Along with 5 other members of the FPN ‘fraternity’, I was sent a complimentary prototype of the Blackstone Axiom – a new pen design from the JustWrite Pen Company based in Queensland, Australia. It’s taken me a few months to get around to this review – mostly because of the ‘busyness’ produced by moving house in the lead up to the Christmas-New Year season – but the upside of this is that I’ve had quite a bit of time with this pen – and I have to say up-front, my appreciation for the pen has only grown in the time I’ve been using it. There are a couple of issues I think Kevin and the JustWrite crew may want to give attention to (remembering this is an advanced prototype, but not necessarily the final product), but on the whole I’d call myself a fan of this pen.
In the interests of full disclosure, this is not the first pen I’ve received from JustWrite, in return for an impartial review – you can search FPN for the others if you wish – and I received a much earlier (much uglier!) prototype of this pen, some months ago now, before most of the development work had gone into it..
I won’t be ‘scoring’ the pen out of 10 – I’ll save that for the final product – but will do my best to outline what I find appealing about the pen, and any design improvements I think the pen would benefit from.
1. Appearance & Design
As @mehandiratta pointed out in his recent review (http://www.fountainpennetwork.com/forum/topic/302314-pen-review-blackstone-axiom/), the Axiom was not designed completely from scratch: the finial, cap ring, barrel ‘blind cap’, grip section and clip all bear a striking resemblance to the Churchill Fountain Pen Kits available from www.beartoothwoods.com. Having seen an earlier prototype, though, I can tell you that a lot of thought and care has gone into the construction of the pen, appropriate selection and incorporation of materials for the barrel and cap, and finding the best nib option.
The version of the pen I received came with silver-coloured ‘furniture’ and a carbon fibre finish. The ‘kit pen’ elements of the pen – that is, the black domed finial and the ‘blind cap’ – neither excite nor repel me. They’re quite functional, and appear to be made of solid brass, so I expect they’ll also be durable. I’d probably prefer a little less silver (three rings around the blind cap is one or two rings too many, in my view!), but that’s only a minor quibble. Apart from the curved endings, the pen is pretty straight up and down – with a slight ‘step up’ from the barrel to the cap.
What I really love about this pen is the carbon fibre weave that covers and encases the barrel and cap. It’s dark and reflective at the same time, and has a kind of three-dimensional look to it (though it’s perfectly smooth to the touch). I could stare at the finish all day, if I didn’t have other things to do (like work, for example, and spending time with my family…).
2. Construction & Quality
The Axiom is well-constructed from good quality materials. Not only the finial and blind cap but also the inner tube for the barrel and cap are made of solid brass, giving the pen a real heft (see below for weights and measures!), not to mention the feeling of durability. In the nearly 3 months I’ve had this pen in my possession, it hasn’t picked up any appreciable bumps or scratches (except perhaps on the silver-coloured clip and rings?). The cap screws on to the barrel behind the grip section – if you prefer to hold your pen further back, neither the threads nor the slight step up to the barrel should cause you any difficulty.
The grip section is made of plastic, but beautifully moulded – functionally, it’s one of the things I like most about the pen, as it enables me to grip it securely and with real comfort. The clip is slightly springy, but holds securely in my pocket – and I found the shape appealing.
My only gripes in terms of the construction (and these are minor) are that the chrome finish seems a little less durable than the rest of the pen, and that there was a bit of glue visible (purely cosmetic) where the threads for the blind cap have been glued in to the end of the barrel. Again, this is a prototype, and I’d expect that these minor blemishes will be dealt with in the final product. I’m also not sure whether I’d prefer to be able to completely disassemble the pen, or whether I’d prefer the finial and blind cap to be glued together. The tinkerer in me likes being able to pull my pens apart – but there’s always a risk of not being able to put them back together properly!
