Baron Fig Lock & Key Limited Edition - Brass Squire Pen and Notebook

Baron Fig has been keeping things pretty fresh each quarter or so with new releases, generally with an interesting theme. All I have to say is that when I first heard about this edition I was immediately smitten by the idea...

The new edition dropped yesterday and is called the Lock & Key, and is a limited edition Squire and Confidant notebook set with a clever, "puzzling" aesthetic.

When Baron Fig reached out last week with an invitation to review, it was certainly an instant "yes" not only due to the good looks of the set, but also due to the fact that they are doing something different this time around with the Squire: Brass.

But, we'll get to that in a minute.

The first thing you notice about the set is the contrasting, and very traditional (even a little vintage) color scheme of the dark green and gold foil. It gives it a somewhat important appearance, even if it isn't anything official in real life, but I think that adds a bit to the initial appeal to this edition. It has a bit of mystery and magic that gets the imagination going which I think they did really, really well.

Something Baron Fig is known for is packaging which can either be good or bad depending on which camp you're in. There is the anti-packaging folks that feel it is unnecessary, while others enjoy the presentation as part of the experience. 

I traditionally tend to sway in the "less is more" category myself, but for an edition like this I would tend to make an exception all things considered.

The Squire rollerball pen comes in a dark green cardboard tube with the profile of the pen printed in a gold foil outline and is called The Key. The top of the tube is also adorned with a gold foil skeleton key logo that plays a role in other areas of the design.

The Confidant is kept in a nicely printed dark green cardboard box that is covered in a debossed gold foil maze and is called The Lock. Also stamped on the center of the box is a large lock logo.

Inside the box you'll find a pamphlet wherein there is a poem about the lock as well as a gold maze leading to it. Surrounding the maze are various symbols... What do they mean? Do they play a part in the riddle?

Underneath you find the green, canvas Confidant that is also debossed with the maze and lock, but this time no gold so it blends in a bit more with the book.

On the inside cover the gold maze is back with the strange symbols littered about and a space to write your name or a small note. The pages are an ivory color and contain a dot grid in a light grey. Gold dots might have been a little much...

I have to say, the entire experience is fun.

Every lock must have it's key and, in this case, the pen is the key that unlocks whatever secrets or mysteries that may be (or end up) inside.

Upon opening the tube where The Key is kept, the brass looks shiny and bright and pairs perfectly with the gold accents throughout. Etched in the side of the barrel is the skeleton key. 

And, what's this? A series of symbols, below where the pen is resting with corresponding letters. Surely used to unlock the mystery?...

I have acquired a few of the Squire pens, all of which are made from aluminum, so the use of brass as the material made me very excited. Changing colors on a pen is one thing, but changing materials is another. Different materials have various weights and properties that can adjust the experience greatly. The aluminum Squires are excellent pens, but I was thrilled to hear that they had branched out. Hopefully more to come like this.

I would consider the Squire to be a moderate to small sized pen. Not really small or "pocket" per se, but not big by any means. By shape it is a sort of teardrop being wider in the grip section, but then gently tapering down in diameter as you move towards the knock.

The pen uses a twist mechanism that extends the popular Schmidt P8126 rollerball refill that has been branded Baron Fig. This refill is popular due to its consistent, dark lines. 

By weight The Key is 1.8oz, moderate for a brass pen (some go as high as 3oz) which is more than double its aluminum counterparts. But, due to its more compact size and what I consider to be comfortable ergonomics it isn't tiring to use.

Being raw brass, this pen will patina and tarnish over time which will take away its bright and shiny appearance, but can be polished back to a shiny glow if needed.

All Squires are clipless by design, so if you require one you're out of luck. 

One last thing that surprised me in seeing the release yesterday was the price. For both The Lock and The Key as a set they are asking $77 with free shipping within the US. Considering their Squire pens (the aluminum ones) are normally $55 and the Confidant is $18, to add a new material that sometimes seems to add a considerable premium over aluminum to the mix this set feels like a good buy to me. And for me the overall experience/aesthetic they created was great.

Special thanks to Baron Fig for providing Lock & Key for review! Visit their site for more details if you are looking to pick this set up.  

