Have you ever had somebody hand you a pen (or any item, really) and as soon as they did, you thought to yourself, "Wow... That's nice." Well, that happened to me during the Nock Co. Sassafras Spring Fling when my friend Mike Dudek (Creator of Dudek Modern Goods and The Clicky Post) handed me his MaxMadCo Bolt Pen.
We were discussing a Dudek block and he whipped it out to sketch out a quick idea and as soon as I saw it, I asked about it. As soon as I had it in-hand, I knew I had to have one. So, I ordered one as soon as I got back to town. And I am so, so glad I did. Mike, if you're reading this, I blame you and I also warn you that if you get that Ti version too close to me in the future, you may lose it.
As soon as I placed the order, Jim (maker of tons of fine items, not just pens) emailed me to let me know it would be headed out via USPS Priority Mail and to check out the FAQ on his page to read up on use and care of the pen. I received it just two short days later and darn-near took off a thumb trying to slice and dice my way into the box. Opening the Priority Mail Packaging, I was presented with a bubble envelope with a little clear, plastic case taped to it with the words "Extra Spring" (self-explanatory) and inside of said envelope was a neat little leather(ette) case with my MaxMadCo Bolt Pen tucked neatly in its fold. The case was a bit overkill as I'd never use it with this pen (maybe a slimmer sleeve, but not a full-on flap-style case, but it was a nice gesture nonetheless and a neat way to package the pen for transit.
I withdrew it from the case, much like Arthur pulled Excalibur from the stone. It gleamed brightly in the soft, greenish fluorescent light and seemed to vibrate with quality. Okay, I'm being a little dramatic here, but doggone it, the thing is just NICE! Like, when you pick it up, it just exudes amazing craftsmanship. Especially the stainless version, which is just a bit heavier than the Ti version. That's not to say that the Ti version isn't nice, because I'm on the waiting list for that one, too, but I sort of have this idea in my head that if something is heavy, it must be well-made and high quality. Am I crazy? I might be.
So on to the pen. It's a smooth, lightly brushed finish, just a hint brighter than full-on matte with no designated grip area or knurling to be seen anywhere. I like this because it means I can grip the pen anywhere I'd like. One of my biggest issues with a lot of pens is that the designer has decided where the "sweet spot" is on the grip and has fashioned knurling or ribs or grip rings into the pen. But not everyone grips pens in the same place so it's nice to have a smooth barrel that affords you the opportunity to hold the pen in a way that is comfortable for you.
There is a light seam where the two halves of the pen meet about 1/3 of the way up the barrel, but this seam can only be seen and not felt. Even running a fingernail on the barrel results in very little "catch" when passing over the seam. This thing is darn-near perfectly executed. I would think on a black version of this pen, you'd never see the seam at all. And there is a black version, by the way. Which I think I might need, too. It should be mentioned also that the threads on this pen are ridiculously smooth and quiet with no catch or abrasion at all.
And while we're on the topic of the overall fit and finish of this pen, I want to talk about the clip. The clip on most pens is just there. It's either in-demand for a particular situation or it's just hanging out, attached to the barrel, usually at the back end. But Jim really thought out the clip design. Or, rather, the attachment of the clip. Sure, the clip design is nice; a subtle curve with a gentle up-swept tab at the end to guide the clip when putting it in a pocket or case. The clip is tight and sturdy with just the right amount of spring, the way a clip should be. But the attachment is where I really got wowed. Jim milled an oval-shaped cutout into the body of the pen to allow the clip to seat down into the side of the material so as to avoid an awkward lip or catch on the back end. It is then securely fastened with a couple of nicely-rounded hex screws so that when you turn the pen in your hands, you feel the hardware, but it's not rough or unpleasant. It just feels really, really good.
A+ on the clip design. This just further proves my point that this thing is well-made and even better-designed.
The bolt mechanism on this pen is another shining star in terms of pen design. I have seen a lot of bolt pens over the years and have owned a few of them. In my opinion, this is the best execution I've seen to date. It's far enough up the pen barrel to allow for a standard refill unlike the Boker Plus Bolt pen, which requires that teeny, tiny Lamy refill. Granted, the Boker looks okay, especially in that heat-colored Titanium version, but the use of that Lamy refill is, well, terrible. But I digress, Jim kept the bolt high enough that standard Parker refills could be used (and there are literally THOUSANDS to choose from), but he didn't allow the bolt to protrude from the back end of the pen, unlike the Karas Kustoms Bolt which has a thumb actuator extending from the back of the pen, so the pen stays compact and pocket-friendly. Also, comparing it to the Fellhoelter TiBolt Pen, Jim did a nice job of keeping the thumb stud for actuating the bolt small enough to not be an issue, while still being totally usable. Again, perfect design execution. The bolt mechanism is smooth and precise with very minimal rotational play in the closed position and absolutely no rotational play in the deployed position. Seriously...zero, zilch, nada!
Rounding off the design is a small Maxmadco Logo stamped into the end of the pen with neatly chamfered edges, a conical tip with just a hint of "bite" where it transitions from the barrel to the cone and a clean-cut "USA" stamp at the 12 o'clock position on the barrel, perfectly aligned with the clip. Other than the logo stamped on the end of the barrel and the "USA" engraving, the pen is clean. As a graphic designer, I love the idea of unobtrusive branding and this is about as unobtrusive as you can get. It reminds me of a Porsche Designed LaCie Hard Drive.
Jim ships the Bolt Pen with the amazing Itoya AquaRoller Gel Refill (GPR-7). Yes, the 7 is for a 0.7mm tip, but fine-point-fans need not fret, the needlepoint style of the refill really brings it down closer to a 0.5mm. And actually, it's very similar to the Schmidt P8126 so-loved by the Retro 51 community. I'm a 0.5mm-or-less kind of guy and the Itoya does it for me. It gives me a smooth, dark, consistent line unlike the mottled grays and purples found in most ballpoint cartridges and makes writing so much easier and cleaner. Why there aren't more offerings for 0.38 or 0.5mm gel refills for Parker-style pens, is beyond me, but somebody needs to get on that. You give me a true 0.5 or 0.38 and I'd just lock myself in a room with a box of Field Notes and this pen and never come out. Except to eat. I would come out for food.
So that about wraps it up. In my opinion, this pen is just about as close to a 10/10 as you'll get. I can't really find anything that I don't like. Jim has given us a wonderful product, made right here in the USA (y'all know I'm a fan of that by now) with minimal parts and designed thoughtfully for long-term, maintenance-free use. It's a pen that just works. And looks absolutely stunning while doing so. If you haven't yet, head over to see Jim at MaxMadCo and snag one of these guys in stunning stainless or stealthy black (which happens to be made of lightweight aluminum). Or, put yourself on the waiting list for the Ti version. Either way, you'll be glad to you did. This is a fantastic pen with killer design and flawless execution. And Jim is an awesome guy to deal with.
Thanks for reading,