[EP] Allegory Pens & The Etch: A Review
I’ve previously written about my preference to write things daily – especially in longhand if I’m unable to write something on the computer. That focused on Field Notes Brand as being my preferred notebook of choice. But I’ve never written about what I like to write with, mainly because I’m in a constant state of flux about what I enjoy writing with the most. I’m always looking for nice things that help me enjoy and/or protect my favorite things, such as my writing journals.
Enter Allegory Pens. They reached out to me to see if I’d be interested in reviewing some of their products. After taking a quick look as to what they made – I was sold. I’m always interested in handcrafted and limited-edition things! Allegory Pens launched as a Kickstarter project to start up a small company dedicated to handcrafting reclaimed wood pens. The success of the first project naturally led to a second project to fund expansion of their lineup of pen styles. Each pen is literally handmade, and the wood is sourced from a variety of vendors for that specific pen. Limited-edition pens could use wood with historical connections, or from local connections.
Allegory Pens was kind enough to answer some of my specific questions about their pens:
- They do actively source materials locally (they’re based in Chicago) and there are plans for Chicago-related pens. I inquired as to if this would extend to using reclaimed metals if possible from a variety of places, such as the upcoming Wrigley Field renovation. They’d love to be able to do something like that – but need to be able to access and verify the materials.
- They work exclusively with vendors that deal in rare woods and whom rely on their reputation to stay in business on an ongoing basis – this was in response to my query regarding verification of the origin of the woods.
- For the limited edition and historical woods – they only source directly from the original owner or reputable vendors and also conduct their own research on the provenance of the wood. Only upon completion of all of these steps do they issue a certificate of authenticity (COA).
They’ve launched a third Kickstarter project, which launches more pen styles and adds on a small but notable product expansion – a handcrafted leather cover for your Moleskine Cahier notebook (or Field Notes Brand notebook – anything with these dimensions will fit this cover). This cover is called The Etch.
What sets The Etch apart is the brilliant inclusion of two slots in the back cover for you to fit in business cards or credit cards. It’s simple, but deceptively genius. I’ve seen other leather covers made for Moleskine notebooks, and have even purchased one in the past. None of those other leather covers live up to the Etch’s craftmanship and usability.
The Etch is the first product that Allegory plans to launch as part of an expansion into leather goods and products. I had a few further questions for them, which they’ve been happy to answer as well:
- Scout Books are a bit too small to fit in the Etch, but they’re happy to custom-craft a custom-sized Etch for your favorite notebook brand. No problem. They don’t have a formal partnership with Moleskine, but do have a distributorship relationship with them.
- They did release a special edition kangaroo leather pen wrap (numbered and signed) previously, prior to this third Kickstarter project.
- For returning Kickstarter backers (if you backed one of the first two projects), they’ll send you a leather pen pouch with your reward (I assume if it’s of a high enough tier). That’s a nice way to thank their continued supporters.
- They do have more leather products in the pipeline – some of the items I inquired about are ideas they’ve thrown around or done: leather cases, pen leather wrap, pen cases, checkbook covers with slots for pens, and other items.
After receiving a Twist pen (one of the new pen styles being funded by the new Kickstarter project) and an Etch cover – I naturally had more questions for Allegory – and their continued good cheer in answering my incessant questioning can only be described as infectious – they are truly a joy to correspond with:
- The Allegory logo has a small notch (an arrow) in the logo if you look closely. They confirmed my suspicion that it was a nod to the standard ‘recycle’ logo being combined with the infinity symbol. It’s a nod to the timelessness of the woods they choose for the pens and the long-lasting legacy they hope that the pens help their users create.
- The black triangular pen case is standard for all their pens. However, they do also sell upgraded wood boxes as well. All pens in their collection come with a informational card insert that tells the story of the woods used to create the pen, its care instructions, and instructions on how to change and buy more refills. (The samples – such as the Twist I received were sent out early to reviewers prior to the design being completed for the Twist insert).
- They do use the same laser engraver to engrave their pens and to cut and ‘etch’ the Etch leather covers. In short – they’re making the most out of that heroic machine!