3952 Abalone Shell Fountain Pen - Extra Fine Nib

Happy New Year! And, hope all had a wonderful holiday season. Things were busy at The Clicky Post household with family and wrapping up final Dudek Modern Goods orders, but it is good to be back to the desk for more reviews.

Today's review item is one I've been meaning to review for a little while, the Abalone Shell fountain pen by 3952, an unknown company to me until just a few months ago. This pen was kindly provided by Pen Chalet for review, so special thanks to them.

3952 isn't really a new company, on the contrary they've been around since the mid-90s, but haven't really hit the US shores heavily until recently. They are a Taiwanese manufacturer and their name "3952" is for the highest peak in Taiwan, Mount Jade, which comes in at 3,952 meters tall.

I feel as pen enthusiasts we tend to stick to a few bigger brands, and stepping outside of it seems a bit nerve-racking, so I've been really excited to take a closer look at this one in particular.

As mentioned before, the model I'm reviewing is called the Abalone Shell and, as you can probably guess, it receives it's name due to the fact the entire barrel is wrapped in the shiny, iridescent, and unrecognizable material. Upon first seeing it, the pen is quite stunning and makes a strong statement.

The majority of the pens parts are made from metal (likely brass) which gives it an overall heft that is weighty, but not uncomfortable. Overall it comes in at around 1.2 oz which is quite a bit more than your average acrylic...

I would consider the pen to be slender, but not slim being about 1/2 inch in diameter, and completely cylindrical in shape.

In addition to the lovely abalone shell, the cap is etched with a very aquatic pattern which could be seen as waves, seaweed... let your imagination run wild, but it blends nicely with the design. Also, the metal has been given a copper plating color which I feel also accents the theme well.

The overall quality of the pen feels nice. I would probably put my perceptions of quality and overall feel into the realm of that of a Montegrappa Fortuna or similar.  

The clip has a unique curved shape and is spring loaded allowing it to flex away from the cap when storing in a pocket or case.  

On the end of the pen there are threads which allow the cap to be posted, but I find myself not doing so. The pen posted is 7 inches long, with 2.25 inches of that being the cap... a heavy, solid metal cap. So, too much length and too much weight to post comfortably in my opinion.

A somewhat refreshing sight to see under the cap was the use of a Bock nib, this one plated in rose gold. Bock is a trusted nib maker used by many brands around the world and I've had great luck with them.

This particular nib is "stock" meaning it hasn't been rebranded from the Bock logo and name. Some people are weird about this, feel it shows a lack of "identity" for the brand, but I don't really care or agree with that. For companies to get custom nibs from Bock I've heard it is a considerable investment (like 10s of thousands of dollars in investment...), which is hard to recoup and if it adds cost to the end consumer with no real benefit, why do it? Bock is a trusted name and the nib isn't unattractive.

While writing, the Bock nib performs well and stays true to its extra fine (German size) width. I inked the converter (standard international) with Sailor Jentle Miruai, which is a bit of a seaweed color to try a pairing, but I think something more in a turquoise or even purple might be more fun to connect with the shimmer of the shell.

I've had no skipping or slow starts whatsoever with the nib, but it does have a good amount of feedback. You certainly feel the tines on the page, but the lines are clean. A little more feedback than I probably prefer, but still a great writer.

The section is about your average size (maybe even a little small) but wasn't uncomfortable to use.

From a branding standpoint, the 3952 appears in two places on the cap: around the center band (twice) and then laser etched into the clip. Personally, I feel the clip etching is too much and distracts, but the banding is perfect. 

From a presentation standpoint, the 3952 comes in a standard pen cardboard sleeve and a textured, jewelry style cardboard box. Nice, but not fancy really. The 3952 logos aren't stamped into the box or sleeve, but are attached via a sticker. I think the presentation on the pen could be updated a bit but we're in the market for pens, not pen boxes I suppose. It is actually a really well made case that protects the pen, perhaps just not the most striking experience for the brand.

The retail price on the Abalone Shell pen comes in at $185 which is a comfortable price in my opinion. But, that being said, the street price seems to be quite a bit lower. Pen Chalet actually has them right now at around $130 which I find extremely fair.

The 3952 Abalone Shell is certainly a looker and if raden or abalone style pens are on your list (but maybe not in the budget...they are usually spendy), this one might tick some of the boxes you're looking for. 

