Saturday, October 1, 2022

REVIEW: GRAVITAS SENTRY BIG DROPPER & DELRIN FOUNTAIN PEN

REVIEW: GRAVITAS SENTRY BIG DROPPER & DELRIN FOUNTAIN PEN
Yes, it's no surprise that Gravitas has quickly become a sort of personal catnip for me - every new release looks more impressive than the last, and for the life of me I can't keep my wallet shut whenever I see a new Instagram post from Ben... When would this be considered an addiction?

Perhaps you're thinking: "Another Gravitas review? Didn't he publish a review of the Gravitas Sentry just a month ago?" And you'd be absolutely right! But at the dizzying pace that Gravitas produces fantastic new releases, with new products around the corner seemingly every week, I can barely keep up buying them... let alone getting them reviewed! 
REVIEW: GRAVITAS SENTRY BIG DROPPER & DELRIN FOUNTAIN PEN
L to R: Black Delrin, white Delrin, Polycarbonate 'Big Dropper', Stainless steel Sentry
In an effort to keep up, I figured I'd bundle two of the more recent Gravitas products together since they share most stats anyway, differing only in the material they're made of. So in this review, we're taking a look at two additions to the Sentry lineup: the Gravitas Delrin and Big Dropper fountain pens. 

For those of you that liked the design of the Gravitas Sentry, but were put off by the sheer weight of these solid metal pens, these two might be right up your alley. The Big Dropper and Delrin fountain pens follow very closely on the design of the Sentry, carrying over the flattop design with pointed finials, curvy cap, and elegant long tapered body.

The real difference obviously comes from the use of clear translucent polycarbonate for the Big Dropper, and Delrin for the... well, Delrin version. 
REVIEW: GRAVITAS SENTRY BIG DROPPER & DELRIN FOUNTAIN PEN
The Big Dropper is made from clear translucent polycarbonate with a matte frosted finish. The machining and frosting is very uniform and provides a pleasant texture to the pen. As the name suggests, the Big Dropper lends itself perfectly to eye-droppering. I typically stay away from eye droppers (I don't care for the potential discoloration on clear pens, and I rarely ever need or want the ridiculous large ink capacity they provide), but this pen comes fully prepared, should you wish to eyedropper yours. 
REVIEW: GRAVITAS SENTRY BIG DROPPER & DELRIN FOUNTAIN PEN
O-rings ready for eye-droppering!
They even added o-rings to the threads on both the section and cap to ensure an airtight seal (though you might want to add a dab of silicon grease on the section threads, just to be safe). It's difficult to say how the stainless steel section will react to prolonged contact with ink, but I'd assume it'll be fine as long as you don't go for very acidic iron gall inks or the like.
REVIEW: GRAVITAS SENTRY BIG DROPPER & DELRIN FOUNTAIN PEN
A subtle detail separates the regular black Delrin on the left, from the Delrin orange Cerakote on the right.
The Delrin option is perhaps my favorite (at least until I get my hands on the new Ultem version!). Delrin is a rather unique 'engineering plastic', meaning it has special characteristics and high durability that make it useful in industrial applications. It is slightly more dense, and has a super-slick and smooth (Delrin is often used as a liner in moving parts, because it's low-friction) feel in the hand. Just like the Big Dropper, the Delrin version comes outfitted with o-rings, ready to be eyedroppered!
REVIEW: GRAVITAS SENTRY BIG DROPPER & DELRIN FOUNTAIN PEN
The two standard colors of Delrin are opaque black and opaque white (interestingly, the white Delrin is the only pen without an etched Gravitas logo on the cap, because the material doesn't work well with laser-etching!). For a hint of color, there's also a black delrin version with an orange logo on the cap (though the color is quite faint) and an orange cerakote section. If you want even more color, Ben has also found a way to dye the Delrin into whatever color you like. If you've already bought a Gravitas pen before, you're automatically a Gravitas member and have access to a members-only area on their website where you can find some of those more experimental and flashy finishes! 