3. Weight & Dimensions
There’s no doubt about it, this is a fairly substantial pen – especially in terms of its weight. The capped length of the pen is 140 mm; uncapped it’s around 120mm, and posted it’s around 160mm. I had no trouble posting my pen securely (I think DCWaites had some difficulty with this), but I normally wouldn’t bother – it makes the pen long and unwieldly, and it’s already a little too heavily weighted towards the back. The pen cap has a consistent diameter along its length of 15mm, compared with 13.5mm for the barrel. The hourglass shaped grip section is ~10mm at its narrowest, and ~11mm at either end. Its shape encourages the user to hold it at the narrowest point, and with a #6 nib I find that very comfortable.
[From top to bottom: Diplomat Excellence A, Blackstone Axiom, Jinhao 159]
In terms of weight, I appear to have lost my scaled, but the official figures from Kevin are as follows: weight capped = 50g; weight uncapped = 30g; from memory (when I weighed them previously) that’s about right.
The Axiom came fitted with a ruthenium-coated stainless steel #6 JoWo nib – with a second (1.1mm stub) nib thrown in for good measure. Apart from their size designation and some scrollwork near the tip, the nibs are unmarked. I’d never seen a ruthenium-coated nib before – I found the dark (but not black) coating very appealing. My experience with the B nib was absolutely glorious – one of the smoothest nibs I’ve ever written with, producing a generous flow of ink. The 1.1mm stub nib offered a little more feedback than I’d expected, but otherwise also performed extremely well. The nib and feed are friction fit into the grip section, making them easy to swap in and out – but the spare nib came as a ‘nib assembly’, including nib, feed and grip section, and I believe this is how Kevin intends to sell replacements when the pen is released. My only concern here was that in swapping over nibs, the ring that sits between the grip section and the barrel threads needs to be swapped over too – I think I’d be happier if each grip section came with its own ring.
I made the decision fairly early on to ink this pen up with J. Herbin 1670 Emerald of Chivor – an ink that contains gold particles, and doesn’t flow so well in some of my other pens. The pen handled this with ease. If left unused for more than a few days, I had the occasional hard start – but again, I’d blame that on the ink rather than the nib. I had no difficulties at all when I first inked the pen up with Blackstone Sydney Harbour Blue!
Other reviewers have noted that the pen is somewhat back-weighted, even when uncapped. I found this a bit disconcerting at first – and it’s still probably my main criticism of the pen – bearing in mind that it’s not a light pen, so that the ‘imbalance’ was a little off-putting at first. Removing the brass finial made a bit of a difference – the pen’s centre of gravity shifted from 2/3 towards the end of the pen barrel, to about halfway along – but it was still noticeably back-weighted. I suspect that the threads that are glued into the back of the barrel (into which the blind cap screws) are the other part of the equation – and the relatively lighter weight of the plastic grip section.
All of that said, I have to admit, after 3 months I no longer notice the back-heaviness of the pen – I just enjoy the experience of writing with it, especially with the B nib!
The Axiom will take standard international cartridges (short or long, I think!) – the supplied cartridge converter was nice enough (plastic and metal construction), and worked for me with no hassles. Maintenance with this pen is very straightforward – as mentioned above, it’s pretty easy to pull apart and put back together.
I’m not sure that the final price for this pen has yet been determined – but assuming a retail value of AU$100 / US$73ish, I’d say the value for money is pretty reasonable, especially given the quality of the materials that have gone into the manufacture of the pen, and the magnificent JoWo nib.
Aesthetically, this pen is going to appeal to some people and not to others – and likewise the weight. I’m quite happy to wield a heavier pen (I have quite a growing assortment of heavy Chinese pens, and the Karas Kustoms INK is up there too), but I know some pen users prefer to stick to pens made from ‘precious resin’ and/or cheap plastic. I’m really happy with this pen, though, and it’s spent the last 3 months inked up and ready to go.
I’d like to see the back-weighting issue addressed if possible – I’m not sure whether that’s straightforward, or a massive headache – but apart from that, I’m pretty impressed with the Axiom. Congratulations to Kevin and the JustWrite team – here’s hoping the final product is ready to go soon!