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?
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!