The one downside of Delrin is that it is highly susceptible to scuffs and scratches, so you might want to look elsewhere if you want to keep your pens looking pristine! This is especially noticeable on the black delrin, scuffs are harder to see on the white version.
REVIEW: GRAVITAS SENTRY BIG DROPPER & DELRIN FOUNTAIN PEN
REVIEW: GRAVITAS SENTRY BIG DROPPER & DELRIN FOUNTAIN PEN
L to R: Namisu Nova, Ensso Piuma, Gravitas Pocket, Gravitas Delrin, Gravitas Sentry, Gravitas Entry, Gravitas Flagship, Lamy 2000, Lamy Safari
Dimensions - at least on the outside - are identical to other variants of the Sentry, with a capped length of 14.6 cm/ 5.75", and 13.9/ 5.47" cm uncapped. At the widest point of the cap, the Sentry measures 15.5 cm/ 0.61" in diameter, and the barrel is 14 cm/ 0.55" at its widest. 

Of course, polycarbonate and Delrin - while both durable plastics - can't be machined as thin as their metal counterparts. This is apparent in the changes to the thickness of the cap, which meant that a slight redesign of the internals was necessary to make it fit together properly 
REVIEW: GRAVITAS SENTRY BIG DROPPER & DELRIN FOUNTAIN PEN
Sentry Delrin on the left, Sentry aluminum black anodized on the right
So while the section remains equally long to the one found on the Sentry, you'll notice that it is in fact a bit narrower (12mm at its widest point versus 13 on the metal version of the Sentry). This puts the Big Dropper and Delrin Sentries in between the Entry and (metal) Sentry in terms of section size, striking a good balance in my opinion. 
REVIEW: GRAVITAS SENTRY BIG DROPPER & DELRIN FOUNTAIN PEN - www.pencilcaseblog.com
Those millimeter differences might not sound like much, but they do make the plastic versions to the Sentry feel noticeably less bulky in the hand. Also due to the increased thickness of the cap, there's a more visible transition from the barrel to the section, though in the hand it's still barely noticeable as it steps down very gradually from the tapered edge of the barrel to the rubber o-ring, then the threads, and finally the section. 
REVIEW: GRAVITAS SENTRY BIG DROPPER & DELRIN FOUNTAIN PEN - www.pencilcaseblog.com
The plastic cap and barrel of course make for a substantially lighter pen. The polycarbonate big dropper weighs in at 29 grams (uncapped 26g), while the slightly more dense Delrin version weighs 32g (uncapped 26g). Since the metal section provides most of that weight, both plastic Sentries have a very clear balance towards the section, and feel much more nimble in the hand. I know a lot of people have strong feelings against metal sections, but Gravitas consistently implements them very well on all their pens, with a strongly pronounced taper and ridged machined texture to provide a comfortable grip.
REVIEW: GRAVITAS SENTRY BIG DROPPER & DELRIN FOUNTAIN PEN - www.pencilcaseblog.com
I got these back when Gravitas still equipped their pens with JoWo nibs. There's no point in telling you how a JoWo nib writes (you probably know this already, anyway). BUT, the new nib units are still backward-compatible with JoWo housings, so you can swap them out with spare nibs you may have lying around. In my limited experience with the new Gravitas steel nibs, I was quite pleased with how they perform, they can certainly hold up against JoWo.
REVIEW: GRAVITAS SENTRY BIG DROPPER & DELRIN FOUNTAIN PEN - www.pencilcaseblog.com
The Gravitas Sentry Big Dropper and Sentry Delrin are enticing new additions to the ever-expanding Gravitas catalog. They offer the same streamlined-yet-robust design of the Sentry, which I enjoy a lot. Will you mistake the Big Dropper or Delrin Sentry for a small pen? Probably not. But the combination of lighter weight and balance, and more average section width, definitely strikes a better balance if you're not that into oversized pens. 

They're priced fairly reasonably as well, at just 95€ regardless of which plastic version (polycarbonate, Delrin, or Ultem) you choose. As always, Ben Walsh has even more material options to choose from on the horizon (most noticeably, a Micarta version is currently in production), so there's no lack of options!

