When you’re buying a kitless pen from a small maker, it’s the little touches and refinements that make the difference between an OK pen that’s basically a vehicle for some pretty resin, and a genuinely good product that can stand tall as a writing instrument in its own right.
I’m very pleased to say that Rockster Pens sits in the latter camp. The Troubleshooter 1313 Erinoid Aspen that I’m reviewing here is a genuinely lovely piece of work.
Rockster Pens is a guy called Ash from Wales — so the first tick in the box is for supporting a local maker. The first sign that he does things a little better than most is the website. Unlike a lot of makers the different models available are very clearly described, complete with outline drawings and dimensions, plus a clear price list, and online ordering with clear photography and detailed descriptions per pen. It shows a level of professionalism that makes life easier for the buyer and takes some of the risk away when buying over the internet. Many times I’ve been put off from ordering from a penturner because I simply can’t find a clear view of what I’m ordering, and find myself getting frustrated scanning through Instagram looking for the clearest photo.
If you look through the list of Rockster’s models you’ll find that Ash clearly has a well-equipped workshop. He’s able to cut for Bock and JoWo nib units, as well as scaling to larger or smaller pens to suit different hands.
So. He sent me the Troubleshooter 1313 a few weeks ago in a material called Erinoid Aspen. Most of Ash’s pens are priced around £115-£130, which is pretty competitive. I received this review sample at no charge.
The Troubleshooter is a pretty conventional shape and construction, with screw-on cap, converter inside, nib unit screwed into separate section. It’s an all-resin construction, with no clips, bands, finials or anything else, so it’s very light for its size. You have the option of blinging the design to the max with clips and rings if you like, of course, but I like it simple.
“1313” refers to the sizing of the threads and barrel, and results in a pen that’s 142mm capped. It holds up well in my pen tray as a medium-sized pen.
The Aspen resin is lovely, a mix of autumn oranges with flecks of pearlescent blue. It’s a solid material but hold it up to the light and there’s some very pretty translucence. My partner and daughter didn’t like the resin, but I think it’s gorgeous.
Unscrew the cap and at the base of the section you’ll find a ~2mm contrasting accent ring, which is becoming Rockster’s visual fingerprint. I think it’s a lovely playful touch that’s subtle enough not to distract.
Turning the pen in your hand, the polish stands out as exceptional. While some pens I’ve received from smaller brands still have hairline scratches after polishing, this one is a true mirror finish, with edges soft and smooth.
The ends of cap and barrel are gently domed and rounded.
The cap comes off in just one turn on triple-start threads, which is enough to make me do my happy dance. They’re not the best threads I’ve ever used, though: a little sticky and lacking a positive stop, but they are improving with regular use.
In the hand, the Troubleshooter 1313 is just the right size, with a comfortable section that’s very gently dished…
… and good length in the hand.
The threads are completely painless to grip. If you want to, the pen posts fairly deeply, and because the cap is light it doesn’t distort the balance too much.
The nib on mine is a Bock, in broad, and I asked for polished steel finish instead of gold plated.
Ash included a dip test writing sample, which is always a reassuring touch of quality control that shows the maker is thinking of the pen as a whole, rather than focusing on the turning and then simply screwing a nib unit in the end before shipping. I’ve tried it with three different inks, including this orange Kin-Mokusei from Sailor, and the broad nib writes a nice smooth wet line, with a tiny bit of hard starting if you write as lightly as I do.
Ash includes a standard Beaufort-supplied converter with the pen, as well as a ‘lucky dip’ cartridge.
I know he’s working on some new packaging options that are sustainable and more useful than a leatherette box. I think you’ll be pleased with what he comes up with.
It’s always a treat to discover a maker that executes their craft well and has their own little touches to make their pens stand out from the field. This pen from Rockster is really nicely done and I can’t wait to see where Ash takes the brand in the future.