Saturday, June 28, 2014

Now & Then Eco-essential Pen and Pencil

Out of every Hi-Tec C compatible pen body that has been launched on Kickstarter, the Eco-essential pen is definitely one of the most appealing designs that have come up so far. Apart from being a perfect drafting and sketching tool, they also look very good, with the distinctive bamboo and aluminum build. I've been eyeing these for quite a while, especially lately, when a lot of reviews about it popped up (on Gourmetpens, Pentorium,...)

I'd like to thank the awesome people over at  TPE Ishuja for sending me this pen set! You can go check out their website and store HERE.

As soon as I opened the airmail box, I fell in love with the packaging! It's a black cardboard box with a white sleeve around it that has the brand and product name printed on it.  The box is made out of thick cardboard and feels surprisingly sturdy! When you open the top lid, the pen and pencil are revealed sitting in some sort of tray that can also be removed to access the refills and customization parts. So far so good, the box already fits my taste perfectly: it's simple, sleek and definitely original!

The first thing you notice when you take the pen or pencil out of the box is that it weighs close to nothing! The use of bamboo and aluminum allowed them to make a solid feeling, though light pen. Because of the minimal weight, it's hard not to have it in balance, posted or unposted, both feel pretty well-balanced to me! The pen itself isn't exactly huge when unposted, however it's still decently sized for my hand.
The cap doesn't post very deep onto the body, so it gets a bit (too) long when posted.

The pen has a very minimalist and modern design, but the bamboo barrel gives it an organic feel. I really like the way they look, the design is very straightforward, no clip, no branding (except for the logo on the endcap), just aluminum and the gorgeous grain of the bamboo. They look exactly alike, except for the pencil having a push button at the back of the body.

Uncapping the pen (or pencil) reveals a rather small -maybe a bit too small for some- and minimal-looking grip section. Both pen and pencil are equipped with a drafting-style tip, which makes them very suitable for technical drawing and design. All aluminum parts are annodised with a slight bit of texture to it. Nevertheless, the grip section can get a tad bit slippery at times. There's also a small step from barrel to section, however I didn't find it uncomfortable, even though I tend to hold it right there.

By far the coolest and most ingenious design aspect about this pen is the fact that you can customize the cap with differently coloured aluminum rings, a neat way of color-coding if you have more than one of these! You can also swap the stylus tip for a decorative cap with the now&then logo on it.

The stylus tip works fine, it's not extremely responsive, but I've definitely seen worse. You can also buy an extra adapter cap that holds Wacom stylus tips, which are a bit narrower and thus more precise.

Unfortunately there are also some small annoyances. The most annoying flaw is -and other people will attest to this- the threaded section at the back. You'll probably have kind of a hard time posting the cap, as there is only a single thread and it's extremely difficult to align the cap with it. Usually a bit of concentration helps, though sometimes I found myself retrying several times before the cap was properly alligned (And yes, my hand-eye coordination is still fine!)

The other problem is the fact that the pencil mechanism can't be advanced when you post the cap, unlike other capped pencils like the Tombow Havanna or Pentel Kerry that do allow the lead to be advanced when posted.

A simple remedy would be to just use it unposted -which would solve both problems at once-, the pen is long enough so it should be equally comfortable for most people. However it's still quite sad to see that they didn't keep these things in mind when designing the pens.

The pencil takes 0.5mm leads, and even though the push button is removable, there is no integrated eraser (I don't like these small erasers anyway!). The complete mechanism can be taken out, so I guess you could easily replace it if it breaks or if you want another lead size (I guess you can find these mechanisms separately if you do a little internet search). The lead that was included worked fine, it was a fairly standard HB, nothing exceptional, but the leads are of course easily swapped out for something else!

The pen comes in two variations, a Pilot Hi-Tec C version and a Pilot G2 version. But I found that the Hi-Tec C version can also take the G2 refill with a simple hack (just take out the plug at the back of the G2 refill and tape it down in reversed orientation to make the refill equally long as the Hi-Tec C, and it will fit perfectly!) I'm sure other pen refills would fit as well, granted the occasional pen hack! The fact that you can swap out refills quite easily makes this pen even more versatile. I really like these Hi-Tec C refills, they included a broader 0.5 with it, which is great for sketching but also general writing.

If you happen to like your pens posted all the time, I could imagine the occasional frustration, because a big part of the experience with these Eco-Essential pens, lies in wether you post the cap or not. Nevertheless, I think Now&Then did a great job designing these pens, with clever customisation options and a beautiful, clean design. The functionality isn't always optimised, but to be honest, I can think of annoying flaws on pens that cost much, much more!

The Eco-Essential pen and pencil come in both silver and black annodised aluminum, and they go for 55USD for the pen and 50USD for the pencil. You can also buy them in a set, which will save you 10USD!
Check out their website HERE for more information, other products and to buy the Eco-essential pen.

Note: this pen was sent to me by TPE ishuja, free of charge, so I could write this review.  I was in no way influenced in the making of this review, nor was I monetarily compensated. The opinions shared in this review are completely my own!.

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