Some of the products featured in this review were sent to me by Gravitas. I was in no way influenced in the making of this review, the opinions shared in this review are completely my own! This post does not contain affilate links.
REVIEW: GRAVITAS SENTRY BIG DROPPER & DELRIN FOUNTAIN PEN - www.pencilcaseblog.com

Sunday, September 11, 2022

REVIEW: KILK ORIENT FOUNTAIN PEN

REVIEW: KILK ORIENT FOUNTAIN PEN | THE PENCILCASE BLOG | www.pencilcaseblog.com
I'm excited because I have an entirely new (to me) brand in front of me for review today! This bright and cheerful orange pen came from Istanbul in Turkey, made by the brand Kilk. I first encountered Kilk pens on the table of Fontoplumo at last year's Dutch pen show, but it took me until this year when Frank (from Fontoplumo) encouraged me to try one out. I'm a sucker for orange pens, so obviously, I couldn't resist their newest model: the Kilk Orient

A single glance at the Orient was all it took to be intrigued by the Orient. It has a couple design features that make it stand out quite strongly. 
REVIEW: KILK ORIENT FOUNTAIN PEN | THE PENCILCASE BLOG | www.pencilcaseblog.com
The first thing that probably caught your eye is the vibrant orange acrylic that this pen is made of (recently, they also introduced a stunning green 'cracked ice' version). Large streaks of pearlescence flow throughout the material and appear to glow when light hits it. You get a slight glimpse of the converter and nib through to the semi-translucent acrylic. 
REVIEW: KILK ORIENT FOUNTAIN PEN | THE PENCILCASE BLOG | www.pencilcaseblog.com
But it's not just the material. The overall shape and design of the Orient are also quite out there: The pen has a very sculpted, organically flowing shape, especially on the barrel there's a very strong curved taper towards the back. The cap and barrel have flat finials. 
REVIEW: KILK ORIENT FOUNTAIN PEN | THE PENCILCASE BLOG | www.pencilcaseblog.com
Personally, I find the barrel shape a bit strong, but it is an original-looking pen, to say the least. And as a plus side, the shape of the barrel allows for the cap to post deep and very securely on the back.
REVIEW: KILK ORIENT FOUNTAIN PEN | THE PENCILCASE BLOG | www.pencilcaseblog.com
The design feature that absolutely won me over, however, is the use of sterling silver for the clip and center band. It's quite rare to see sterling silver on a 300$-ish pen, but not for Kilk. Almost all their pens have at least some silver accents, even their most affordable sub-200$ standard models! The clip follows the same flowy, curvy lines of the rest of the pen. The center band immediately draws the eye with its stark, geometric pattern that counters the organic shapes in the rest of the pen. The clip and center band received a matte brushed finish to give them a more vintage appearance.
REVIEW: KILK ORIENT FOUNTAIN PEN | THE PENCILCASE BLOG | www.pencilcaseblog.com
L to R: Scribo Piuma, Pelikan M805, Leonardo Momento Zero Grande Pura, Kilk Orient, Lamy 2000, Lamy Safari
REVIEW: KILK ORIENT FOUNTAIN PEN | THE PENCILCASE BLOG | www.pencilcaseblog.com
The Orient is a mid-sized pen, measuring 13.9 cm/ 5.48" in length when capped and 13.2 cm/ 5.19" uncapped. It's quite a bulky pen around the center band (15 mm/ 0.59" on the barrel), but a strong taper towards the nib takes that down to 11mm/ 0.43" at the concave of the section. The entire pen weighs just 20 grams, with the balance mostly towards that large silver center band when uncapped. 
REVIEW: KILK ORIENT FOUNTAIN PEN | THE PENCILCASE BLOG | www.pencilcaseblog.com
The curved, organic shape of the Orient naturally conforms to the shape of your hand. Together with the gentle taper of the section towards the barrel, and nicely flush threads, this is a fantastically comfortable pen to use.

