As well as buying several pocket 6 pens over the years, I’ve somehow accrued two of Schon Dsgn’s full size pens, and they have both ended up becoming real personal favourites in short order.
(A note on naming: when Ian first launched this pen model in Ultem, and later PEEK, they carried the name of ‘engineered plastics series’. Now they’re available in aluminium, which Ian now calls ‘full size’. Different materials, fully interchangeable parts, same pen.)
I actually bought one of the first amber Ultem ‘engineered plastics’ pens a while back, but sold it almost immediately. Something about all the visible o-rings through the pen just turned me off. And the super tough Ultem was machined so thin at the cap lip that I could deform the cap with a gentle squeeze. It didn’t work for me.
But I then bought the black Ultem version before Christmas, and that instantly clicked with me. And then a couple of weeks ago the new aluminium one arrived too, and that works for me too.
These pens should not be my type.
They’re small, actually by far the shortest pens in my tray.
They’re practically featureless, with no clips, no metal trim, no visible branding (on the Ultem version at least) or added textures, no rollstop or unusual thread placement or unusual proportions, no ink window, no coin or finial — and no box at all. The surface finishing is plain, with visible machining marks.
There’s no Capillaris-style obsessive hand-finishing on show. Pure function.
That’s not to say these pens are slipshod. From my interactions with Ian over the years, I know for a fact that WORK went into designing and making these pens, and they have plenty of invisible features: designed-in space in the cap to safely house a #8 nib on interchangeable section, o-rings aplenty to support eyedropper use, tapering to allow posting, proper sealing cap that means no drying out, perfect tolerances for fit, and so on.
Even the choice of high-end plastics is itself remarkable: PEEK and Ultem have wonderful properties.
But none of these things cries out to the eye. As pens they totally melt into the background. When you hold one, they’re like the ‘grey man’ of pens: there’s nothing noticeable, nothing memorable.
It’s worth noting that the new metal versions are not nearly so stealth. The alu version is heavier, for starters, although still not a chonker.
They feature a random playful glyph on each cap band (mine is a # mark)
And of course Schon’s trademark colourful patterns. Mine is called dark jellyfish.
Perhaps what I love about these pens is how they encourage you to use them as a basis for experimentation, and really USE them.
Instead of making you admire the branding and design, they fade into the background, and challenge you to make them your own.
Black ultem and o-rings mean total inky freedom. You can use a converter, or ditch it and load up directly with your favourite crazy inks without worry about staining or difficulty flushing, or staining the section, or leaking in the cap. My eyedroppered ultem has burped into the cap, but cleanup was a breeze and nothing leaked past the threads, so it was zero stress.
There’s no worries about babying a polished silver, ebonite or urushi finish either — a super-tough material like ultem doesn’t care if you ding it, so take it with you without worry.
The interchangeable sections give you maximum nib freedom too. JoWo #6 section not give you enough choice? Swap in a #8 section and use a Bock 380, or an adaptor from Flexible Nib Factory and the world of nibs is your oyster.
My black ultem Schon now has a black ultem #8 section, and in that I’ve put a FNF adaptor and a Sailor King of Pen nib.
I’ve eyedroppered it with 4ml plus of Montblanc Lapis Lazuli. In the hand I’ve got this tiny, ultralight and almost indestructible superplastic pen that has this huge, amazing soft nib.
It delights me every time I uncap it. The writing experience is the key, but also the shiny rhodium nib against the engineered plastic… what a contrast. It feels SO MUCH BETTER than a plastic King of Pen with its crappy threads and brittle-feeling plastic and cheap trim rings.
For the new aluminium version I’ve also swapped in a black ultem #8 section, mainly because I like the extra width and the warm grip of the plastic.
The whole pen is so light that the balance doesn’t feel noticeably different compared to the stock #6 alu section. You can’t eyedropper fill an aluminium pen, so I’ve stuck with a Bock 380 titanium nib in EF from Beaufort, with converter, and it’s currently filled with Wearingeul 13 Children. It’s wet, smooth but with that unique titanium feel to it, and the same incredible proportion ratio that I love from the black ultem pen. You get a great size section and the spacious long nib, but in a tiny package.
This is the kind of pen that I enjoy being challenged by.
I look at pens like the Otto Hutt designC and I marvel at the premium materials, complicated processes, integral filling mechanism, size and weight. Or the Santini Giant, with its in-house nib, ebonite feed, enamel, precious metals, ebonite, piston filler… it is a feature-rich pen.
Then I look at the Schon: hardly-there size and weight, plain design, plain finishing. At first blush it shouldn’t be worth $260 in black ultem, plus an additional section for 30 bucks or so, plus the housing, plus the donor King of Pen! I’ve sunk a ton of money into this pen, probably close to $1,000. The Alu version has cost me less, maybe 195 dollars plus 30 for the section plus £120 for the Ti nib. Oh, and import duties. But still, not cheap. I could have got a Pelikan or an Aurora for that.
But what I have realised with these Schons is that I get a writing experience that’s more than the sum of its parts, and the peace of mind that comes from knowing these pens are built to handle ANYTHING. The threads aren’t fragile. I can’t stain them. I can swap nibs in a moment. And if I do have a problem, I can fully disassemble, buy a spare part.
Even as an experienced reviewer I’m struggling here to put my finger on why I love these pens so much. But maybe I don’t need a scoring model to hold a conviction. These Schon pens are viscerally dear to me. They make me smile and they ask so little of me. I can relax when I use them. I have built two pens here that are unique to me, and they write so wonderfully well. And I’m supporting a small business that has given a lot to this community. That’s priceless.
I bought both of the pens I refer to in this post. You can get yours here.