I had always wanted a Bamboo/Sugarcane shaped pen and had stocked up on materials that represent the colour of green and ripened sugarcane material. When fellow FPNer Sanjay Ramaswamy (@Sanjay13leo) got to know of my desire, he proactively reached out to Mr.Kandan of Ranga Pens to commission two pens – one for each of us. I had never dealt with Mr. Kandan before while Sanjay already had their standard bamboo pen. A big thank you to him for having made this pen possible.
The design of the pen is supposed to mimic a small section of the sugarcane stem. Sugarcane belongs to the grass family Poaceae that also includes bamboo in its lineage. Like Bamboo, sugarcane grows as long, then stems with nodes at regular intervals. The inter-nodal regions of the stem are slightly convex with smooth undulations. In real life, these are stout jointed fibrous stalks that are rich in the sugar sucrose, which accumulates in the stalk internodes.
The body of the pen is around 145mm long and mimics two nodes and the stalk area between and around them. One of the nodes is near the top of the cap representing the end finial and the other one in the barrel. The two end finials are characterized by two small holes shaped like simple annular cylinders that represent the hollow stalk between the nodes. All in all, the shape is exactly like a small piece of susutake.
As the images will stand testament to, Ranga has managed to deliver exactly what was being sought. This is especially commendable given the blank we had used for getting the ripe sugarcane colour is especially difficult to work on since it is not meant for kitless pens. Ranga however had persevered and despite much pain, managed to deliver a work of art that accurately represents the design brief.
Size and Balance
At 144.5mm capped, this is a regular sized pen. Had it not been for the absence of a clip, it would have fit in squarely into the definition of an EDC (Every Day Carry) pen. There is no metal used anywhere except for the nib and that makes this an incredibly light and comfortable pen to use for extended periods. The weight distribution, the slim section design and the light weight of the polyester briar material all contribute to the comfort. I was initially concerned that the faux node design on the barrel may impact the writing experience, but in real life usage such apprehensions have been soundly negated because the diameter of the barrel even at the thickest point in the node is only 14mm and the smooth undulations don’t even let you feel its presence.
Based on my request, Ranga got the pen ready to accept WIN/Jowo #6 nib units. I decided to put on a Dual Tone EF nib unit from WIN/Jowo paired with a Schmidt K5 convertor. The nib was sourced from Mr. Subramaniam of ASApens.in .
It’s a plain vanilla cartridge-convertor system that accepts standard international cartridges and compatible convertors. While it may be vanilla, it remains my favourite flavour for providing the best proposition around value, system longevity, convenience and widespread compatibility.
To summarize, this pen has impeccable build quality all around with one major flaw or oversight. The seams are well aligned, the threads are smooth and the finish is superlative. The polish on this pen is astounding and beats all expectations. The attention to detail all around is impressive except for the two cylindrical holes at the two ends which have not been polished properly. They still show lathe marks and are an eyesore in an otherwise fabulously finished pen.
I am normally not an EF nib user. I prefer Medium nibs for the smoothness and larger sweet spot they typically offer. So I may not be the best person to judge an EF nib. I did however find the nib on this pen rather smooth and comfortable to use so long as you use it within its sweet spot. I did in fact like it better than the Hero 100 fine nib or Schmidt fine nib.
For the inaugural use, I had loaded the pen with Sheaffer brown ink. Though it doesn’t have the reputation of being a wet ink or a shading ink, I did notice some element of shading in my writings with this nib. So that tells me that it is a fairly wet nib for an EF and that makes me a happy camper. While I won’t become an EF user because of this one time experience, I would not mind using and recommending this nib to others who prefer F / EF nibs.
Price and Value
The Sugarcane is not yet a standard model for Ranga and there is no standard price for it. The pen was made by Mr. Kandan as a one off special request from Sanjay and myself. The remuneration they took is modest and equivalent to the cost of any of their standard pens. Nib and blanks were sourced by me on my own and costs for these were obviously extra. Overall, I find this great value because not many pen makers sell custom pens at regular pen prices.
Please find below the measurements of the pen made using non precision instruments and approach. Given that these are handmade pens and there are small piece to piece variations anyway, the measurements should give you a fair enough indication of what to expect from the pen.
Length (capped) – 144.5 mm
Length (uncapped) – 137 mm
Length (cap) – 61.5 mm
Length (section) – 20 mm
Maximum width (Cap) – 14 mm
Minimum width (Barrel) – 11.5 mm
Maximum section width – 9 mm
Minimum section width – 7.5 mm
To draw a conclusion with regards to this pen is a bit tricky. If I were to look at the pen dispassionately and judge it by its merits and aesthetics alone, the pen looks superb and a definite buy. Ranga has clearly delivered and has created a masterpiece. However, I cannot help but acknowledge the fact that the design is not very different from Ken Carver’s Bamboo design. Once you realise that, then it makes more sense to opt for the original rather than go through the pains of making a custom pen which is not very different from a pre-existing model.
There is one final point I wanted to make before I sign off. The material used for this pen is is a new type of poly-resin called Polyester Briar. This was a fairly new type of material for Ranga who did indeed find this a tad tricky material to use especially when using their traditional tools and methods. This was validated by two other independent pen-makers as well. Given these challenges, it’s doubly commendable on behalf of Ranga to have produced such a stunningly beautiful instrument with such a material. I do applaud them for that.