It also has to be said that the production quality of the Kilk Orient is second to none. The entire pen feels incredibly solid and robust in hand. The sterling silver parts were cast very precisely, with crisp details. All the acrylic parts are perfectly polished (you'd think that that's a given these days, but it's not!), and everything fits together seamlessly. 
REVIEW: KILK ORIENT FOUNTAIN PEN | THE PENCILCASE BLOG | www.pencilcaseblog.com
In fact, my only remark would be that construction is sometimes a bit too precise. There are quite a few crisp edges on the Orient (the finials, the cap lip, the clip). I wouldn't go as far as saying they're bothersome or too sharp... except for the clip! The clip narrows down into a point that, in my opinion, should've been rounded off just a little bit to make it less sharp. The pointy edge could grab onto fabric when you carry it in a vest pocket, for example.
REVIEW: KILK ORIENT FOUNTAIN PEN | THE PENCILCASE BLOG | www.pencilcaseblog.com
The #6 steel nib comes from the stables of Bock, customized with a clean and simple laser engraving of the Kilk logo on the nib face. This medium nib came very well-tuned out of the box and runs true to western sizing. It's a stiff nib, in line with recent Bock nibs being thicker and stiffer than they used to be a few years ago. The nib is fairly smooth, though has a slight-but-noticeable touch of pencil-like feedback, similar to Bock's titanium nibs. The ink flow is nice and rich, but most importantly, consistent. 
REVIEW: KILK ORIENT FOUNTAIN PEN | THE PENCILCASE BLOG | www.pencilcaseblog.com
The market of 200-300$ pens is filled with excellent options these days, including many smaller and custom makers. What Kilk brings to the table with their Orient fountain pen, though, is a strikingly original (dare I say, a touch eccentric?), very well-made pen that writes as it should out of the box. Not to mention the beautiful sterling silver details you'd usually only see on much higher-end pens. With all that, 295€ (at Fontoplumo) feels like a very fair retail price for this pen. 

Note: This product was provided by Kilk and Fontoplumo, free of charge, so I could write this review. I was in no way influenced in the making of this review. The opinions shared in this review are completely my own! This post does not contain affiliate links.
REVIEW: KILK ORIENT FOUNTAIN PEN | THE PENCILCASE BLOG | www.pencilcaseblog.com

Wednesday, September 7, 2022

REVIEW: MODERN FUEL BOLT ACTION PEN

REVIEW: MODERN FUEL BOLT ACTION PEN, THE PENCILCASE BLOG
Several years ago I reviewed (HERE) a then-Kickstarter project for what was - and continues to be - arguably the most overengineered mechanical pencil I've ever seen, by US-based brand Modern Fuel. The precise machining and meticulous details of the Modern Fuel Pencil got me hooked. While their products aren't exactly cheap, I do feel confident that they are as close to heirloom quality as they get. I was really curious to find out if the same would hold true for their newer products, in particular the Modern Fuel Bolt Action pen. (Spoiler alert: it does!)
REVIEW: MODERN FUEL BOLT ACTION PEN
Designwise, Modern Fuel has a set-in-stone design language: sleek and clean aesthetic that runs across all of their products. While I compared mechanical pencil to an overengineered version of the Bic pencil, that comparison obviously doesn't hold true for the Bolt Action pen, but through the same, straight cylindrical profile, same thickness, tip shape and almost identical length, it's not hard to see where the design inspiration comes from. The entire pen received a hand-brushed finish, which adds a bit of random texture to the otherwise clean and modern look of the pen.
REVIEW: MODERN FUEL BOLT ACTION PEN
Other than that, the Bolt Action shares a very similar shape with Modern Fuel's own ballpoint 'Pen'. It has a j-shaped cutout for the bolt mechanism (obviously), but also a knock button on the back. 
REVIEW: MODERN FUEL BOLT ACTION PEN
The Modern Fuel Bolt Action's mechanism is essentially a hybrid between those found on the Karas and Tactile Turn Bolt Action pens
However, unlike the Karas Bolt Action pen, the knock doesn't serve an actual purpose (other than aesthetics). It completely retracts into the body when you engage the pen (and sits perfectly flush - a really nice detail!), making it impossible to activate the bolt-action mechanism just by pressing the knock. You'll really want to use the actual bolt for that. The bolt itself is a small cylindrical button with very crisp knurling on the side, almost like a small cog (The knurling actually serves a dual purpose!). The mechanism has surprisingly little travel, so it engages quickly with one swift motion.
REVIEW: MODERN FUEL BOLT ACTION PEN
L to R: Karas Bolt Action, Tactile Turn Bolt Action, Modern Fuel Bolt Action, Modern Fuel Pen, Modern Fuel Pencil, Wingback Mechanical Pen, Lamy 2000, Lamy Safari
REVIEW: MODERN FUEL BOLT ACTION PEN
The Bolt Action looks nimble, mostly thanks to the fairly slender design (9.3mm/ 0.37"). It measures 13.8 cm/ 5.43", down to 13.6 cm/ 5.73" when the bolt mechanism is engaged, so it's definitely a full-sized pen, just noticeably narrower than some of the competition (by comparison, the Tactile Turn Bolt is 11mm). All Modern Fuel products are available in either stainless steel, titanium, bronze, or copper. I was sent the steel version of the Bolt Action, which weighs 36 grams. It strikes a good balance between feeling solid yet nimble in hand. Interestingly, no weight measurements are given on Modern Fuel's website, but according to my guesstimate calculations, the titanium version should come in around 20 grams, with the bronze and copper versions both around 40 grams.
REVIEW: MODERN FUEL BOLT ACTION PEN
Machining is top-notch on this pen. Nothing rattles around when you write, and the tolerance on the tip is so small that there's almost no wiggle room for the refill. Same can be said for the bolt-action mechanism, which fits precisely in the barrel, yet moves smoothly up and down and engages with a satisfying 'snick'. The bolt is fun to play with, but the knurled edges are quite sharp so you do feel that on your finger after a while (maybe to prevent you from getting distracted for too long!)
REVIEW: MODERN FUEL BOLT ACTION PEN
Modern Fuel's Bolt Action pen is much sleeker and low-profile than comparable Tactile Turn (top) or Karas Pen Co (bottom) offerings
Modern Fuel ships this pen with a Pilot G2 refill as standard. I like the G2 refill a lot, but the Modern Fuel Bolt Action is also a very nice housing for it. It's a massive departure from the chunky and heavy copper Tactile Turn Bolt Action (the older-style Glider) that I daily. And it looks super sleek on the desk. While I'm personally not particularly bothered by it, the biggest complaint could be the all-smooth metal barrel. While the brushed finish adds a little to the grip (it's better than a polished metal finish), it can still become a bit slippery after a while.
REVIEW: MODERN FUEL BOLT ACTION PEN
When I say this pen is over-engineered, I mean it! The Bolt Action pen arrives with an 11-page manual, and you'll probably want to hang on to it. Like with the pencil, part of the beauty of Modern Fuel's products is that there's no obvious way to disassemble the Modern Fuel Bolt Action. The body and tip are all a single piece of metal, so the only way to get to the refill is through the mechanism. But how? Well, included in the box are a few small parts (all metal, by the way!), including a little wrench with what looks like a geared hole on one end. That hole fits precisely on the cog-shaped bolt to help unscrew it, and out pops the entire mechanism. 

