(Susan M. Pigott is a fountain pen collector, pen and paperholic, photographer, and professor. You can find more from Susan on her blog Scribalishess.)
Kickstarter seems to be inundated with EDC pen projects, especially machined pens. I'm usually not interested in these projects because (a) I don't use ballpoint pens much and (b) many machined pens are just too industrial looking for my taste. But, when I saw photographs of the RNG Products SQ1, I was intrigued. Here was a machined pen with a beautiful aesthetic.
RNG stands for Rise-n-Grind, a company that makes CNC machined gear. This Kickstarter project includes two kinds of machined pens: a non-stylus edition and a stylus edition. I am reviewing the non-stylus pen.
The SQ1 is machined from 6061 T6 aluminum. You can get the pen in anodized colors, including black, olive drab green, blue, red, or pink, or you can get it in stonewashed aluminum for a rougher look.
You also choose cap and barrel-end materials: brushed copper, polished copper, polished brass, or shipwrecked copper. My pen came with the shipwrecked copper, which is my favorite finish.
The barrel has CNC dimples on the nib end for your fingers to grip.
The rest of the barrel is smooth except for very subtle etching on one side.
On my pen the nib cone is made of brushed copper which complements the shipwrecked copper of the cap and barrel end nicely. This part also comes in shiny copper or brass.
The pen uses the Fisher Space Pen refill with a fine tip. I found the ink a bit dry and the writing a little rough.
This isn't a criticism of the SQ1 but of the Fisher refill. Unfortunately, I couldn't find alternatives for Fisher refills that didn't require modifications.
As with many EDC pens, the SQ1 is small so it can fit in a pocket or a small notebook. It is 5 inches in length (posted) and weighs only .9 ounces. It is quite thin, with a diameter of only 5/16 of an inch (about 8mm).
The SQ1 does not have a clip. That means it could easily slide out of a shirt pocket (if that's where you carry your pens). And, the pen is too thin to fit in most notebook pen loops. A clip would ruin the sleek aesthetic of this pen and the cap is probably too small to support one. Still, a clip would allow you to fasten the pen to a pocket or loop securely. Nevertheless, because the pen is so small, it will easily fit into a jeans pocket or the pocket of a wallet or small notebook.
The cap screws on and off and requires about six turns both ways. You need to get it aligned just right, and I found the threads to be a bit rough. The cap sometimes squeaks as you screw it on. With some more use and maybe a little oil, I suspect the threads will smooth out.
To post the cap (which I recommend since it is small, rolls easily, and can be lost), you must screw it to the back of the pen (again six turns). This is not an easy-on, easy-off sort of pen cap. So, while you're unlikely to lose the cap as long as it is secured on, you will need to unscrew and screw the cap each time you want to use the pen. This pen that would not work well in situations where you need to uncap and cap the pen often.
The refill is accessed through the barrel end which you unscrew. Then you need a 3mm allen wrench to undo the set screw that keeps the refill from moving around inside the pen.
The pen doesn't come with an allen wrench, and my pen didn't come with instructions. I had to email the manufacturer to find out how to remove the refill. I felt a bit dumb, but really, even with the photos on the website I didn't realize an allen wrench was required. I think the engineering that keeps the refill from rattling around inside the barrel is genius. But, if your pen runs out of ink, you will need a refill and an allen wrench handy.
The SQ1 gets high marks from me for its beautiful design. It's also one of the most reasonably-priced machined pens, starting at only $25. The Kickstarter ends soon (August 10), so if you want to support this project act now.
- The SQ1 is a well-constructed and designed EDC pen. All the barrel colors and cap options are beautiful. The shipwrecked finish, in particular, is unique and striking.
- The pen is reasonably-priced at $25.
- It takes easy-to-find Fisher Space Pen refills.
- The pen is small but sturdy and will fit easily into pants pockets and the pockets of small notebooks or wallets.
- The set screw is ingenious, keeping the refill from jiggling around and insuring that the nib stays steady. Just be careful not to over-tighten the inner set screw.
- The cap requires at least six rotations to screw on or off. This is not a big deal if you're at a desk. But out in the wild, it could be a pain. Plus, the cap and other parts are small and could be easily lost.
- Without a clip the pen cannot be safely attached to a shirt pocket or pen loop.
- I'm not fond of Fisher Space Pen refills. Some people love them, some people don't.
- Although the inner screw that keeps the refill from jiggling is a great idea, it does make changing out a refill a bit cumbersome. Although most people probably have allen wrenches around the house, I wish one was included with the pen.
- The thin diameter of the pen might make it too small for some writers.
(RNG Products provided this product at no charge to The Pen Addict for review purposes.)
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