in the mailbox.

Now, I said "weeks" as each pen is handmade by Robert in small batches on his lathe. I think I caught him right about when a batch was wrapping up, so the wait wasn't too long. This didn't dissuade me as I can relate with my Dudek Modern Goods brand and how I generally take a couple of weeks as all of my stands are made to order.

The pen arrived nicely stowed in a simple, brown paper envelope with Robert's "b" logo stamped on it. No frilly packaging which was totally ok.

I love how simple this pen is. A straight, stick-like aluminum barrel that is pure function, but that simplicity is what makes it great. I've used other "stick" pens that didn't quite get the proportions and design right as they added rings, grips, or other textures that distracted from the sleek minimalism.

The pen is thin being machined from 3/8" aluminum rods, a smidge larger in diameter than your average wood cased pencil for reference. Being aluminum, it is also light weighing in at around 0.7 oz, but a very comfortable heft for it's size.

To extend the Parker style refill, you simply screw in the threaded end cap until it creates a near seamless barrel. To retract, unscrew it until the tip is safely stowed inside.

I find this to be extremely clever, even if to some this may seem overly simplistic.  

The design doesn't lend itself to lighting quick deployment (about 4 or 5 turns), but also prevents the pen from inadvertently being "clicked". I don't mind the exposed threads, but have thought in my mind how Robert could potentially machine away the top two threads to create a more stair step look. This would make the inset appear drastically deeper, but might act as a good guide for when the pen is extended and prevent the threads from possible damage.

The tip of the pen has a sharp, conical design which functionally allows you to see the tip while writing, but also adds just enough "shape" to the pen.

The workmanship on the pen is excellent, considering that Robert hand machines and finishes each of them. The pen is high quality, but does have some subtle, human-made elements that, to me, increases my appreciation for it. A person hand made and shipped this product to me which adds to it's story. Every time I use it I can connect it back to this.

Overall, extremely happy with my purchase from BaughbLabs and I'm looking forward to years of use from this pen. Take a minute to check out Robert's site, and here is hoping to more designs from him!   

Mr. Lentz Leather Notebook/Passport Covers - A Review

Whenever I learn of a new (well, new to me) leather maker I always get excited. Something that pairs nicely for daily, ongoing use in our world of stationery or every day carry items is leather. It is durable (when well made), ages in unique ways as it is used, and protects things we care about from being damaged.

A company I was unfamiliar with called Mr. Lentz reached out to me and asked if I'd like to take a look at some of their leather passport/notebook wallets and, of course, I can never refuse to see someone's handwork.

Mr. Lentz products are created by a real guy, Mr. Evan Lentz, who has been making and selling his wares for several years also being featured in several publications as well as being a featured Etsy seller. Needless to say, he seems to have garnered a reputation for care and quality in his work from a wide range of audiences.

The Mr. Lentz brand and products have a very pronounced cowboy and country theme (although Evan does say he loves 90's dance music in his bio...which is awesome) that admittedly is a bit outside of my own personal aesthetic, but doesn't dissuade me in the least from appreciating and enjoying what he has created. Practical, attractive, and well-made goods are always appealing.

On his site he even says:

A smart cowboy once said ‘Buy nice, or buy twice.’

Couldn't agree more partner!

Evan was kind enough to actually send me two different passport/notebook covers to review. Should we do a giveaway for one soon?... I think we just might.

For his work Evan uses full-grain vegetable tanned leather purchased through one of the oldest US tanneries, and the leather is made from some of the toughest parts of the cow's hide making it highly durable. The leather the covers are made of isn't abrasive in any way (but also not soft/supple), but they are stiff and tough before their first use, waiting to be broken in.

I requested the Western Brown dyed leather which is a nice chestnut color, but they can also be made in an un-dyed natural or dyed black.  

The color is uniform on the pieces themselves, but when comparing the two the colors are slightly different, one being darker than the other. I'm not a leather maker so can't attest to whether this is due to different dye batches, the original leather having a starting color, curing time?... Either way, this is not offensive to me as they aren't designed to be a set. 

Each of the covers also has multiple slots for debit/credit cards, ID's, or business cards. The double passport sleeve is designed to really be an all in one carry solution when traveling.

Included with each cover is a small chrome ballpoint pen (really, really small) by a company called Derringer (maybe like the small gun?) that is tucked into two punched holes at the spine of the cover. For quick notes I could see this being a good solution, but I know one of the first things I'd do is stretch the holes out a bit more to fit a CH4 Space Pen (also know as the Shuttle Series), the slimmer cousin of the original AG-7 Space Pen flown on the Apollo missions. A little more expensive of a pen, but may be a longer term investment.

Also included is a small passport sized lined notebook that would work great to get someone started with the cover. I love the fact that he takes the time to include these items.

With every piece, Evan also sends along a small tin of his leather care balm, which is a really nice consideration.

When thinking about the stationery community in general, only one concern with the notebook situation came up: size. Many of the pocket notebook brands (Field Notes, Doane Paper, Story Supply Co...) make a 5.5" tall book, while the covers are designed for a 5" book which means they stick out slightly during use.

