Wednesday, January 11, 2023

Newest Acquisitions (Virtual "Show & Tell") ~ part 450

In a blog post from last week (where I reviewed a pen made by Analog Notes), I alluded to some pens made by another small pen maker and how I'd do a review of them this week. Without further ado, here they are -- three fountain pens handmade by Mike Allen of the Woodshed Pen Co. in Charleston, South Carolina!

(photos by Maja ~ please click on images to enlarge)

According to his Kickstarter biography, Mike is a U.S. Air Force veteran who resigned from his job (as a 911 operator, it turns out) in January 2017 to pursue a career in penmaking. He made lots of great fountain pens (and made some of his own resins, too) but, sadly, stopped making fountain pens in the summer of 2022. Mike said it was due to rising costs but that he was planning to switch to making rollerballs (which were cheaper to produce). Unfortunately, he wound up completely shutting down his Woodshed Pen Company a few months later. 

The fountain pens that he did make in those five short years are getting harder to find (especially for a decent price), so I was fortunate to snag these three. I bought the sparkly lime green translucent one (in the green "Shimmer" resin) from Peyton Street Pens for $85 USD, I got the blue one with red flecks --an "Italian resin"-- directly from Mike for $75 USD in his clearance sale, and I got the orange and black pen (in the "Hallowe'en Nights" resin) from an eBayer (it had a $100 USD Buy-It-Now price, but the seller accepted my $85 USD offer ;)

(The fountain pens don't have model names as Mike basically made the same model for all of his kitless acrylic pens)

The green "Shimmer" pen was part of Mike's 2021 Kickstarter campaign to raise funds for a CNC lathe (computer-controlled lathe), and was one of eight different colour choices. According to this 'Figboot on Pens' review, the beautiful shimmery resins were made by Mike himself. It's a wonderful material with the sparkles actually embedded in the resin, not applied afterwards. Mike wound up raising enough money via Kickstarter to buy the CNC lathe and he produced a lot of "Shimmer" pens on it, but some (very recent) Reddit posts indicated that some backers were still waiting for their 2021 Kickstarter pens :/ 

I suspect the blue acrylic pen with red flecks was made after Mike bought the CNC lathe as it was sold without a nib/feed/nib collar when he was clearing out his remaining inventory in the summer of 2022. The acrylic was described by him as "an Italian acrylic"; I don't know if the material has an official name ---almost all custom blanks do--- but that's what it was called on the Woodshed website and on his Instagram account.

Length of capped pen: 12.8  cm / 5 inches
Length of uncapped pen (nib tip to barrel end): 12.4 cm/ 4.9 inches
Grip section, max diameter: approx. 12 mm

(* = these are the dimensions of the green "Shimmer" pen; the blue/red Italian acrylic is about 1-2 mm shorter capped and uncapped, but has the same max. section diameter)

The pens weigh 15 grams (blue/red Italian resin) and 18 grams (green "Shimmer) when empty, with no converter in place (both pens take either cartridges and/or full-sized international converters) 

A pen mystery... 🕵️

The "Hallowe'en Nights"(orange & black) pen is slightly longer than the other two pens, it tapers towards the barrel end, and it has rounded ends. That puzzled me as I'd heard that all of the kitless Woodshed fountain pens were the same size and shape. Like many small pen makers, the Woodshed Pen Co. didn't put their company name on their pens, so I was a tiny bit concerned that mine wasn't made by Mike. I wanted to check Woodshed's archive of sold pens, but Mike had already shut down his Woodshed Pen Co. website. I then went to check his official Instagram, but he'd taken all the photos off of that account. Oh boy. 

I did some more digging online and found photos of the first Woodshed Pen Co. fountain pen (2017) Kickstarter campaign , and saw that the pens had rounded ends. I then found a Pen Addict review about the early Woodshed Pen Co. fountain pens and how they differed from the later ones --- from that review: "My second, and newest Woodshed Pen, does have a slightly different body shape than my original Kickstarter model. The overall length is shorter by about 1/4”, and there is no taper towards the ends." I did more digging and found another review showing the less-flared section on an earlier Woodshed pen. I now definitely think my "Hallowe'en Nights" fountain pen is an earlier Woodshed Pen Co. pen.

Dimensions of my "Hallowe'en Nights" pen:
Capped: 13.3 cm 
Uncapped: 12. 8 cm.
Grip section, max diameter: approx. 12 mm
Total weight (with no converter in place): 18.3 grams

Pen takes either cartridges and/or a full-sized international converter

I love writing with my three Woodshed pens --- they're short, but they're chunky and beautiful ...and they feel really good in the hand (even though they can't be posted). In his review, Brad Dowdy (The Pen Addict) suggested that the pens were so comfortable to use because of their long sections ... and I agree. The pens are also very well-made, with nicely-turned cap threads, highly-polished surfaces and smooth edges--- excellent fit and finish throughout.

Another thing I love about them is that their barrels are thick; according to one online reviewer, this is because penmaker Mike didn’t want the pens to break if they were accidentally dropped (which is a great idea, actually). Despite the thickness of the material, the pens are still light, and can be used for long periods of time without developing hand fatigue. As far as I know, all of the kitless acrylic Woodshed fountain pens were made without clips; this doesn't bother me (I actually prefer smaller pens to be clipless), but it may or may not be a deal-breaker for you.

Another awesome thing---all of the resin Woodshed pens take #6 size JoWo nibs! 

I don't have anything against small fountain pens with #5 nibs --I love my Franklin-Christoph '45'--- but it's so nice to see a full-sized nib on a really great smaller pen :)  Funnily, none of my three Woodshed pens currently have their original nibs on them --- the lime green "Shimmer" model was bought second-hand and came with a replacement black Franklin-Christoph B steel nib (that I subsequently put into another pen with a darker body), the middle pen was purchased (on clearance from Woodshed) without a nib unit, and the "Hallowe'en Nights" pen came with a silver-coloured F steel JoWo nib (which I swapped out for a gold-coloured JoWo M nib from my Analog Notes 'Maxwell' pen).

I'm sad that production of these wonderful pens ceased last year, but I'm so glad I jumped on the bandwagon in time to acquire mine for (what I think are) very reasonable prices. You can be sure I'll keep an eagle eye out for more Woodshed Pen Co. pens being sold! 

Thanks for reading this review, and my apologies for quality of the photos--I wanted to photograph the pens in natural light, but it's been cloudy/rainy for the last few days. Don't forget that we have a pen club meeting on Thursday (January 12th) at the Kitsilano VPL branch -- see the info in red at the very top of our homepage.

(~Review by Maja~)

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