The biggest engineering feat is that, despite it being such a slender and seemingly simple pen, the Bolt Action can accommodate anything from a Fisher Space or standard Parker G2, up to refill types that are even longer than a Pilot G2 (think: certain rollerball refills, etc.). Adjusting the pen to fit those different size refills is done with the other end of the little wrench-tool, which doubles as a screwdriver to tighten or loosen a long threaded set screw on the inside of the bolt mechanism to control how far it protrudes (This can also serve as a fine-tune mechanism to have the refill tip extend more or less from the tip of the pen, according to your personal preference!). 
REVIEW: MODERN FUEL BOLT ACTION PEN
You'll want to hang onto the instruction booklet for this one!
For very short refills like the Fisher-Space, a black metal adapter is included in the box, while an included shorter set screw allows accommodating very long refills. They even added a longer spring to better suit different refills. 

Perhaps the only thing missing in the box is a clip, contrary to the slide-on clip included with the regular pen and pencil. However, there's a simple reason for that: the slide-on clip can't work because it would interfere with the bolt mechanism on the side of the barrel. That means you'll have to go clipless with this one, perhaps a bit unfortunate for a pen that's otherwise quite pocketable!
REVIEW: MODERN FUEL BOLT ACTION PEN
MSRP on the Modern Fuel Bolt Action starts at 150$ for the bronze pen, up to 200$ for the all-titanium version. As said, Modern Fuel products don't come cheap, but I continue to be amazed at their design ingenuity and machining perfection. The looks of the Bolt Action are sleek and unobtrusive, making it even more impressive when you see all the practical engineering going on inside!

Note: This product was provided by Modern Fuel, free of charge, so I could write this review. I was in no way influenced in the making of this review. The opinions shared in this review are completely my own! This post does not contain affiliate links.
REVIEW: MODERN FUEL BOLT ACTION PEN