I should start this review with a disclosure. I’ve had my eye on Elbwood for a long, long time — in fact, I included it in a popular post in early 2018. I really liked the ideas coming out of Frank Pressentin’s Hamburg atelier: a unique aesthetic blending metal, wood and ebonite through minimal engineered lines. Early on these pens were all high-priced custom affairs.
Fast-forward to 2021 and Elbwood had a fresh approach, launching a new line of standard pen models including this, the Pocketmaster. I swapped some emails with Frank throughout 2021 as the launch approached, and it was wonderful timing to receive a package from Germany on Christmas Eve, of all days. It turns out Santa was very generous.
All of Elbwood’s pens share the same strong lines, literally, with a fluted metal section created on a knurling machine, straight cap and barrel, flat ends and handsome proportions. All feature a #6 nib and all are made in Frank’s workshop, with a lot of handiwork and vintage machines. No CNC here.
With these new ranges, prices now start at a much more competitive €245 for a full metal pen with steel JoWo nib. Gold nibs bump the price up to €385.
Of course, Elbwood is still offering all the custom, one-off editions and special limited releases, at varying price points. The version I received for review is one such special edition, in an unusual mustard ebonite, paired with brass hardware and a bicolour 18k JoWo nib with Elbwood imprint. I love the colour scheme but honestly I could have been just as happy with a dozen other styles, including a rather fetching indigo blue ebonite and copper combo that Frank featured on Instagram.
My first impressions were very positive. A branded metal box, grey cardboard sleeve and gorgeous brochure account for the packaging.
Inside the box, the pen was a little bigger and much weightier than I expected. It’s on the verge of being the longest pocket pen I own, and at 43g capped / 36g body only, it’s heavier than many full-size pens I own.
With that weight comes a real feeling of solidity. Inside the ebonite cap and barrel, every piece is sleeved in metal; all threads are durable metal on metal.
The section, of course, is solid metal — you can’t miss that.
Elbwood didn’t include a pocket case and the Pocketmaster is a bit too large for many of my own pocket pen sleeves (below it’s squeezed into a Schon sleeve from the fine folks at Rickshaw), but given its construction I wouldn’t be worried about a bit of pocket carry damaging this pen.
I would however worry about scratching the ebonite, which is beautifully polished and unmarred by any branding, clip or other interruption. That includes rollstops or Sport-like facets. Luckily the Pocketmaster is flat-ended at both ends and stands stable on your desk. That’s one way to stop it rolling away!
Unscrewing the cap, unscrewing the section, and screwing the cap on the rear to post — all are smooth, positive and quick, with no squeaking, binding or cross-threading from the triple-start threads.
The cap takes 1.5 turns to remove, which is a good balance between speed and security. I haven’t noticed it coming upcapped accidentally, and it seals well enough that there’s no drying out… but it’s definitely not as secure as an o-ring design like on the Schon P6.
A larger, heavier design than most pocket pens makes for a much more substantial and comfortable hand-feel.
The Pocketmaster is just long enough to use without posting the cap; when you post, the resulting pen is a good length, thick, and flush along its length. The section is just over 11mm diameter, the barrel 13mm.
The section is long, and the trademark fluting is very pronounced. It’s not sharp, but almost on the verge of being too grippy, and really highlights any tendency you have to roll the pen in your hand. There’s no slip at all in that dimension. You can however slide your fingers up and down the section fairly easily. Normally that’s the bit that textured sections try to prevent!
You’ll notice that the cap threads are at the nib end of the section, which has the effect of pushing your grip back and makes the Pocketmaster feel very spacious on the page.
Overall, I found the pen very comfortable, as well as a great fidget toy. There’s a beautiful contrast between the soft, smooth, warm pebble-like ebonite and the cold, ridged metal when the pen is capped.
The writing experience is fed by a short international cartridge only, through a plastic feed.
Elbwood provides a blue Pelikan cartridge to get you started. My review sample came with a B nib, and it flows a tiny bit drier than I would like, but very smoothly. And I guess for a pocket pen a drier flow is probably more practical.
I’m a fan of JoWo’s gold nibs, both for writing feel and consistency. Next time I’ll ask for an F nib, though.
I must say the Elbwood logo on the clean nib in this bicolour scheme is very elegant. If you prefer another colour, you can choose from several at checkout.
For me, this pen has been a long time coming — and it’s worth the wait. It’s a truly handmade pocket pen with premium materials and a smart, practical design that’s like nothing else. The Pocketmaster is the polar opposite of the Montegrappa Gnomo in many respects, but in other ways very comparable. Both seem expensive on paper, but in person you can feel the quality, appreciate the premium materials and fine finishing. What Elbwood also gives you is a face and a name, a lifetime guarantee and a personal touch, with each pen made to order. That to me is priceless.
I was sent this pen to review. You can order yours here.