I've used fountain pens for years now but didn't get "the bug" until the beginning of this year when I found this dangerous-for-my-wallet site. I started exploring and lurking heavily and discovered the world of custom pens. I read about the pens Shawn Newton was making, found about his scholarships and all those other factors that made him the right person to attempt to produce the idea I had at the time.
There's a few things that I wanted in a pen:
One was no clip, my pens always travel in a case and I never clip them or carry them in my pocket. Because the pen didn't have a clip I decided on the flat so the the pen wouldn't roll off the table when resting.
The second one was that as a norm I find the traditional cigar shape boring. Don't get me wrong most of my pens have that shape and they're ok but I wanted something completely different to that standard.
The third was that I thoroughly enjoyed the matte look of ebonite after I saw a Ken Cavers bamboo pen.
The fourth thing I decided was that the pen wouldn't post. I prefer long pens that don't require posting because I've usually found that the balance changes for the worse when posting.
So with those specs in mind I started drawing what I wanted in Illlustrator.
The first idea I sent Shawn to see if it was even possible was this:
Shawn seemed amenable to the challenge, he said that he had never done a straight cylinder and he would have to figure out a way to make the flat facet which he had never done before either. He quoted me a price and told me there was time to make revisions to the pen before placing the order. I thought about other materials for the end caps, other colors of acrylic, etc. But the more I looked at it the more I wanted to something even stealthier.
So I revised it to this:
I called it the Shinobi, which is the japanese word for Ninja because it's stealthy but it ends in a bloody surprise. I also elongated the body and the proportions so it would fit well in hand. I placed the order in February but Shawn is highly in demand. By the time my number came up he had received a new metal lathe and this was one of the first pens that came out of that lathe. His communications at this point got very detailed which was awesome because I could see progress and make slight adjustments. His first attempt had a more translucent red acrylic and although it wasn't ideal I was ok with it but then his threads for that one were a bit tight and in fixing them he ruined the cap so he asked me if there was anything I would like different so I chose a more vibrant "ferrari" red acrylic and after a week for the acrylic to arrive he started on a second pen which was almost done but the dremel ate through the pen on the flat. D'oh! Third time was the charm and he let me know the pen was done and sent me photos to show me. So here goes:
This is exactly what I had in mind so obviously I can't complain, it's after all the exact shape and size I asked for when I first designed the pen. The pen came well wrapped in a large USPS box. He included a lovely grey and black wrap his wife made for it that works beautifully with the pen. If you want to see the wrap he has a photo of them here. The bonus was that he sent me one of the destroyed models and his working sheet with dimensions, little sketches, measurements and details. It gave me an idea of the process and made me feel a part of it.
The pen is a cylinder with a flat bottom in matte ebonite. It's extremely understated except for the thin red line where the cap meets the body. Very stealthy and smooth. Matte ebonite has a distinct, very organic and warm feel in the hand. New ebonite smells of brimstone and eggs, the smell will dissipate in a couple of week I'm told but phew! The cap takes two and a quarter turns to unscrew, quad threads would have been incredibly difficult in this pen to make the cap and the body match the facet which this one does perfectly. If it wasn't for the red line I have feeling the two parts would blend into each other seamlessly. That's the kind of precision with which he manufactured the pen. So kudos for Shawn for that as well as for the sharpness of the ends and the facet. They're all very precise and all the surfaces on the pen are smooth.
The pen uncaps to a vibrant red section.
The flat rests on the web between my index and thumb finger and holding it by the section or the threads are both comfortable since the pen is long enough for either. It's a light pen since there are no metal parts except for the nib. Shawn uses the same nib units that Edison, Franklin Christop and others use. This one is vested with a steel nib in fine with the letters "NP" on it. It is perfectly dependable with no skipping or flow issues, it produces a fine smooth western line. I have a few other units including a gold medium from FC and changing the nibs units is very easy so I have multiple grades to choose from now on.
Detail of flat and section:
From left to right MB149, Lamy 2000, Omas and Shinobi.
As you can see it's a very large pen with a hefty circumference. Perfect for my hand.
I hope you enjoyed my unorthodox review for an unorthodox pen. If you've ever considered having a custom pen done I recommend Shawn, he was very easy to work with and his craftsmanship is excellent. I would also recommend that you get bold with your designs the worse a pen turner can say is no.