Review: the Galen Leather Sketch Box

The Galen Sketch Box is really intended for artists. I’m certainly no artist, of any stripe. But I do frequently write away from my desk, and not always in notebooks. When writing with loose sheets of Tomoe, especially using guide sheets, I have often been frustrated trying to keep them in place on a normal lap desk or using the Galen Writing Box. I had the notion that this product would be the solution.

Essentially the Sketch Box is a walnut box. It’s quite heavy, but tthin enough to grip and wide and tall enough to leave a large margin around an A4 sheet of paper.

At the top is a clip — more on that later — and inside is a drawer for supplies. Lay it on your lap, clip in some paper, and you’ve got yourself a great place to write a letter.

Let’s start with the basics.

The box itself is very well done.

It’s beautifully oiled walnut, with a smooth finish, and all the joints and edges and corners are neatly finished.

I’ve had this for a few months and there’s been no warping or cracking.

I have no idea how well the walnut will clean up if it ends up getting hit with paint or thinner or any of that other stuff that real artists use.

Because the box is wood all round, with no rubber or felt or other grippy side, it can be a little slippery in the lap or when placed on a hard surface like a table. Obviously it’s also slippery for any paper you place on top of it, but that’s what the clip is for.

The clip works marvellously. It’s made from brass, and holds the paper by tightening two thumbscrews, mounted on nylon washers.

It doesn’t damage paper and it holds very firmly — even a single sheet of Tomoe 52g wasn’t going anywhere, although to avoid the tap-tap-tap of writing on a resonant wooden box, you’d probably want some more sheets in a stack to serve as noise insulation.

The clip opens nice and wide, possibly wide enough to accommodate a spread-open exercise book, or a colouring book if you were so inclined.

Undo the thumbscrews entirely and the top of the clip comes off, leaving two brass-lined holes.

The clip pokes out above the top edge of the box, which I found meant it snags sometimes on clothing, bag edges or furniture.

You’ll note that the clip encourages a portrait orientation, which is great if like me you’re writing a letter. I suppose you could still clip some paper in and turn it landscape, putting the clip on the side away from your writing arm.

The other main feature of the box is a slide-out drawer, which emerges from the right edge of the box.

There’s a thumb hole on the left side so you can give it a push…

And there’s a little rotating metal latch that stops the drawer falling out in normal use.

The drawer can rattle around inside the box, and the latch is not particularly confidence-inspiring. Mine either arrived bent or I bent it during unboxing.

The drawer is lined with cork at the bottom and Galen includes a piece of loose wood that can be a drawer divider if you choose.

You can JUST fit loose sheets of A4 in the drawer if you’re happy for them to bend slightly (like I did in the photo below with a stack of Tomoe), but Galen says it’s really intended for A5 and art materials.

This could be a great letter-writing setup. Stash paper, envelopes, stamps and labels in the drawer, and use the stout clip and large writing surface to sit and write your missives from your nearest comfy seat.

Is it better than the Galen Writing Box? For A5 notebook use, stick to the Writing Box. But the Sketch Box gives you that very useful clip for holding loose sheets, and a larger writing surface if you want the ability to fill a sheet of A4 in comfort. The Sketch Box is undoubtedly a less portable solution: the clip sticks out so it won’t easily fit in a bag, and I wouldn’t trust the drawer to stay shut. Galen doesn’t provide any kind of strap or carry handle, either.

At $95 / £72, I think the Sketch Box is keenly priced. It’s a handmade walnut piece that looks great and functions well. Galen sent me this one to review. When it comes back into stock, you can get yours here.

2 thoughts on “Review: the Galen Leather Sketch Box

  1. Although beautiful, there are few, easily rectifiable adjustments that this would need (in my opinion) before being worth the price.

    A felt back to stop it sliding around on a desk, or your knee, a slight increase in size (they may have intended it to be used for A5 and materials, but to be so close, yet so far seems accidental, rather than deliberate design), another clip (or strap) to keep the box shut securely, and an adjustment to the clip so it doesn’t catch on things…

    I know you mentioned all of these, but as someone who this product is (probably) designed for, these aren’t minor niggles, but a thoughtlessness of design that really doesn’t warrant the high price tag. If an artist, designer, or sketcher, etc. was asked at any point during the design process, I’m pretty sure these points would have been addressed- as it is, it makes it feel a bit “style over substance”.


  2. This looks like a perfect solution for having a box to take on the go with you, when one travels to see family or UK based holidays! I am very tempted to get a box like this to store all of my bits in when I do go travelling. How fabulous! Great review Anthony.


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