At last, desk accessories for fountain pen geeks…
Desk accessories have, until now, passed me by. I mean, I’ve watched over the years with interest as companies like Grovemade have built out their ranges of gorgeous minimalist laptop stands, plant pots and the like — but they’ve always seemed like they’d take up valuable space and not give me a lot of actual function in return. Most of the fountain pen stands on Etsy seem to max out at about five pens. Nothing seemed quite to fit my needs.
A couple of times I’ve taken matters into my own hands. I’ve converted a cigar box into a pen box, drilled holes in a cork yoga block to make a pen stand, adapted test-tube racks into pen stands… you get the idea. All of them looked a little rubbish, if I’m absolutely honest. I’m an amateur.
Dudek Modern Goods is more on my wavelength. Mike, the proprietor, is a pen addict himself — in fact, he runs the must-follow stationery blog The Clicky Post. As well as svelte pen holders for as few as three pens, he makes a product called The Block, which holds a massive 21 pens. All made out of dark luxurious walnut. I wanted one. But I figured that shipping a block of hardwood the size of a housebrick over the Atlantic would cost a bomb.
Then a work trip to the US happened. A quick email to Mike and a delivery to my hotel was arranged. Just enough space in the suitcase home.
What should I see in my Instagram feed barely a week later? A wooden notepaper holder for the desk called the “Paper Station” by a brand called Off.Lines. It caught my eye not just for its minimalism, but the unique way it holds its stack of paper. A quick exchange with the redoubtable Stuart at Pocket Notebooks and the very next day the parcel was in my hands.
So now I have a rather fancy desk setup. Take a look.
What about the products in detail?
The Block is actually pretty compact given that it holds 21 pens. It’s made from solid walnut, nicely finished — the edges of the holes are smooth.
On the bottom you’ll find four felt pads to protect your desk surface, and a branded (literally branded) Dudek logo, hidden from view unless you’re looking for it.
One unique feature of the Block is that Mike will drill some of the holes in different sizes to suit slim or fat pens. Given my penchant for large pens, I opted for 9 of the holes to be 5/8″, the rest 1/2″.
The larger holes are alternated in rows with the smaller holes, which is not quite how I would have preferred it — wider pens tend to be longer, and I’d like the taller pens bunched up one end, if you see what I mean. Since the Block is made to order, I bet Mike would have arranged them the way I wanted if I’d thought to ask.
The only other imperfection? I personally would prefer the slots to be spaced out a little bit. With 21 slots filled, it can be difficult to pick out the right pen from the huddle!
Other than that, the Block is pretty much perfect. Between the two sizes of slots, most pens will be accommodated and stand sufficiently upright. The slots are just the right depth. And the whole thing is the essence of minimalism (well, as minimal as you can be when you have 21 pens).
At $59, for a product of solid walnut, hand made in the USA, it’s pretty good value.
Off.Lines Paper Station
The Paper Station is made in Germany. It comes in oak, cherry or walnut, sloped or level, and a smartphone variant (at least, the box says so). I got the sloped walnut version. It’s a block of walnut (not quite the same shade as Mike’s Block, but close enough), with two steel pins protruding from it.
The pad of paper has two semicircular cutouts that fit neatly between these pins, so you can easily grab off the top sheet but otherwise it won’t slide off. Aside from the obvious issue that the system is proprietary, it’s very very neat and has a number of advantages, not least that there’s no need for any glue, clips or recesses to hold the paper.
The block is really well finished. The edges are bevelled, the top of the steel pins is domed, and the slope is just right for writing on. As with Mike’s Block, there’s no branding to detract from the minimalism.
Here’s the million-dollar question: what’s the paper like? Well, you get 200 sheets in the box, in two pads secured by black elastic bands. It’s 90 gsm, FSC. It’s got a bit of texture to it, has rounded corners, and is a warm white that doesn’t go far enough to be ivory.
I punished it with Sailor ink gushing from my new Pelikan M1000. There’s perhaps a tiny amount of feathering — although I think it’s more the texture of the paper diverting the ink. There’s a tiny amount of showthrough. But no bleeding at all. Each sheet is A7, which is actually a good size for a quick to-do list or note from a telephone call.
The downsides? Well, like I said, the refills are proprietary, at £5.50 for 100 sheets. The Paper Station itself is £65, which is a bit steep — I think it would feel like better value at £50. And, unfortunately, there are no feet or pads on the base. If you write on the slope itself, the block can move around under you. On the other hand, you can grab the block and slide it to you and hold it while you write.
I have to say, it is a really nice feeling to sit at my desk and have my pen collection so beautifully displayed, with a pad of fountain pen-friendly paper right there to catch any spontaneous thoughts. Given just how much I spend on pens, the investment in these desk accessories doesn’t seem so crazy.
Neither product is quite perfect, but they’re close enough — and it’s important to me that they’re manufactured with care, attention to detail, and high standards.
Maybe this’ll be the incentive I need to keep my desk tidy at last…?
Check out Dudek Modern Goods for a range of different pen and notebook storage options.
Take a look at Pocket Notebooks for a quite bedazzling selection of paper products and a growing range of pens, inks, pencils and accessories.
I purchased the Block at full retail price with my own money. Pocket Notebooks kindly sold me the Paper Station at cost price in return for a review. Worried that this has affected my review? Check out my ethics policy — if that doesn’t reassure you, get in touch.