The Galen Writing Box is a warped wonder

Update 13th July 2018: Galen got in touch with me after I posted this review. They’ve painstakingly redesigned the box, again, and are going to send me a third one. I’m impressed both with their transparency and their commitment to standing by their product:

Just read your review again.
You are very right with all the words.
It is a stressful time for us. We suffered to much. But it doesn’t matter. We will correct this problem.
Give the last chance. Completely change the design and finger joint.
We will send the last replacement. And the main change is the new box is heavy a bit.

This box blows up Instagram, and deservedly so. It’s basically a walnut briefcase without a handle. It’s incredibly photogenic, and just the perfect object for the new generation of stationery fiends who want to carry around not just pens and notebooks, but the full assortment of washi tape, wax seals, and so on.

For me, it filled a perfect niche. It holds my two Hobonichis and half a dozen pens. I keep it by my side in my office when I’m working from home, and I transport it to my easy chair in the evening to write my journal. It’s a wonderfully elegant and refined way to hold just the right amount of stationery, and it feels like a piece of “grown up” storage that matches my high-end pens.

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The beautifully grained walnut that forms the body of the case is amazingly tactile. It smells beautiful, it’s smooth and rounded and just lovely. Inside is a lining of leather with well spaced elastic straps; all of my pens fit just right on the left, and a couple of pocket notebooks fit on the right.

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On the bottom layer, two A5 notebooks can fit with covers on. Not too small, not too big.

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There are some folding wooden legs inside to prop up the cover to an angle:

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and a brass badge protruding from the lid that’s perfectly placed to rest the bottom edge of a book on.

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I find the box very comfortable to write on.

There are nickel-plated hinges on one side and a rotating clasp on the other, which holds securely and is easy to operate one-handed — it’s a neat and simple design.

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I tend to just tuck the box under my arm to tote it about, but Galen has made a leather strap contraption for it, which I received with my second writing box (more on that in a moment). The strap is fiddly to install so I’ve only used it a couple of times, but it does look nice.

And all this for about £120, which considering it’s a handmade object crafted from walnut is a pretty good deal.

Except.

My first writing box warped like crazy within a few weeks of getting it, to the point where I was almost unable to latch it. And that’s keeping it inside a house at stable room temperature and stable humidity.

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My first warped box at the end of April

With much the same experience as Brad had, I emailed Galen in May and they replaced it for free, no questions asked, and threw in the carry strap.

The replacement is constructed differently and took several weeks to be ready while they tested the design to make sure the problem has been fixed.

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Note the different construction. These inserts/joins weren’t present on the original box.

Unfortunately, it’s been a few weeks and the new writing box is warped even more than the first. This is the empty box lying closed. Four credit cards will easily slide through the gap. It’s still possible to latch the box closed, but only with brute strength to force the edges together first.

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Galen is a small business; cost of materials and shipping me a second writing box will have more than eaten up their profit on my order. I’m reluctant to go back and ask for another replacement, even though I’m sure they’d honour it.

Ultimately, I’m not confident that the problem can be solved with the box’s current design: it may be caused by the leather glued to one surface of the walnut, or by the varnishing, or just the way the wood has been cut. From my cursory Googling on woodworking forums, warping is an unpredictable beast.

So I’m left with this: the Galen Writing Box is beautiful and perfect for my needs — but it has a fatal flaw, and I can’t recommend it.

2 thoughts on “The Galen Writing Box is a warped wonder

  1. That’s a pity, for what is otherwise such an attractive and useful product. For this to have happened so quickly suggests that there was a marked change in the conditions between their premises and yours (rather than your home itself having changes of humidity or temperature).Perhaps the walnut wood was not adequately dried before being worked.

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