D Caston Design SpaceX Folding Knife

This review is diving into some new territory for the blog, but something I've actually wanted to do for quite some time.

People that love analog writing tools generally also love to carry unique and useful other items with them, their "every day carry" so to speak (or EDC). This could be their wallet, a watch, a pocket knife, and of course, their favorite pen. All of these things come together to create a core of daily utility which is such an interesting topic.

And, it seems that people willing to buy a nice writing instrument also appreciate your non-traditional, non-run-of-the-mill type products like handmade leather goods, custom products, and other bespoke pieces that are connected to a specific artisan or craftspersons. Over the years I've tried to incorporate handmade goods or goods from small business owners into my every day life and I always appreciate them more.

It may not be all the time, but I want to incorporate more product reviews into The Clicky Post that fit this segment.

For our maiden voyage into the world of EDC, I'll be revisiting a maker I reviewed this last week, Darriel Caston of D Caston Design.

In the recent review of his Titanium Retro Pencil currently on Kickstarter, I mentioned that Darriel's extensive background and reputation has been in custom folder knives that he designs and produces.

He kindly sent me one of his most recent designs, the SpaceX folding knife, a product he has been collaborating on as a possible standard issue for the SpaceX team. (Yes, THAT SpaceX...) I am thrilled to give this knife a review and to showcase his exquisite work, so special thanks to him. 

I had seen pictures of the SpaceX that Darriel had posted on his Instagram feed, but once it was in hand I was pretty taken aback by it. There are a few nice knives in my collection, but I feel that pieces like this take function and art to a completely different level.

Also mentioned in the previous review, Darriel's design vibe is very futuristic and space themed which provides it a unique, but also timeless style. This knife has the look of something that would be used hundreds of years in the future on a space cruiser by the crew. It looks like science fiction, but is reality.

There are so many products in the world that are purely utilitarian, play it safe, or follow traditional design trends. Seeing pieces like this are inspiring which is a bit hard to explain. He isn't just trying to sell you a knife like everyone else, but is seeking to create an experience, maybe even an emotional one.

Does this idea appeal to everyone? Maybe not, but for those that it does, these designs resonate powerfully.  

In size, the SpaceX is actually an extremely compact blade. Closed it is only 8cm in length, 2cm wide, and 1cm thick including the clip.

It feels lightweight, but is built like a tank. Everything is tight, sturdy, and it moves like a precision instrument when in use.

For this particular variation of the SpaceX, he went with an all-matte, textured titanium for the scales, framelock, and clip. The overall finish and attention to detail really is impeccable. While using the knife I find myself constantly looking over the intentional cuts, lines, and textures, all of which came from Darriel's mind.

Interesting elements like how the lines on the scales line up with lines on the blade whether open or closed.

In spots, the knife handle has intentionally crisp edges, but are not sharp to the touch.

The knife incorporates a double-pump, half stop mechanism on the blade for safety. I really like this feature as the blade is razor sharp.

What this means is that when opening the blade there is an initial stop at 90 degrees when both opening and closing, which then requires an additional movement to fully extend or close the blade. This is so if your fingers are between the handle and the blade, the blade stops before nipping them.

This is accomplished by a tiny ball fitted to the frame lock that catches a hole in the blade as it is turning on a radius.

The blade is made from CTS-XHP, a special steel high in carbon, chromium, and is corrosion-resistant. The blade is a 6 grind, and is close to what is called a "razel", but with a special design by Darriel. Razel blades have two separate edges, but no point. 

The center of the blade has a machined channel specifically for assistance in opening the blade (works really well), but also adds some visual texture.

Matching with the compact size, the blade is a comfortable 5.5cm.

The clip is extremely sturdy and easy to use. It connects tightly to the handle due to an intentional indent and is then fastened with a star head screw.

I love the shape of the clip. It is machined with multiple angles and curves to create several non-uniform facets, but come together nicely. Clip design is sometimes an afterthought for many products, or seem out of place, but this one fits well with the knife.

He also makes a clipless version of the knife.  

To protect the knife during carry, Darriel sent out a handmade, custom leather snap holster that can connect to a belt loop. Since the knife is so small, the holster is quite conservative in size as well and the fit is perfect.

The snap holster is also stamped with D Caston Design's rocket logo, the same as appears on the inside of the frame lock.

I've really enjoyed using and putting together the review for this knife. Not only because it is an impressive and incredibly made product, but it allowed me to branch out and write about something new and share some of Darriel's awesome work in the process.

Being a small-batch, small maker knife, the price point on the SpaceX is on the higher side with this model ranging in the $400+ (completely reasonable in the custom knife market...), but for someone looking for something extremely unique, Darriel's work may be a nice place to look.

