When Galen Leather announced its Stack & Store system, my corner of the internet got very excited — the whole range sold out fast.
You can see why. A modular and expandable stacking storage system for pens from 11 to eleventybillion, plus inks if you want, with glass or solid lids, handmade from wood with Galen’s usual aesthetic? Sounds great.
When they came back into stock I ordered two trays, one open, one with solid lid, plus an extra liner insert. Total cost was $109 plus shipping. I paid for this myself, no freebies.
And here it is: lidded storage for 22 pens, retail price £61.
So, how is it?
Don’t expect perfect finishing. These are a huge step up from a cigar box case, but Galen’s trays have definite, and literal, rough edges. The laminated beech construction is heavily stained in dark brown, which covers many sins, but they still feel rustic even compared to other Galen products. Edges don’t line up, there are chips and surface scratches out of the box.
Don’t expect luxury features, either. There are no rubber feet, soft linings, engravings, trim or other decorative touches.
There’s no built in spot for a label on each tray to indicate the contents. No brass handles or protective corner covers to help with long-term durability. No mechanism for assisting in aligning and attaching the layers together and securing them, or cushioning to stop the knock of wood on wood when you put the lid on or stack layers.
The most luxurious thing is a little indent at the base on each side for your fingers to help you lift one layer off the next.
In other words: don’t expect anything but a box.
When you stack them, these boxes can look a little like products such as the £195 Pelikan Collector’s Chest. But unlike these other products, there’s no hinge or latch on the lids — they simply lift off. There are no drawers; to get to the lower levels you have to lift off the uppers.
Unless you limit yourself to just a couple of levels, and know exactly what you have in which level, it could be a chore to find what you’re looking for.
But go in with these expectations straight and you’ll find a product that is useful, fills a definite niche, is very customisable, and affordable.
In particular, the pen tray liners are a significant step up from the thin plastic trays I had been using.
The pen slots are large and well spaced. Even large pens like my Nakaya Dorsal 2 fit with room to spare. (And as far as I can tell, they don’t make contact with the inside of the lid, either).
The trays seem to have been milled from solid MDF, so they are rigid and weighty. And the flocking is a handsome mid grey that will resist stains and dirt.
The only functional downside to these tray inserts — and it is infuriating — is that the flocking sheds like mad. Galen’s marketing copy sometimes refers to the lining as suede; it’s not. It’s the usual fuzzy flock. And now some of it is clinging to my pens.
For the price, I’m happy with these boxes. They look good, and they don’t limit me if my collection grows or shrinks. The finishing isn’t perfect, and there’s no luxury here, but the solid construction and spacious trays make them just right for my needs right now.