I’m not sure quite what to do with this post. Partly I want to help those of you looking at buying a Nock case to choose between them. And partly I want to rave about why I love these cases so much.
Let’s get the second part out of the way first, and hopefully I can cover the buyer’s guide at the end.
I guess you could say I’m a Nock fanboy. Here’s why:
Use case-driven design (pun intended)
Whenever I think to myself “jeez, I wish I had a case a bit more like this, you know, to carry pens in this situation…” I find that Nock has already made that case. That’s why I own four of them.
Sinclair: My “daily driver”. Holds a couple of Field Notes-sized notebooks, along with five pens (if you stash them cleverly), or three pens (in separate slots so they’re completely cosseted). The whole package is compact and zips shut, slips neatly into a bag. Generally, I don’t need more than five different pens, so this comes with me to work.
Lookout: My overflow or when I’m carrying a separate larger notebook. This is zip-free, just three separate pen slots and a flap to cover them, so it’s very unfussy.
Fodderstack XL: This is my jacket-pocket or back-pocket carry. Holds one notebook and a pen, both just slipped in the top. When I need to go minimal, this is what I use.
Brasstown: In my opinion, the most interesting design. Looks like a normal zipped up pencil case, the size of a beer can. But when you unzip it, out rolls a long tongue, with six pen slots along it. Great when I want to “go large” (and see the next section for more…)
Most importantly, every one of these cases gives each pen its own completely separate slot, so you don’t have to worry about scratching. And, with the exception of the Fodderstack, each pen is closed in so there’s no risk of anything falling out, either. It’s like they’ve thought about how addicts like us actually use pens!
Capacity and flexibility
The Nock cases are built tough and have defined numbers of pens that they’re made for. But they’re remarkably flexible.
In the Fodderstack, for example, I can happily jam my work-issued iPhone in there alongside a notebook, without feeling like anything’s going to rip.
As I’ve said, the Sinclair is quite happy holding five pens instead of its intended three, and because of the way it’s designed, all five pens remain perfectly isolated.
And the Brasstown can easily fit a few more pens (or other stuff) inside the main compartment, alongside the rolled up tongue.
This little bit of flexibility goes a long way.
I love the two-tone aesthetic that Nock goes for, often a dull exterior with a contrasting bright interior. Most of mine are grey/black outside and bright blue inside. It’s professional yet cheerful at the same time. But check out the site: there’s purple and brown and red and green… plenty to choose from.
At least one of my Nock cases has travelled with me to and from work and meetings in a variety of bags for over a year now. There are no loose stitches, the fabric hasn’t worn, the zips run smoothly… basically, they look like new. These babies are built to last.
And there are little touches that really make a difference. The zips are all double, so you can open them from wherever you want and just as much as you need. The pen slots seem to be a magical size where they’re big enough and long enough for my largest pens, yet my smaller pens don’t seem to rattle around. It’s uncanny.
Non-leather and ethical
I’m not going to go all animal-rights activist on you, but I’m a former vegan, current vegetarian, and I do my damnedest not to buy leather products if I can help it. When you’re buying high-end cases for expensive fountain pens, the industry assumes that you want high-grade leather. That leaves me very little choice, but fortunately I found Nock. Nock doesn’t make a big deal out of the fact that its cases are free from animal products, but they seem to be.
And for those of you that care about other ethical issues, like employment and treatment of workers, you should know that Nock is a small business that manufactures all its products by hand, in the USA. And it’s clearly a labour of love: one of the founders has spent a decade running a pen blog.
Choosing a case
So, I’ve convinced you, and you’re ready to buy. Which case is right for you? Since the Chimneytop seems to be discontinued, there are six cases to choose from.
- Pen+index cards: Fodderstack ($15)
- Pen+notebook: Fodderstack XL ($17)
- Three pens only: Lookout ($25)
- Three pens+notebook: Hightower ($20) or Sinclair ($40), depending on whether or not you like zips and money.
- All the pens: Brasstown ($40)
A quick note on pricing. Nock cases seem to be priced based on complexity of construction rather than on size. Look at the Hightower vs the Sinclair: same capacity, one’s twice the price. Because it includes a zipper and closed construction. Regardless of which one you choose, I think a handmade in the USA product of this quality is a bargain at the price.
What about the paper?
Just to prove that I’ve still got a modicum of impartiality left in me, I will say this: I’ve had extremely mixed experiences with Nock’s paper. They’re beautifully designed little notebooks, with reporter-style top stapling, bold colours and the neat dot-dash printing. But while the blue-cover notebooks I bought performed quite well, the yellow-cover notebook I got with my Fodderstack XL is shockingly bad with fountain pens. I’ve never seen such bleedthrough. Stick to ballpoint!
There are two other Nock products worth mentioning here: The Idea Dock, which holds pens and index cards in a wooden block, and the Lanier, a minimalist briefcase. Both look like great products — and if you thrust one into my hands I wouldn’t say no — but they haven’t grabbed me enough to push the buy button yet. Let me know your experiences if you’ve tried them.
And last thought: I’m really, really looking forward to the A5 notebook cover that Nock has been teasing on Instagram.
Ethical footnote: fanboy jokes aside, I’ve bought all of my Nock products with my own money and have no association with the company. Check out my ethics policy here.