Thanks again to D Caston Design for sending the SpaceX to review and share. 

Baron Fig Squire - The Insightful Spectre Limited Edition Rollerball

This may actually be my first official post about Baron Fig products here on The Clicky Post although I've tried and own several...

A little bit of history: Baron Fig is a small design/creative firm out of NYC that hit the stationery scene in 2013 with a wildly successful Kickstarter campaign for their flagship notebook series called The Confidant. Since then, BF has run two additional Kickstarter campaigns as well as grown their brand into a more household name within our community.

One of their signature products is a pen called The Squire, a small-ish, teardrop shaped rollerball pen machined from aluminum and fitted with the ever-popular Schmidt P8126 refill.

Their main line of Squire pens comes in either silver or charcoal grey, but every quarter or so they've been releasing limited editions of the pen in various colors and themes.

Today's review is for one such limited edition, a spooky, Halloween time themed pen called The Insightful Spectre.

I actually really liked their metaphoric product description of this ghostly pen: 
Whether you're in a fog or in good spirits, the Spectre will guide you on your journey.

Baron Fig was kind enough to send me a sample of The Insightful Spectre for review, so special thanks to them.

The pen comes in a nicely designed, grey cardboard tube with the limited edition's name inscribed on the top, a graphical representation of the pen's silhouette, and the pen safely nestled in a foam insert standing upright and ready to be plucked out.

Being an all-aluminum pen, it has a sturdiness to it and slight heft (although actually quite light due to it's size), but feels like a well made product. The price tag on the Squire pen line (regardless of edition) has been at $60 and I feel this is a fair price based on the quality you receive.

To maintain the spooky theme, the "Spectre" the pen is named after appears as a small little ghost logo engraved just below the knock. The body and floating waves underneath match the color of the pen, but the little eyes are a stark white which shows up in contrast to the barrel. The only thing missing is glow-in-the-dark eyes...

From a branding standpoint, the pen has a pronounced BARON FIG name laser engraved on the side which runs parallel with the barrel. It is tastefully done in their thin lined font which blends with the aesthetic nicely.

The Insightful Spectre edition color is a bit of a tricky one which Baron Fig is calling "Phantom Black" which they've described as a dark grey, but with some sheen. In some lighting it does appear to be a dark grey color, but in brighter lighting or held up against other colors it can have a more purple hue. Very mysterious, and fun for this type of edition.

Where this gets confusing I think is in most of Baron Fig's marketing materials they used black and white photos which made the pen appear...well, like dark grey or black. But in person it has the more colorful hue at times which may throw some folks off. I took a photo next to their Alphabet edition Squire which is black to show the comparison.

The pen silhouette on the cardboard tube is an obvious grey color as well which contrasts the pen when you open it up which surprised me some.

Now, I don't think that BF was trying to intentionally mislead anyone into thinking this is an all black/grey pen, but I imagine some customers will feel like that was what they were getting. I wouldn't call this a criticism of the color at all as I really enjoy it, just the way it was presented may not have been super clear.

Regardless, it is an extraordinary color and picks up the light in so many different ways! 

The Squire has a twist mechanism system that is smooth, easy to execute, and has a "snap" into place assisted opening once you get it far enough. Once extended, the tip is extremely sturdy while writing and I haven't run into an movement or play which is a huge plus.

In appearance, the Squire could seem like a somewhat small pen, but in hand it is excellent. It is just about the perfect length for me where the end of the pen only hangs over the fleshy part of my hand about an inch so there is zero chance of being top heavy.

To replace the refill is pretty neat. You simply twist the knock mechanism backwards a few times (well, several actually...) and it unthreads allowing the refill and spring to pop out. I like that they did this instead of creating an additional break in the barrel so that it was solid and seamless.

With the pen taking the Schmidt P8126, this refill is about a perfect match in size with your standard Parker style refill and is interchangeable (which I've tested) if you like a ballpoint instead of the roller.

I really, really like the Squire and could see myself recommending it to people due to its overall feel, quality, and performance. Aside from the possible confusion in color, The Insightful Spectre is a fun and solid addition to the Squire lineup.

Special thanks again to Baron Fig for sending it for review! Do you have any Baron Fig products you love (or would like to try?).

Titanium Retro Pencil by D Caston Design

There are people that design things for pure function and then there are others that make an art out of meshing unique (maybe even perceived as "odd") designs that also serve a purpose. Personally, I appreciate that marriage of interesting and utility.

