Pens are kinda my thing. Family members usually get me something pen-related as Christmas and birthday gifts. Friends and co-workers know about my addiction and always find it exceptionally funny when I, the local pen addict, am caught without a pen on my person. Up until recently, it would have been hard for me to pick a favorite pen. They were all special in a certain way or had a certain value so I could have never picked a favorite. No single pen in my collection was "the pen I would pick if I could only pick one" until now.
Enter: The Moody from Shawn Newton at Newton Pens.
Before I get to the pen review itself, I think this pen deserves a little back story (skip to the next paragraph for the juicy review details if you don't want this part). In February 2014, at just 57 years young, my mom passed away after a very short, very aggressive battle with Pancreatic Cancer. It was a hard blow for me. The woman that raised me, that taught me to love and laugh, that passed on jokes, that called me almost every single morning on my way to work, that loved life so much, was gone. But, as she requested before she passed, I have done my best to keep my head up and I keep her extra close and I remember her every day. Several months after her death, we went to do the inevitable "clean out" of all of her things because you can only hold on to a toothbrush and socks for so long before it just gets silly. Among her things, I found a sterling silver necklace that I had given her for some holiday (probably mother's day) a number of years before. I knew right then what I'd do with it, and asked the rest of my family if I could have the necklace. They agreed, and I decided to take that old tacky necklace (it really was rather tacky) and use the silver from it to embellish a pen.
I reached out to Shawn Newton at Newton Pens and asked him if he would be willing to undertake such a project and he gladly agreed. I love the custom pen process. Choosing everything from the material to the shape to the size. How it fills, what color and size and material the nib will be. Clipped? Clipless? It's exciting, and daunting. One wrong choice and you're a clip away from what could have been your perfect pen. I exchanged some 150 emails with Shawn Newton over the course of several months. Hammering out every minute detail of my pen. I changed my mind a dozen times. And changed it back again a dozen more. Through Shawn's insight and assistance, I was able to make all my choices and, spoiler alert, the pen is perfect in every single possible way.
For my Moody, I chose the Small. I can't imagine choosing anything larger as this pen is already a pretty good size. It dwarfs my Platinum 3776, Montblanc 146 and Franklin Christoph Model 20. But it's incredibly comfortable to hold. The cap is oversized, almost identical in length to the body of the pen (not including the grip section). It posts on the back of the pen, but given the rather large diameter and length of the cap, it gets pretty back heavy so I choose not to post it when I write. The length of the body combined with a bit of a long grip section make for an extremely pleasant writing size unposted. It fits my hand perfectly. The section is a very nice, slightly pinched shape with no hard edges or lip. It's comfortable in any manner of angles and positions and works extremely well for my writing style. Shawn worked through these little details with me to make sure I was comfortable with it, and I'm glad he did because I am.
For the material, I chose Avocado Mono Swirl from Ernie McFarlane at Bear Tooth Woods. My mom loved the Wizard of Oz. Like, maybe more than she loved me. Seriously. She loved it. That made my decision easy as I wanted a pen that reflected The Emerald City (and her birthstone was emerald so it pulls double duty). Oddly, all of the "emerald" pen blanks I found were not really emerald at all, but more jade, olive and forest green. I saw the Avocado Mono Swirl pop up in a search and thought, "Surely this will be a bright, spring, guacamole green," but clicked on it and was immediately smitten. I told Shawn which material I wanted and he ordered it for me. It's a beautiful, deep emerald green with pops of bright, almost sea green and chasms of rich black forest green. It truly is a magnificent color and I often find myself spinning it in my hands, just finding all of the little hiding places for light.
Next was to choose the filling system. This couldn't be just another CC filler so I chose a bulb filler. I've never had a bulb filler and really liked the idea of it. And I had Shawn use a lovely smoke gray section for the ink window which works beautifully and is subtle against the brilliant green of the body.
The last little design element was to choose how and where to use the silver. Originally, I wanted a clip. Then I decided to go clipless with a roll stopper. Then no roll stopper. Then... Well, I went around and around, finally deciding on two polished silver rings, one at each end of the pen. Shawn, in conjunction with his jeweler, used the lost wax casting method to create the rings and they came out perfectly. They're a lovely tribute to my mom and the jewelry I gave her, but are also a unique nod to the original Wizard of Oz story because, unlike the movie, Dorothy's slippers were actually silver, not ruby. When they made the movie, Technicolor wouldn't allow the silver to show up on the yellow road so they chose to go with red as it was more contrasty and showed off the prowess of the Technicolor technology at the time.
With all choices made and my money in-hand, I was officially on the list. Then came the worst part of the entire journey: the wait. You may not know this, but Shawn was a full-time school teacher (man, what I'd have given to have a guy like Shawn leading my art classes in school). But recently, he resigned and has gone to making pens full time. There's still a wait. I think Shawn could make pens 24-hours-a-day and there'd still be a line. When you're good, you're good. Am I right?
Shawn kept me in the loop, updating me on estimated production dates and the like and I never, ever felt in the dark about the process. Shawn is a great guy in that way and he regularly sends out updates to let people know where they stand on the list. I wish more Kickstarter companies did this!
Finally, production day arrived. Shawn sent lots and lots and lots (and lots) of pictures of the production process to me. Everything from shaping the section to creating the wax molds for the rings to shellacking the bulb. He even got some super rad photos of the silver being melted down into a glowing ball of molten metal. Way cool! See below for some photos of the process as sent to me by Shawn...
When the pen was done, he sent me final photos for approval. This is a "No-Judgement" zone so I'll go ahead and tell you I got a little teary-eyed seeing my pen for the first time. It was incredible. Beautiful doesn't even begin to describe it for me and Shawn nailed every single detail perfectly. From the threading on the pen parts to the fitment of the caps to the seams between the ink window and barrel. Everything was perfect. I gave the "OK" and Shawn shipped it out to me (along with a Gibby model I had picked up from his pile of leftovers from the DC Pen Show).
Unboxing the pen, I just sat and looked at it for a really long time and felt so sad and so, so happy all at the same time. It's a perfect tribute to my mom captured in a pen. The emerald of her May birthstone and all the colors of the Emerald City, the silver of Dorothy's shoes made into perfectly smooth, perfectly shined rings from the necklace I had given her so many years before. I knew right away, right when I opened it and held it in my hands that I would forever have an answer to the question: "Which pen would you keep if you could only keep one?"
Writing with it is pure joy. I asked for a smooth medium nib (I know, boring, but I wanted something versatile and classic) and Shawn delivered with a perfectly-tuned, perfectly-sized Medium nib that lays down a beautiful, wet line with just a hint of feedback. I mean... Wow. Like I said before, everything is attended to at Newton Pens right down to the writing experience. I paid Shawn for this pen, but you can't put a price on what he gave me with this. I've thought about writing Shawn to tell him how special it is, but just don't really know what to say. I just hope to see him at a pen show some day soon so that I can shake his hand and tell him in-person what an incredible pen he built.
If you ever have the opportunity to experience a Newton Pen, take the opportunity. Spend the money, bounce your ideas off of Shawn. What you will get in return will be a pen that is perfectly made, perfectly tailored, perfectly you. Shawn knows pens. He's talented and innovative and he does everything right.
Thanks Shawn. It's perfect in every way imaginable.
Thanks for reading,