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.
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.