How I Write a Pen Review

Chris Bowler said it best in his Tools & Toys article, On Mindfullness and Quality "...quality items not only endure, but they also endear." I've had an unspoken set of rules for the items I choose to spend money on, and subsequently review. Chris accurately put into words the three things I had been using to determine whether I buy something, how much I use it, and what value it brings to my life. Those three rules: Efficacy, Longevity, Quality.

Efficacy is the capacity or power to produce a desired effect. This is probably the most direct way you can calculate an item's value to your life. Do you reach for this item every time because you know it's going to perform and get the job done exactly the way you want? It boils down to how good is this thing at being a thing?

Longevity is the simplest of these to understand. Is this item made to last? This can be measured a few ways. Materials play a big part in how long something can last. I'm pretty sure my aluminum Karas Kustoms pens are bombproof, and my Saddleback leather wallet will supposedly outlast my lifetime, so the fact that I won't have to spend money to replace because they've broken is a nice feeling.

Quality is probably the hardest thing to measure. You often know it when you see it, and you sure as hell know it when it isn't there. Quality is the feel when you hold it, or when you dig into how a product was designed and produced. Filson bags or Field Notes notebooks are on different ends of the spectrum, but pick each one up and you'll get a feel for what quality means.

Though not all quality goods possess the qualities of efficacy and longevity, it's in the overlap with one or both of those features that magic happens. Those are the products that are worth spending the most time and attention finding, and then spending your money on.

My pen reviews aren't really like a lot of others. You won't find me breaking down the weight and size of the barrel, the engraving on the nib, or the virtues of a cartridge or converter system. There are a lot of reviews from great bloggers like The Pen Addict or Ed Jelly that will help you determine whether or not you should buy a pen. Those are always the first place I go when deciding what my next pen purchase will be too.

Pen reviews for me are about how they fit into my life. With each pen, I'm looking at those three factors, efficacy, longevity, and quality. For the most part, the pens that I buy fill a particular need and there isn't a ton of overlap. I said it in my Vanishing Point review, pens are meant to be used. If I'm going to spend, more than $150 on a pen, I want to know that I'm going to use it, and not just on occasion.

I care about how smoothly a pen writes in a Rhodia, or if a pen can handle being carried in my pocket next to a Benchmade, or if the refills a pen takes can give me the finest blue black line imaginable in my Field Notes. Those are the things you will find in my pen reviews.

That's not to say I don't buy some pens for just plain fun. I collect various Lamy Safari and Al-Star pens because I love the colors they come in, and it's a blast to them with inks of a similar color from my growing collection. Plus, it's always nice to have a reliable pen when someone asks to try a fountain pen for the first time.

At the end of the day, how well a pen meets those three criteria determines how much it is going to be used and how much value it brings to me. The more value a pen brings, the more favorable the review, and the more often I write with it, because, isn't that what pens are for?