Penaphernalia: NockCo Pen Cases
A special thank you to NockCo, who provided the cases today free of charge. All opinions expressed herein are my own.
When it comes to the whole fountain pen hobby, I’m mostly into the pens themselves. I love myself some ink, too, and I can nerd out a bit around paper. But I don’t get into my accessories (or penaphernalia, as I call it) too much. When it comes to pen cases, in particular, I use what I have until I outgrow it or happen to stumble across something that fits my needs a bit better. But I don’t go out of my way to find special cases or trinkets for my pens. So, when Brad and Jeff of NockCo passed along a couple of cases to me at the 2015 DC Show, I hadn’t really been looking for any pen cases to replace my Aston Leather 10-pen case or my Franklin-Christoph 3-Pen Penvelope, which had been serving me well.
NockCo is Georgia, based company founded in 2013 by Brad Dowdy and Jeff Bruckwicki. Their cases are made of nylon pack cloth: the same kind of material you would see a nice backpack made from. (The material on my cases reminded me of the Jansport™ Backpacks I used all through Jr. High and High School to carry my stuff.) NockCo has a variety of cases in different sizes with different capacities, including cases for Field Notes and pens together. Their case are well-respected in the community, as are the founders. Plus, NockCo has a rabid fan base of people who wait with bated breath for new colors or new case designs, so I was excited to get a chance to play with these cases.
The guys from NockCo passed along two cases to me at the show: The 3-Pen Lookout Case ($20) and the 6+-Pen Brasstown ($35.)
Overall Build Quality
These two cases are the only NockCo cases I’ve ever owned, but based on these two cases, I would have absolutely no qualms recommending NockCo products based solely on the build quality. The tailoring on these cases is flawless to my (admittedly untrained) eye. The stitching is strong and completely consistent. The hems are perfectly even. There are no loose threads or sloppy seams anywhere. These cases are clearly built by a master craftsman who takes pride in building a high-quality product.
In addition to having a very high-quality build to their products, NockCo cases move away from the more traditional leather and velvet-style pen cases into a look that is more modern, and significantly less formal. The nylon material of the cases allows for a wide range of colors, and NockCo certainly takes advantage of that range of colors. Most of their cases utilize high contrast color schemes in bright, super-saturated colors. Green and yellow, pink and powder blue, candy apple red with royal blue. In addition to the bright cases, there are a few more understated options, and some with understated exteriors but a bright interior (like in my Lookout case.)
One of the reasons I had never purchased a NockCo case before was that I was concerned about the material of the case leaving micro-scratches on the surfaces of my pens—especially those surfaces that are more delicate, like vintage celluloids or urushi lacquer. I asked Brad about that a bit, and he said they’ve never had an issues with their cases scratching pens. And, after seven months of use, neither have I.
The Brasstown case is a combination pen case and pen roll. The zippered case opens up to reveal an internally-attached pen roll, capable of holding six pens. The roll’s pen slots are reinforced at the edges to prevent the stitching coming undone from repeated insertions and removals of pens from the case. They are also wide enough to hold even the largest pens. (I have a Gama Supreme that is about the size of a cow’s leg bone that fits.) My Montblanc 149, Classic Pens LB5, Pelikan M1000, and Homo Sapiens Bronze Age all fit quite nicely, with a bit of room to spare.
One of the other nice things about the design of the Brasstown is that, aside from the pen roll inside the zippered case, there is a lot of room to store extra things. You can throw keys, change, a bunch of other pens and pencils. So, if you want to carry more than six pens around, and you don’t mind if a couple of them aren’t sequestered in their own sleeve, this case could be a really great option for you.
I used this case for a few weeks to carry my pens back and forth to work, which is what I usually use my pen cases/sleeves for. In that capacity, I didn’t love using the Brasstown. It’s a wonderful case, but it doesn’t quite fit with the way I use my pens. I didn’t like having to roll and unroll/zip and unzip every time I wanted a single pen. I found I was leaving the case unrolled and open on my desk all day long, which could be really dangerous if my coworkers didn’t already know their lives would be forfeit if they touch any of my pens. I found that, with this case, I was less likely to bring the case and my pens with me to meetings, because I didn’t to distract people by the production number of opening the case, unrolling the roll, selecting a pen, and closing it all back up again. In the end, as much as I liked the Brasstown case, and I really did, it wasn’t quite functional for the way I use my pens.
The Lookout, on the other hand, was a completely different story. This is a compact 3-pen case uses a flap tucked into an incorporated fabric loop to keep the pens protected. The loop portion of the case is very sturdy and allows for easy and quick access to the pens inside. On my case, the exterior grey color is nondescript enough that it doesn’t draw attention to the case itself; it rather disappears on the desk, in fact. The interior, though, is a bright orange color that is really only visible when the flap is open. For someone who likes bright colors, I find the interior color nice without having to worry about drawing unwanted attention to my expensive pens.
The case’s three pen slots are also large enough for big pens. I appreciate that Brad and Jeff took we big pen lovers into account when making the case. So many of my pen cases don’t fit the oversized pens. I will say that, on the Lookout case, the middle slot is just a bit wider than the outer two slots, and some of my larger pens start to get a little snug in the outside slots.
If I had any complaints about the Lookout case, it’s that the corners of the case feel a just a little bit schlumpy to me. I would like to have slightly sharper corners on my case. But I’m more than willing to give those up for the additional bit of padding that appears to be incorporated in between the layers of materials for the Lookout.
When all is said and done, The Lookout has become my new daily carry case. Three pens is a perfect number to carry with me every day: enough for some variety, but not so many that I would want to commit seppuku if I lost it. It is slim enough to fit nicely in my laptop bag, yet still provides enough protection for my pens. It holds large pens nicely and smaller pens securely. It’s well made. And, at $20, I consider it a great bargain.
Overall, I am duly impressed with the quality of these NockCo pen cases. They’re expertly built, really functional, attractive, and a bit more contemporary than the traditional pen cases you see on most pen manufacturers’ sites. Considering that the Lookout is my new daily carry case, I think the folks at NockCo have really done a great job here.