After several years of engineering school, I started to develop a passion for product design. I challenged myself to design an everyday object that I would be able to fabricate myself, embarking on a mission to design a pen to be carried with me every day.
Update: Recently, the project took a different form when I decided to do a manufacturing run of these pens. The project went from design and fabrication to a mission to keep this project local in Massachusetts, keep the footprint low and to take it to market. Check out the Kickstarter here.
Pens can be purchased at Ball and Buck, online or in store! Pens can also be purchased directly with the link below.
The way the project originated was through brainstorming on what I use over the course of the day in attempt to improve on an object with which I frequently interact. I found variability in my choice of writing implement; sometimes pencils, sometimes pens, but often cheap throwaways that were in no way the long lasting meaningful object they could potentially be.
I strived to design the pen to be simple, unobtrusive in the pocket, aesthetically pleasing, and reliable. I wanted a pen that would wear in with the user and not wear out and be thrown away, a pen that would outlast its owner and could be passed on to the next. I started to imagine what I wanted in pen and studied people and the relationships that they had with their pens; some people like only one specific pen, others didn’t care, some people carried one, some carried many. I constructed a series of prototypes and forms and had people hold them, studying their interactions with the models.
With all this in mind, I started designing a compact pen around a specific, reliable cartridge that I enjoyed writing with. I wanted the pen to be as small as possible when closed and normal writing size when in use. I also wanted it to be fully sealed to prevent it opening in the pocket. With these specifications in mind, I started to optimize my model for manufacturability and limit the amount of parts needed in fabrication. No springs, clips, attachments or unnecessary pieces. Nothing I couldn’t make at home on my Lathe, nothing that required additional steps besides the simple turning. I came up with the idea of making a two part pen with a set screw to eliminate the need to design around a third part of a pen, like many common production pens. I came up with a first design, turned it on my lathe in Baltimore and over the next 5 months iterated through details and the original forms to come up with the design I currently carry every day.
Production Update: The production version of this pen are slightly different with an uncommon wide angle at the tip of the pen, an angle that I believe does away from the remnants of pen design present from the shape and feel of a pencil, which must have a longer point due to the sharpening process. This wide angle also enables a longer point of contact on the front end of the pen and allows the proportions of the pen to be adjusted so that the cap and the body are an even 1:1 ratio. Stay tuned!
These pens were designed around fabrication methods I knew I could handle manually on my own lathe. Though many things can be done to the pen to perhaps add features, the pen was originally designed to be manufactured by me in the simplest of forms. These parts were all turned by hand in Baltimore on my Lathe. At first I was drilling the pens out from the back, but realized quickly that the hole would turn out crooked at the tip. The next pens were turned in a reverse operation with the drilling of the tip first and point of the pen tapered toward the tailstock. This process modification eliminated the issue.
After several iterations, I decided to leave the knurl off, as some people thought that it was too abrasive on their hands and felt like too much of a tool. Without the knurl I was left without a distinguishing mark so I decided to add 3 fine bands on the end and do without the knurl all together.
Production Update: Though it would be easy to add to the functionality on a production scale, the pen I enjoy is the simple pen I turned on my lathe. The production pens are being turned in Massachusetts with the same manufacturing ideology that was used to create my first pens. This process, without frills, is the pen that I want to share with the world. Hope you like it!