One of my pickups from this month’s Baltimore Pen Show was a Spoke Pen prototype that Brad was kind enough to give me for review. I opted for red (of course), and all of the prototypes Brad brought to the show had titanium grips, which was just fine with me because it makes this pen a perfect match for my red/titanium Spoke Pencil Model 4. While my personal interests focus on fountain pens, I regularly use a handful of others, including two Montblanc rollerballs, my Lamy 2000 multi pen, a Ti Arto Universal Refill Pen, and a few Baux Pens loaded with Bic Cristal refills. The Spoke Pen is a unique addition because it’s the first machined pen designed specifically for the Uni UM-151 (DX) refill, an excellent fine-tip gel pen that until now has been restricted to my Ti Arto. Since this pen is a prototype, and since I’ve only had it in my hands for a couple weeks, this post will take the form of a shorter “first impressions” piece.
Things I Like
Design. I’ve owned a Spoke Pencil Model 4 for the past year or so, and also backed the Baux Pen 2 (which comes from the same “family”), so I’m a fan of Spoke Design. The Spoke Pen definitely shares the same DNA in terms of durable feel, great balance, and a modern, industrial look that appeals to me. I like the look of what I refer to as the “mixed metal” pens, combining an aluminum barrel with a titanium grip section. It makes for a durable, yet lightweight writing instrument.
Magnetic Closure. Brian also runs the “Strong Like Bull” magnet company, so of course the Spoke Pen was going to feature a magnetic cap closure. The cap closes firmly with very little play. Due to its strength, the magnet will attract little metal items on your desk like paper clips, etc., just be warned!
Grip. Though it’s part of the overall design of the pen, the grip on the Spoke Pen warrants separate mention. In my opinion, Spoke Design has perfected the grip of a machined metal pen. Rather than traditional knurling, the Spoke Pen, Spoke Pencil, and Baux Pen all use tightly spaced rings around the section. This sort of grip is quite comfortable to use over long periods of time, and doesn’t leave pressure marks on your fingers. The Ti Arto features a similar grip, but Spoke spaces the rings closer together, which I prefer.
Refill. The Signo UM-151 (“DX”) refill is one of the more popular fine-tip gel refills on the market, mainly because of the wide range of available colors and tip sizes. While my prototype came loaded with a black .5mm refill, I swapped that out for a .38mm red-black refill that I picked up at Kinokuniya in New York. I can’t say that the Signo DX is my all-time favorite gel refill, but it’s up there and does an excellent job. As I mentioned, the selection of colors is unparalleled.
I only spotted a couple of issues with the Spoke Pen, and it’s too early to say whether these are points that actually will end up bothering me over the long run, since this particular pen (1) is a prototype and (2) has only been in my hands for less than two weeks.
Posting. The Spoke Pen doesn’t post. Two years ago this would have been a deal-breaker for me, and I wouldn’t have backed the project, but I’ve recently expanded my horizons into some larger, non-posting fountain pens so it may end up not being an issue. Since this is a gel pen, I’ve been able to leave the pen uncapped on my desk while I’m using it without experiencing any skipping or drying out.
Anodized Finish. I’m withholding final comment on the finish, since this is a prototype, but I’ll note that there are a few spots of wear on the black clip, and places on the edges of the cap and around the “jewels” where the anodizing is already starting to wear away. With respect to the cap edges, that’s entirely predictable because you have a metal cap sliding onto a knurled metal section and there’s no real way to prevent it. Plus, it’s not noticeable when the cap is closed. Wear to the finish will eventually give the pen a “stonewashed” look, which you may or may not like depending on your personal preferences.
Takeaways and Where to Buy
Like all Spoke Design products, the Spoke Pen is well designed and well made. If you’re looking for a machined pen specifically designed to house your Signo DX refill, you may not have many choices out there, but you’ll be hard-pressed to do better than this one. I’ve personally gravitated to Spoke products over the past couple of years (Spoke Pencil/Baux Pens) due to the grip, which I find much more comfortable than other options on the market. I ended up backing the Kickstarter project for the “two pens” reward level, and will likely end up using these similar to how I use my Baux Pens: to house various colors and tip sizes of specific refills that I like to use for certain purposes.
Unfortunately, the Spoke Pen Kickstarter has now closed, so if you didn’t back you’ll have to wait until Brad and Brian finish project fulfillment and officially launch the project before getting your hands on one of these. In the meantime, if the design appeals to you and you’re a fan of mechanical pencils, you can purchase an excellent Spoke Pencil, which now comes available in Model 4 and Model 5.
Disclaimer: Spoke Design and Brad Dowdy provided me with this prototype pen for review purposes, free of charge. I was not otherwise compensated for this review, and have separately backed the Kickstarter project.