Special thanks again to Pen Chalet for sending it.

Spoke Pencil Model 4 in Titanium and Aluminum - Review - 0.9mm

While I love a good woodcased pencil, mechanical pencils often feel kind of like an automatic watch to me; parts and springs working in harmony to create a more sophisticated analog experience.

I'm going to take us back a few years to August of 2013 when a new pen (well, sort of) was hitting Kickstarter called the Baux pen. Essentially what the Baux pen was is a metal sleeve to hold your BIC Stic refills in style. As a refresher, here is a link to my review from way back then...

The reason why I bring up the Baux pen is due to the fact that the Spoke pencil is "related", primarily due to the fact that it shares a creator. The Spoke pencils are the work of brothers Dan and Brian Conti, inventors and tinkerers extraordinaire. (Wasn't that pun great earlier?...Made me feel clever.)

The Spoke pencil has seen a few iterations, but the unit I'm reviewing is the model 4. In essence, it is a two part, modular, all-metal mechanical pencil and it is pretty sweet.

Being modular, you get to custom design your pencil with four part variations: grip diameter, grip material, barrel color, and lead width. I've used a lot of writing utensils in my day and I've yet to run into this type of customization for such a reasonably priced product. 

The guys offered to let me design my own for review, so many thanks to them for sending one my way to check out.

Specs on my pencil:
Grip Diameter: 9.2mm
Grip Material: Titanium
Barrel Color: Matte Black Aluminum
Lead Width: 0.9mm

I think the color combo came out awesome, even if it is a bit on the conservative side. But, it fits my taste exactly.

With the all metal barrel and grip the pencil does have a good weight to it. Feels extremely solid in hand and comes in at 0.7oz.

The grip section has a tapered section that runs into a long straight area which I have found extremely comfortable. Along the section are machined 16 grooves for added texture and grip. Near the tip of the pencil the metal goes into a sharp chamfer which I've also found surprisingly comfortable and where my middle finger rests.

As mentioned in the specs, the barrel is machined from aluminum and is overall round in shape. Although, machined into six sides of the barrel are flattened cutouts that also have some "vents" for some added interest and visual texture. Also, I'd imagine this helps to cut down some weight.

The barrels come in anodized black, red, blue, grey, and silver, but I could certainly see them branching out into some wild colors like orange in the future. 

I bet the vents are more so you can see the inside of the mechanism move while you click the knock...  

Now, referring back to the Baux pen, the Spoke pencil shares a similar philosophy of taking something trusted and inexpensive, and making it into a more impressive and lasting experience.

What I'm referring to is that the guts of the Spoke pencil are actually the components from one of my favorite mechanical pencils (use them religiously in my workshop), the Pentel Sharp.

When held up against each other it is obvious that the nose cone and pipe as well as the knock mechanism are shared. The internals stay pretty hidden, but the execution is great overall. 

Regular Pentel Sharp 0.9mm (image via Pentel)

Regular Pentel Sharp 0.9mm (image via Pentel)

I love that they've done this so much. It is one of those instances where one asks whether it is necessary, but is actually what I appreciate about it. They went for it and they've done an amazing job. The Pentel Sharp is a workhorse of a pencil and they've just made it more of a badass.

The Pentel Sharp has one of the most satisfying clicks in any cheap mechanical pencil so it fits right in when you sheath it in an all metal barrel. As well, the lead doesn't move around while writing.

I'm sure some people will feel that using an existing mechanism from a relatively inexpensive pencil kind of cheapens it, but I disagree. Think of how many metal barrels have been made to hold the Pilot G2 refill... Does a disposable pen really need a $60 metal sleeve over it? No, but we love it just the same.

In addition to the pencil, Dan and Brian also provide a nicely made, black plastic "desk dock" to hold the pencil as it doesn't have a clip. The dock has a custom rubber base which helps to give it a little grip on the surface of a desk or table.

I'm just going to go out and say that if you have even the slightest appreciation for mechanical pencils, I would recommend picking one of these up. For $39 (yes, $39!) you can get a "custom" workhorse of a pencil that is extremely well made and supports a small business in the process. 

Overall I'm so impressed and happy with their execution on such a unique product. Thanks again to Spoke for sending it my way! Definitely take a minute to check out their products.