J and J Wood Designs Custom Pen
Custom pens are fun. They are a bit hard to review, though , because what are you reviewing? The material and design are transient things, changeable on each and every pen. What, then, do you base a judgement on?
When Jeff Johnson from J&J Woodworks reached out to me about doing a review and a giveaway for one his custom pens, I happily agreed. I like custom pens. Jeff is not like other pen makers I have reviewed in the past, who have a stock set of models from which you can start your customization. Each pen is meant to be a collaboration between the customer and the pen maker. So, in the case of this pen, that’s how the process went. I gave Jeff a material and a basic design direction, and off he went.
The design directions I gave Jeff can be used as a sort of guideline for how you might want to start a conversation about ordering your own custom pen, regardless of the pen maker. They are all things you might want to have at least a vague idea about before contacting him or her.
• I asked for Jeff to use the Copper Ore Lava (#30) Alumilite resin from Bear Tooth Woods as the basis for the pen.
• I wanted the pen to have a flat-topped design, and I gave Jeff the instructions “somewhat like the Delta Vintage, but larger.”
• I asked for a longer-than-usual section, concave, with the middle of the section measuring at between 11-12 mm
• I asked for the pen to be long enough to be used without posting.
The rest, I left up to him. (Normally, I would go more in-depth with my design requests, but as this was a review and giveaway pen, I wanted to let him have some latitude as well.) Jeff took my design directions and came up with a pen that both met and exceeded my expectations.
The resulting pen is a lovely creation. The cap is topped with a grey acrylic finial that is meant to capture some of the metallic sheen found in the Copper Ore resin. The cap’s clip is made of brass and attaches to the inside of the cap via a slot in the cap wall. The main body of the cap is made of my selected resin, and is terminated with a dual-material cap band of brass and the same metallic silver acrylic found on the finial.
The barrel of the pen is perfectly cylindrical and again features the Copper Ore resin, which I simply adore. The pen barrel is capped off by a small disc of black acrylic which is flawlessly inset into the barrel of the pen.
The cap requires 3.5 turns to remove from the barrel. As stated in previous reviews, I don’t love having that many rotations to get to the nibby goodness inside, but it’s an minor quibble. In any case, the threads are well-machined and quite smooth. Under the cap is perhaps my favorite part of the pen: the section. Per my request, Jeff made a long, concave section that is a real pleasure in the hand. Due to the extended section, I never even get close to the threads with my grip, which is one of my personal bugaboos. So, happily, I can’t tell you if the threads are sharp under my fingers or not!
The pen was made to accept standard Jowo nib units, and I requested mine with a silver-colored steel medium. It is a plain Jowo nib with no additional decoration or engraving. It writes wonderfully, with a consistent, moderate ink flow and a mild bit of pleasant feedback (a 3 on the MAFS). It’s not a flashy or attention-grabbing writing experience, but it is entirely consistent.
The pen is a cartridge/converter-filled pen, accepting standard international short and long sizes. The threads on the section’s tenon are quite tight, however, allowing the pen to be used as an eyedropper if you so wished.
The design and materials of this pen are lovely, of course, but what most impressed me was the quality of construction. Every join and connection are flush and flawless. Every surface is polished to a mirror shine, the tooling marks completely gone. This pen was made by someone who knows his craft and clearly takes pride in making quality products. Jeff took my design requests and synthesized every single one of them into a lovely pen that is also a lively writer.
Jeff’s custom pens start at $150 and go up from there, depending on the complexity and upgrades that you pick for your order. Based on the construction quality alone, I would consider $150 a real steal for a custom-made pen. At that price, he is competing directly with other, more established (and higher-volume) makers like Franklin-Christoph or Edison. (And, to be fair, in the case of Edison, that’s for a production line pen. A custom pen from Edison costs a whole lot more than $150!) Jeff will also occasionally place his own custom pen creations for auction on his Ebay store with no reserve. So, you may be able to pick up one of his original creations for a great price if you happen to catch one when it’s been listed.
J&J Woodworks doesn’t have a traditional website, unfortunately. (I personally believe that is the main reason Jeff’s work isn’t much more well-known in the community. A gallery of his past work, information on ordering, and a basic contact form would make a huge difference, I think.) He can be contacted through his Facebook page or via the http://penhabit.com/born-again-christian-dating-sites/ to which I have linked if you’re interested in working with Jeff on a custom pen for yourself.
Material: Copper Ore Alumilite
Nib: Steel #6 Steel Jowo Nib
Filling System: Standard International Cartridge/Converter, Eyedropper
Length (Capped): 136.2mm
Length (Uncapped): 128mm
Length (Posted): N/A
Section Diameter: 10.4mm
Barrel Max Diameter: 14mm
Cap Max Diameter: 15.3mm
Weight, Uncapped (with ink and/or converter): 13g
Weight, Capped (with ink and/or converter): 23g
This pen was provided free of charge for review purposes, and will be given away to Pen Habit viewers at the end of Season 3. No additional compensation was provided, and all opinions expressed herein are my own.