Update: the project is live. It’s called ‘Gravitas’.
It’s been ages since I backed a pen project on Kickstarter. I used to back loads of stuff: folding keyboards, GPS devices, knives and multitools, and, yes, pens. But I got sick of waiting 18 months or more for a pledge to be delivered (if they delivered at all), only to be disappointed in the end result. And yes, pens too, including the turd-like Visionnaire five years ago, and the Namisu Ixion with its problems back in 2017.
I think I might be about to fall off the wagon, and I’d like to tell you why, in a somewhat unusual (but hopefully transparent) way.
Ben Walsh Design is a company based in Ireland that makes pens from concrete and other materials. It’s about to launch a new Kickstarter for an aluminium pen, including a fountain pen model, available in black, silver and gold, all with a beautiful bead-blasted finish.
Ben reached out to me on Instagram on 1st July, asking my opinion about some aspects of pen design. Which is better, Bock or JoWo? What kind of packaging do you like to get with a pen? That kind of thing. I gave my answers, we got to chatting, I followed his account and started to watch his project developing. Then, this week, he sent me a prototype of the fountain pen and twist capless rollerball to take a look at.
Normally at this point I would be reviewing the pen and then telling you, based on my experiences, whether you should back the Kickstarter. But this is a bit of an odd situation. Not only are the usual pre-project loose ends not tied up (like packaging), but a few design elements that I think are important are changing, and I don’t want to confuse you, dear readers, or random Googlers, by spreading out-of-date information about the project through lots of photographs and a lengthy write-up of a pen with the wrong spec.
So here’s what I can tell you:
I like the fountain pen design that Ben has put together, and the changes he’s making now will make it even better. On paper it’s not radical (C/C filler, nib unit from the usual suspects, twist cap), but it has great bones: it’s a good size, has a long, good-sized section, nice balance, light weight, interesting retro-futuristic aesthetic.
It looks like the Montblanc Disney, Cross Peerless and Diplomat Aero had an orgy with the Silver Surfer.
And the changes to come?
- From Bock to JoWo nib units (yay!)
- From two-turn single-start cap threads to triple-start threads (yay!)
- Removal of some posting threads on the back of the pen that added complexity and visual clutter, but little value.
At €59, it’s good value.
Unusually for me, I REALLY like the rollerball that Ben sent.
It is clean, smart, futuristic, with a dramatic flat side and a precise, snick-snick twist action for extending the nib.
I found it ludicrously comfortable, with the flat side stopping any unwanted rotation or slippage.
But enough reviewing.
More important than the spec and its changes are the way Ben has been comporting himself. I was flattered to be asked for input in the first place, but really impressed that Ben actually listened, responded, and thought about my feedback and suggestions, even as we meandered through engravings, nibs, threads, packaging, customisation, and many other topics. He was not defensive or emotional; he was genuinely appreciative. I hope he won’t mind me pasting this quote as an example:
And as we’ve been pinging more over the past couple of days, Ben has shared videos and pictures (for example of his laser engraver in action), and never taken more than a few minutes to respond to a message.
If you’ve ever been a backer on a Kickstarter project where the project owner disappears without trace for months at a time, refuses to take responsibility for the product, can’t handle criticism, and won’t adapt even as the situation changes… well, you’ll know how important these qualities are.
So: I haven’t seen a final pre-production sample of Ben’s Kickstarter fountain pen. But I have seen enough to know that I’m going to put my own money down, fully confident that I’ll get a great pen at the end of it, and probably on time, with great communication along the way.
It’s not like I need another pen in my life, aluminium or otherwise, but I believe in putting my money where my mouth is, and Ben is exactly the kind of guy we need more of in this industry.
If you’re interested in joining in too, follow Ben’s Instagram here.