I don't really buy "standard" pens all that often. I have a few from a couple of select makers that I use quite a bit, but outside of that, I don't buy them, especially not "kit" pens. For those of you unfamiliar with the "kit pen" term, it refers to a pen that is made from a kit and the artisan or maker turns the body or "sleeve" that covers the brass or steel tubing that makes up the innards. They all use the same Parker (Standard G2) or Pilot G2 or Schmidt refill so other than various colors/styles there's not much to differentiate them from one another. And given that I've found a few machined standard pens that I really like, I tend to not venture out much, and I have never purchased a kit pen... until now.
I stumbled on Gabriel Totzke of Bearclaw Woodcraft via Instagram one day and really liked the look of his bolt pen. I'm kind of a sucker for bolt-action pens and this one's a beauty. It uses brass hardware and has a beautiful wood body. But what sets this pen apart from the rest of the pack, that separates it from the other makers that are just turning a body for their own kit, is that these pens have a hand-carved body for a textured, dimensional look and feel. There's some extra time put into these bodies and I have to admit the carved body feels and looks spectacular, especially when paired with the satin, antiqued brass hardware. It just screams outdoors and begs to be carried on the dash of your truck or in the pocket of your favorite pair of old Levis, ready for taking notes by the fire or jotting down your adventures on the road.
The pen is made up of just a few simple parts. The bolt-action mechanism and hand-carved body of the pen are one piece and the tip unscrews to change the refill. All put together, the pen feels solid and doesn't rattle or creak or flex at all. Even the bolt feels tight and smooth with just a hint of operational feedback. This pen uses the standard Parker G2 style refill (not the same as the Pilot G2) and I've paired mine up with a blue Schmidt EasyFlow 9000, which is one of my favorites. It writes on just about any kind of paper and is a great choice for a "daily" carry pen refill.
The branding on this pen is subtle. A clever little "tree" burned into the wood body of the pen in line with the bolt groove at 90 degrees from the clip, which is sturdy and fastened well and completely usable just as a clip should be.
As for the hardware itself, I find it to be really beautiful. Normally, I wouldn't choose brass for a pen like this as most kits come with a polished brass that reminds me of the doorknobs, light fixtures and hardware in every house built from 1980 to 2000. But this has a brushed finish with a bit of a darkening in the corners and grooves which match the dark grain of the wood body rather nicely and really works well to give this pen a very complete, handsome look.
My pen came wrapped in some craft paper to protect the finish during shipping, and came with a little hand-written card thanking me for my purchase and giving instructions on how to refill the pen. It's a simple, no-nonsense packaging and it works. There was an extra little note below apologizing for the wait as I purchased this on a Black Friday discount and it took him a bit to get caught up from the rush of sales that day. There was definitely no apology necessary as it only took a week or 10 days for it to arrive, which is more than reasonable for a hand-made item, but it was nice that he included it.
I can't really find any complaints to speak of. It is available with a stylus on the back, but I opted to not have the stylus as I find them to be a little gimicky and I'd never use one. It's a nice option if you're a stylus person, but in my opinion, it doesn't belong on this pen as this pen belongs outside, in the woods or the workshop, not in the board room or living room, where you're likely to find a screen in need of a stylus. Your mileage may vary.
All-in-all, I'm really happy with this little pen. It's a good size that makes it easy to carry. The hardware is beautiful and the craftsmanship is top-notch. The hand-carved body has a really great, outdoorsy feel and provides a good, comfortable grip. The satin finish of the wood is warm and inviting and the subtle, burned in branding just looks like this thing belongs alongside your favorite fishing rod or shotgun. The handwritten note is simple, and welcomed and the whole package just had a great feel to it. And, it's made right here in the good ol' United States of America, which, as you know from my other reviews, I'm a huge fan of (because you've read them all, right?).
Check these out (along with the other offerings) at BearclawWoodcraft.com. In addition to pens, this Michigan native cranks out some basic household goods as well as custom pieces on a commission basis. Not to mention the photography on his Instagram account is absolutely beautiful. Go visit Gabriel and see what he's offering. I think you'll be pleasantly surprised.
Thanks for reading,