A designer that does just this is Darriel K Caston. If you've been following the blog for awhile, you may remember a pen previously reviewed on The Clicky Post called the Rocket Oval Bolt Pen, designed by Darriel, which successfully funded on Kickstarter a few years ago.

I feel I'd be doing him a disservice if I didn't provide a little more background for Mr. Caston as he really is a well-known figure in the machining world, particular when it comes to higher-end, small pocket knives. He has been at the design game for 25+ years and has created several unique product designs that were ultimately picked up by larger brands like Boker and Spyderco to name a couple.

One thing I appreciate about Darriel's work is that he is ok with pushing some boundaries, but does so in a well thought out way. His designs usually carry a futuristic, spacey theme and could seriously be straight out of a sci-fi movie. But, rather than being mere props for a film, his products are meant to be used.

Today's product is extremely interesting, seemingly impractical (sort of...), and maybe even a little weird (Darriel's own words), but fantastic nonetheless.

He is calling it the Titanium Retro Pencil which, in essence, is a machined, mechanical sleeve to hold a small piece of a woodcased pencil, but with some style. Darriel was kind enough to send me his prototype of the Titanium Retro Pencil on loan to review. 

Pencil holders/extenders are not a new concept, but are designed to take your last stubs of pencils and keep their life going until they completely run out.

A similarly functional product might be something like a bullet pencil, but not quite as interesting. I do own and enjoy some bullet pencils, but they can be a bit awkward and unbalanced depending upon which material they are made out of.

The pencil holder has a long cylindrical shape like a pipe, a clip for pocket carry, and an internal slide mechanism that is loosened and tightened by a round knob on the side which extends/retracts the pencil.

From a utility standpoint, this really is such a clever design and unlike other pencil extenders I've seen. Others leave the pencil stub sticking out, but this allows it to be stowed away and carried without a chance of the tip breaking or stabbing something.

Speaking before of Darriel's design aesthetic, this pencil could easily fit into some sort of futuristic toolkit (although they might write with lasers or something...). It's highly mechanical looking style, tumbled, uniform metal finish... all of these things combine into a vibe that doesn't quite fit everyday life and I'd say this is a product that tends to transport you to somewhere else while using it.

In purpose alone, this machined beauty is built to hold a wooden pencil that would otherwise be unusable.

From a purely practical standpoint, I think there are a lot of people that will be lost on this product (or similar products) because it seems just too excessive. But, speaking to Darriel - I totally get you man.

A product like this is not designed to be practical, although it does serve a purpose (and really well). If the logic of the value of writing was tied to complete practicality, really ANY pen or pencil that doesn't simply do the job for as little cost as possible is by definition excessive. If practicality was such an issue, we'd be beating down the doors of the big name companies that take $20 worth of material and sell it as a $250 pen. (or they would be going out of business if people weren't buying them...)

All relative and subjective. We are writing utensil enthusiasts, are we not?

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The clip is a blocky, rectangular shape with some curved edges that is fastened to the barrel with two torx screws. It is very stiff, yet works, but may be more of a prototype clip for design and overall look.

I could actually see a clipless version being really, really cool as well...

A crazy thought, it could be clipless and open on both ends allowing for two pencil stubs simultaneously if the internal pencil holder was double sided. The stubs would have to be pretty short to accomplish this though... I digress.

Compared to other more full-size writing instruments, the Retro Pencil is right on par and not overly large.

While writing I did find the end to be a bit top heavy (not uncomfortable), but it is likely due to the density of the clip. Overall it is quite light coming in at just over an ounce when loaded with a pencil stub.

Extending the tip takes a few seconds due to the unscrewing and screwing of the knob. The internal sleeve that holds the pencil is held tight and stationary due to the knob screw extending all the way through to the opposite (internal) side of the barrel and applying pressure.

I did find with the knob that it was occasionally a little tricky to get started being small and a little slick. If you tighten it down like crazy, getting it unscrewed might be tough. Although it would impact the overall look and feel of the pencil a little, an idea may be to add some knurling or grooves on the sides of the knob to make it a little easier to grip.

To add new pencil stubs, the current one is unscrewed from threads machined in the internal sleeve, and then a new stub can be screwed down in it's place. This one came loaded with a Blackwing 602 (great choice) and appeared to have the sides trimmed a little to get it inside. Since wooden pencils can vary in size and shape, some slight trimming with a knife may be required. This would not fit larger, oversized pencils unless trimmed down a bunch.

So, how would you get your hands on one of these? If these interest you, Darriel has them as part of a current Kickstarter campaign as one of his two Fidget Tools series. These aren't cheap coming in at a starting price of $150, but are in-line with D Caston Design's other product line.

Thanks again to Darriel for sending it for review!