Spoke Pen Review

My Spoke Pen Orange Crush arrived a week ago, and I’ve been using it exclusively for journaling and meeting notes since then. How do I love thee? Let me count the ways…

First comes the colour, because there’s just absolutely no way to ignore it. It’s nothing like I would have expected orange pen to be: it’s like an amalgamation of gold and bronze with a dash of copper. This is a rich and SHINY finish that sparkles and glows. You cannot ignore it, the very opposite of subtle, and yet it isn’t gaudy and doesn’t look cheap. Orange isn’t a colour that I’m overly fond of, but I’m glad that I picked it out for this pen: it’s perfect.

The second thing you notice about this pen is the weight. It’s super light, though it appears to be a solid and heavy looking pen. It shouldn’t have surprised me, as it’s made of aluminum, but the Spoke Pen still looks like it a heavy pen because there appears to be so much metal in use in it that it seems impossible for it to be so light. The first time I picked it up it really surprised me. It’s lighter than my beloved Ti Arto, even though it looks like it should be heavier. At first I had to consciously remind myself to use the Spoke Pen and not the Ti Arto when journaling, but now it’s become the pen I turn to for long writing sessions because it fatigues my hands less. Could it replace my Ti Arto as my favourite pen? Time will tell, but it’s entirely possible the way things stand now.

The Spoke Pen was designed entirely around Brad Dowdy‘s beloved Uni-ball Signo DX refill (UMR-1), but also accepts the Uni-ball Signo UMR-85N (my favourite refill), UMR-87N, and other refills of the same size. To change refills you unscrew the section, take out the old refill, and then the magic starts. When you put in a new refill it will appear to jot out quite a bit from the pen body. “There’s no way this thing will close back up again,” you think to yourself. Have faith, it does: there’s a hidden spring in the back of the pen, and you’re going to have to apply a tiny bit of force to push the section back close to the body, but once you start screwing the section back everything fits snugly back in place. The tolerances on this pen are flawless, as I’d expect from a pen with this provenance.

Machined pens seem to be divided into two schools of thought when it comes to branding: either the over the top, in your face, you can’t miss it branding style, or the barely branded one. The Spoke Pen belongs to the latter group, as there’s a discreet stamp of the Spoke logo on the top finial and that’s it. Very classy move.

The third great thing about this pen is the magnetic closure. I actually thought that this would be a more significant feature than the colour or the weight of the pen, but after using the Ti2 Techliner for a while the novelty of magnetic cap closures must have worn off for me. If the most important thing for you is the magnetic closure, then I recommend the Ti2 Techliner instead, as its magnets are significantly more powerful, and you can both cap and post the pen with them, even from a distance. The Spoke Pen’s cap magnet engages only halfway through capping the pen, basically functioning like the click at the end of a regular pen capping. It’s fun to use, and fun to fidget with, but I don’t think that it’s the pen’s main selling point.

Are there any cons to this pen? Of course, rarely anything in life is perfect. You may not like the Spoke Pen’s tactical aesthetic. If you carry the Spoke Pen in your pocket lint will probably get wedged in its “fins”. The clip looks like a determined person with something to prove could bend it out of shape (for normal use I think it’s perfectly fine). These are not issues for me personally, but they may be issues for you.

As it is, the Spoke Pen Orange Crush is one of my favourite (non-fountain) pens ever, and is looking to replace the Ti Arto at the top of my list. Kudos to Brian Conti and Brad Dowdy for creating such a great product out of the gate.

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Spoke Pen Review

Ti Arto Review

It’s strange that I haven’t yet reviewed the pen that I use most, but that’s life, I guess. The Ti Arto is a titanium machined pen that accepts 200+ refills, and it has been my EDC and journaling pen since November 2016. There’s no pen I use more, and no pen I like more than this one.

Since the Ti Arto bashes around freely in my bag, it’s got quite a few scratches on it. I personally like that it shows some wear and tear, but as not everyone feels the same, I thought I’d take a few photos that show how the Ti Arto looks like when it’s not brand new.

The Ti Arto is made out of solid titanium, and doesn’t get dented even if you drop it. It does, however, show micro-abrasions and scratches.

None of these scratches is deep enough to be felt – they’re at surface level only. So it really is just an aesthetic thing. If you like your pen to look brand spanking new, the Ti Arto comes with a protective felt sleeve. I personally wouldn’t bother: this isn’t a fountain pen, but a tough, machined, EDC pen. It’s built to tumble around in your bag.

Now to the review proper: the Ti Arto was originally launched on Kickstarter, and became available on the BigiDesign site sometime in 2016. The pen is machined out of solid aluminium, and made to easily accept 200+ refills with no tip wiggle or need for spacers.

The Ti Arto is well balanced, both capped and uncapped, and very comfortable to use, even for someone with small hands that likes to write a lot. Unlike some other machined pens, the Ti Arto’s cap will stay on, even after years of use and after the threads start to wear out a bit. See that semi opaque silicone ring just below the threads? That’s the magic that makes sure the cap closes nice and tight. No refill is going to dry out or leak in this pen.

