One of the first things that many new pen addicts pursue after they get a taste for fine pens is a way in which to carry those pens securely and in style. The pen case industry is large and varied, but that also means there's room for individual expression. Whether you prefer nylon, hand-sewn cotton, plastics, or high-quality leather, you can find something that fits your style and carry needs.
The Pen Guardian case falls into the leather case genre, but it isn't your average binder or wallet type of case. Aside from one model, the Pen Guardian holds two of your pens inside a luxurious leather inner and outer case. The marketing copy on their website does an excellent job explaining the case, so let's take a look:
All Pen Guardians are individually handcrafted with quality, calfskin leather and made 100% in the USA. Lightweight and beautiful, their unique design includes a two-part system that can be used together or separately. The dual inner well is stitched and glued to provide extra protection. It also features cutouts in the leather that protect your pen clips and provides a PH neutral environment to preserve the beauty of your pens for years to come.When used in the pocket, the lightweight, inner well holds pens in place to prevent damage and keep them upright to reduce the risk of a cap accidentally unscrewing and leaking. The inner well is held in place with the clips from your pens. It stays safe and secure even while bending over. The Pen Guardian's outer case provides an additional layer of protection for pens stored in your briefcase or purse.
In case you didn't catch it, this case is actually two separate pieces. One is an outer pocket with a snap closure flap, and the inside is a two-pen pocket protector style slip. It's a pretty cool system that gives you some unique options compared to other pen cases and carry systems. There are two use cases that I love this case for. One involves packing two pens in the interior slip and then attaching the pens to an inner compartment pocket in my bag. The pens stay put and are protected against any reasonable threats. Once I arrive at my destination, I can unzip the bag, grab a pen, and get to work. Since the other pen is holding the slip in place, I can easily pop my pen back into the slip when I'm done. The only instance where this doesn't work well is if you're using two pens at once, but those are rare times for me. And, even so, you can remove the entire slip and place it on the desk or table where you're working until you're ready to pack up and leave.
This use case is very similar to the heavily suggested use from the Pen Guardian creator: keep two pens in the breast pocket of your shirt or jacket. While that's great for some people, I've never enjoyed having pens in my shirt pocket, and that option is also fairly absent for women. While the design fills a niche purpose, it comes close to being too niche in this case. Luckily, there are endless other places to clip your pens, and you probably already know your favorite spots in any bag, purse, jacket, or other garment/accessory that you own. Nine times out of ten, The Pen Guardian will easily slide into that use case.
The other way I've enjoyed is keeping the inner case inside the outer case and throwing it in my bag for the day. I don't always remove the inner case when I want a pen, but that option is there. Otherwise, it does just fine operating as a more traditional case or binder for a couple of pens.
The leather in the model I have is a soft, pliable leather that is stitched and glued professionally. I don't have any doubts about this case breaking down prematurely. Like the website states, there aren't any chemicals that will react negatively with any of the materials that fountain pens tend to be manufactured from.
Overall, it's a fantastic case that has a couple of neat tricks up its sleeve, it looks great, and it solves a niche purpose.
But, there are a couple of minor "gotchas" that are worth pointing out.
- In my testing, this case works really well for "standard sized" pens that have clips. Pens like Kaweco Sports, Kaweco Liliputs, Franklin Christoph pocket models, and other similar pens just disappear into the depths of the inner slip.
- The Lamy Safari / AL Star clip works with this case, but it clips on to the case itself, which is against the design of the case. This isn't a major deal at all, but something to be aware of.
- It works best if the two pens are within an inch of each other as far as their overall length. For example, a Pilot Custom 823 is a long pen, and should be paired with something similarly long. This won't make the case unusable by any means, but it will mean it can get lopsided sometimes.
- The case works best if the end of the pen reaches the bottom of the case. Otherwise, you end up with the clip attaching to the case, which makes it tricky to clip to a pocket, bag, etc. For example, a TWSBI Mini definitely clips to the case below the provided slit. Again, the case is still usable, but there's that minor quirk.
- The price is hard to swallow. There are a lot of factors that go into the price of any product, and this one feels a bit unbalanced in that regard if you shop leather goods often.
Ultimately, pens, notebooks, and cases are all highly subjective to the beholder. You know what you like, and you normally have a fairly good idea of whether you'll like something before you purchase it. If The Pen Guardian speaks to you and you can immediately think of how it will fit into your pen routines, it's a no-brainer. If you struggle with that same thought (or the price), though, it's probably not for you. To me, that's what's great about this market. There are enough choices and options to satisfy everyone, and if you don't like one product, you have so many more to choose from.
The Pen Guardian costs $129.99 (at the time of publishing this review) and is available in several colors, including some bright, non-traditional leather colors. And, if you need something that holds twice as many pens, they have you covered there as well with the The Pen Guardian Elite.
(The Pen Guardian provided this product at no charge to The Pen Addict for review purposes.)
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