I didn't see availability for buying additional books through Evan, although, another notebook producer here in the US, Scout Books, has always used the 5" size so they are a perfect fit and would be my recommendation for refills.

In the notebook only cover, the book can either be tucked into its little pocket and removed during use, or, the back cover can be slipped into the same "pocket" to allow it to be used in the cover. The double passport/notebook cover would likely require the removal of the book from the cover due to there being card sleeves on both sides. Still, keeping everything tidy during transport.

Something unique to Evan's leather covers is them being fastened together with brass rivets rather than sewing the edges. This gives a completely different look to the pieces and does add some of the Western flair for sure.

Again, not being a leather maker myself, I can't say whether stitching or rivets will last longer, but I suppose it depends on execution. A poor stitch job will unravel just like a poor rivet job will pop through. Regardless, I like that he has gone this route for his brand and his work is tight and of high quality.

A special thanks to Mr. Lentz for sending these my way for review! Outside of notebook covers, Evan carries a wide range of other leather wallets, bags, and other accessories at reasonable prices. Definitely give his wares a look.

Karas Pen Co Decograph Fountain Pen

It's pretty hard to believe that Karas Kustoms (AKA Karas Pen Co) has been creating and making pens for close to 6 years. Still one of my all-time favorite pen designs is their original Render K in an aluminum barrel.

For the last few years Karas has introduced some new models and variations on their all metal pens like the EDK, but their most recent pen soon to hit the market is a dabble into an entirely new world for these guys altogether. They call it the Decograph and they were kind enough to send me over one of the first production models to review here on the blog.

The Decograph is Karas' first step into the acrylic barreled market like those you'd find from Franklin Christoph, Edison, or private makers like Shawn Newton, but still with a very "Karas" feel to it.

If starting at the experience, what you receive the pen in is pretty extraordinary, and something I've really seen no other manufacturer do (unless you're heading into the really pricey territory). They've machined (yes, machined) a custom aluminum tube that acts as the pens safety "capsule" for delivery and it is awesome. I was actually blown away by how cool this was! On the capsule are machined a couple of decorative lines and a "K" shield logo.

After a few turns of the capsule, the Decograph emerges, standing at attention within a foam insert that prevents it from banging around inside the tube. With a good firm tug, the pen is removed. Usually pen packaging is either cheap or on that fine line of "do I throw it away?.." Not this packaging. Nope.

Holding the pen, it looks like a Karas pen, although is a lightweight in comparison to the aluminum, brass, and copper models we're used to but it feels sturdy and well made. All inked up it comes in at just 0.7 oz.

One thing I'll note about this pen is that it looks manufactured, but not mass produced. I'm not exactly sure how to describe it, but it is a good thing. Like, even though it is produced using machines, it still has an element of subtle character (not flaws) that makes it stand out. It is a polished execution, but it still seems to have some "makers soul" to it.

For starters, Karas will be offering just a couple of acrylic colors, but I received a glossy black with aluminum accents. The black is shiny, but not a mirror finish and the aluminum accents have a soft metal look to them.

With about 3-4 turns, the cap comes off to expose a generous section and a #6 steel Bock nib. New to Karas Pen Co is the ability to post the cap to the barrel (it is designed to do so) and it fits snuggly. Generally, unless a pen is pocket sized I don't post my caps even if they are meant to be. Call me weird, but they usually make the pen to long or too top heavy.

While using the Decograph, going unposted puts the barrel, section, and nib at just around 5", but posted jumps this up to around 6.5" which could be a considerable amount for some people. For me, I wouldn't say posting is uncomfortable, just not preferred due to the length.

For the nib I went with medium steel Bock and loaded up the included converter with Bungbox Blue ink and it has been a perfect writer from the get go. On my Leuchtturm 1917 notebook it is a wet writer with some subtle feedback.

The clip of the pen is a large, monolithic structure (in a good way) that is a two part system. The main outward facing piece a faceted, machined aluminum that is really impressive. There are subtle angles, edges and tapers that make it to be a work of machined sculpture almost on its own. This piece is then riveted to a piece of bent steel that is then held in place by the aluminum finial. 

Referring to the "character" of the pen above, I feel like the clip is a key piece to that aesthetic.

The pen is finished off with a subtle makers mark, the "K" shield logo being engraved into the small aluminum end cap that wraps up the barrel. This is the first time that Karas has put their logo on a non-limited edition pen, and I think they did so with class.

Pricewise, the Decograph with a steel nib is said to be running around the $160 range which I feel is a fair ask when comparing to other pens of this kind. This being Karas' first attempt into the acrylic pen world, I feel they hit the mark pretty well.

These aren't available right this minute, but I've heard that they'll be releasing to the public this coming Friday the 15th. Keep tabs with Karas Pen Co as I'm sure they'll be making some announcements. 

Thanks again to Karas Pen Co for providing the Decograph for review!