- They still plan to sell pen refills one day on their website. The website is undergoing the final steps of a redesign and the accessories page and links are the last ones to be updated in their plan.
After all of that reading, I’ll bet you’re ready to see some photographs and an actual review of the two products I received from Allegory Pens. I’ll be providing brief commentary on each photograph whenever possible:
The standard pen case for all pens in the Allegory Pens lineup. It’s held together by a magnetic closure (nice touch!). Opening this up, I got my first glimpse at the Twist pen:
This pen is handcrafted exceptionally well, and as with all other handcrafted items utilizing wood – it has natural flaws and blemishes that make each and every pen unique. The Allegory Pens logo is engraved into each pen.
It’s truly a delight to hold and write with. The Twist takes a standard Parker twist refill. The top has a lot of weight to it, which makes it easy for me to write with – but some people may not like that weight distribution. The pen doesn’t have a very glossy (shiny) finish. It’s smooth and you can definitely feel the wood. But… that’s kind of the point.
The Etch is just a joy to fondle. It’s supple, limp, pliable, and just in general – all around nice. Definitely wish this was on the market a lot earlier, but it’s here. Fund the Kickstarter if you want your own copy. It even comes in three colors! The dye does give off that standard leather dye smell (freshly applied), but it’ll wear off in time. Lovely etching done here and the design is superb (The other color choices are black, a lighter brown, and this brown seen here). Here’s a close up of the etching:
The back cover – as you can see, it has two slots for business cards (or credit cards). This is perfect for me. I was always taking my pocket notebook everywhere with me, and the Etch doesn’t add that much to the thickness of the notebook, so I can still stuff this into my pocket with a pen and take off.
Another look at the back cover, without any business cards in it.
The Etch fits a Field Notes Brand notebook perfectly, as can be seen by our ‘Day Game’ model above and below:
The Etch as seen without a notebook in it – the inner is covered in a
microfiber fabric [17-Jun-2013] My apologies to Allegory Pens, the Etch is lined with 10 oz organic canvas (I truly regret the error).
The Etch also fits the Moleskine Cahier perfectly as well (see below):
It’s really the perfect leather cover for my pocket notebooks – I went ahead and wrote a review in the Cahier using the Twist pen (click on the picture below to enlarge):
‘The Twist writes smooth and has a nice weight to it.
But, what really shines is the new Etch from Allegory. It fits Moleskine Cahiers perfectly and Field Notes brand notebooks as well.
Scout Books notebooks won’t fit as well, but Allegory would be happy to hand-craft a custom Etch for you.
The Etch is pliable, soft, and is pretty much what I’ve been wanting to dress up my notebooks in. The best part is the business card holders built-in!
And here’s a look at one of the other leather covers I’ve purchased for some of my other Moleskine notebooks. It’s not designed for the Cahier line, but rather, for the hardcover line. Made of calf leather, it was stiff and wasn’t what I was expecting:
The selling point was that I was able to get a photograph laser-engraved into the front cover to present it as a present, but it’s not seen very much use since it was gifted:
As way of a comparison to the Allegory Pens – here’s a Field Notes Space Pen (my previous favorite pen to write with – which has been displaced by the Allegory Twist):
The Allegory Twist pen handily outclasses the two Field Notes brand pens (although I love them all):
One last note – the Allegory Twist is so well made that it’s easy to take apart (unscrew), grab a refill and plop that into the pen, screw the two halves back together, and it’s good as new. Doesn’t even impede or screw (pun intended) with the twisting action. I’m really floored by how well made this pen is, and it can only get better if you’re able to get your hands onto a limited edition pen with a historical appeal to your tastes. They also make fountain pens and other styles as well. The Twist is far from the only pen Allegory produces, but even if it was, it’s still more than enough to keep any company afloat with how well it’s made:
* – Editor note: I was not compensated for this review – but I was sent a free Etch leather cover and Twist pen to review for this blog. This did not affect my review, nor did I promise a positive review. But I do recommend that you support Allegory’s Kickstarter project for the Etch, or purchase other items from them directly.
** – You can also track the Kickstarter progress via Kicktraq.