If you want to post the Ti Arto you can, by threading the cap to the back of the pen. The resulting pen is a bit longer, but still well balanced, and the cap doesn’t rattle when you write. It does take time to screw the cap on, so if you uncap and post often it will become a chore. Since the Ti Arto isn’t a fountain pen, though, there should be no problem leaving the pen uncapped for a while.

I use the Uniball Signo UMR-85N refill in this pen (the same refill that goes into the Signo RT). To change the refill you unscrew the section, pop the refill in, screw the section almost all the way back on, then tip the pen body forward until the refill tip protrudes, and then you tighten the section. Since you probably aren’t going to actually use 200+ different refills in this pen, I recommend finding a refill that you enjoy and buying replacement refills in boxes of 10 or 12 on Amazon or eBay. I go through a box and a half to two boxes of UMR-85N refills a year in this pen, and it takes less than a minute to switch out the refill.

Here’s are a few points about the Ti Arto, drawn and written with the Ti Arto:

If you are looking to own just one good pen, or if you’re looking for an EDC or machined pen, the Ti Arto is the pen you should buy. I’ve tried a good number of machined pens so far, including all the other (non-stylus) offerings from BigiDesign and nothing comes close to this pen.

Ti Arto Review

Ti Click EDC Pen Review

I am a big fan of Big Idea Design’s pens (the Ti Arto is my daily carry pen), and so of course I joined the Kickstarter for the Ti Click EDC Pen. Since I hadn’t tried their black anodised pens before, that’s the finish I opted for. It arrived yesterday, and even though I’ve been using it exclusively all day, I’l be the first to admit that these are only my preliminary thoughts on it. (See updates in the end for more detailed thoughts on this pen).

The packaging, as usual with BIGiDESIGN, is compact and neat. The pen comes with everything you need to fix it, should you need to (I’ve never needed to), and in a pretty nifty box.

The finish on this pen is shiny and black, but it’s surprisingly not a fingerprint magnet, as I would have imagined:

The pen came with a Scheider Gelion 39 0.4 mm gel ink refill. This is a new refill for me, and I can’t say I’m a fan. It’s as wide as a 0.7-0.8 mm refill, and I much prefer the Uni-Ball Signo UMR-85N refill that the BIGiDESIGN pens used to be shipped with (it’s me favourite gel refill).

As part of the kickstarter, the pen came with a cool Bioworkz sticker, which you can see below:

The pen itself is about the length of the Ti Arto, when the Ti Arto is capped, but the grip is much wider, about the size of the Ti Pocket Pro. That’s a bit large for an EDC pen, and it’s definitely not a pocket pen. The grip feels weird at first, but it’s very comfortable and well designed. You can see how the Ti Click EDC compares to the Ti Arto (on the left) and the Ti Pocket Pro (on the right) in the various finish options that the Ti pens come in (machined raw, midnight black, and stonewashed). My machined raw Ti Arto shows scratches much more than my stonewashed Ti Pocket Pro, but I’ve no idea yet how the midnight black finish wears.

This brings me to the only minus that the Ti Click EDC has – the click mechanism. It’s silent (no satisfying click), which will probably turn off those planning on using it as a fidget toy, and it doesn’t always engage properly. It’s especially prone to not engaging after you replace the refill. Make sure that you use the provided instructions to switch refills (and like other BIGiDESIGN pens this one accepts dozens of refills without using any spacers or requiring any special hacks), and take into account that you might have to fiddle with the grip a bit until most clicks work. This is not a minor drawback, as the whole point of the pen is its click mechanism. It should work 100% of the time and feel satisfying, not “soft” as it feels now.

For the price of the Ti Click EDC you could buy a Ti Arto (still their best pen), or a Ti Pocket Pro (if portability is super important to you), have some change for a bunch of refills and get a much better pen. I love supporting BIGiDESIGN and I’m glad that I got to try this pen, but for now it looks like the Ti Arto will continue to reign supreme in my rotation.

Update: After using this pen almost exclusively for a week, I stand by my first impressions. It’s slightly more comfortable to use in long form writing, but the click mechanism is garbage.

Update 2: The BIGiDESIGN guys contacted me and it turns out that you can significantly improve the click mechanism with some silicone grease. Using the clip fixing kit that came with the pen and their simple instructional video on how to use it you can get to the click mechanism, and then apply some silicone grease, which you can buy at Goulet Pens for example. I happened to have grease around, so I had no problem trying this out, and it fixes the problem of the click mechanism not engaging properly.

The click is now solid, but it’s still not much fun to use – there’s no satisfying click or solid feedback once the thing is engaged. You just push past a point, and then the mechanism partially bounces back. It’s a disappointment because most $2-3 pens have more satisfying click mechanisms and even Karas Kustoms EDK pen, which has a similar click mechanism, offers more feedback and an audible click once it’s engaged.

I don’t know how many Ti Click EDC pens were affected by this problem, and I’m glad that I have at least a “mostly OK” click mechanism for my pen now, but I stand by my initial review, that for a pen that advertises its click mechanism so prominently, this is not a great buy. Spend your money on the Ti Arto, it’s a pen worth having, or go for the Ti Pocket Pro if you’re looking for an EDC pen. Those are truly great pens, while the Ti Click EDC is OK to “sort of good” at best.

Ti Click EDC Pen Review