When I first learned about Ultem being used as a material to make pens, I was intrigued. It is a material many of us may have seen before but are not aware of. For years, it has been used in medical instruments, as an electrical insulator, as an underwater connector, and in the aerospace industry to reduce weight in place of metal parts. It is a strong but light weight plastic that is chemical resistant as well. I thought to myself that this would make a great material for an everyday workhorse pen that could withstand some abuse. Schon DSGN even tested this pen with Noodler’s Baystate Blue and it didn’t permanently stain it after weeks of being in the pen. It is recommended though, not to use ammonia based cleaners, but alcohol will not harm the material.
Being such a novel material in the pen world, it makes perfect sense that Ian Schon of Schon DSGN would make something out of it. In the time I have followed Ian’s work, I can say that I don’t just view him as a pen maker, but as a pen innovator (dare I say, “penovator”?) who is always working to find new and unique ways of doing things.
While this is not the first Ultem pen to come on the market, this pen has many firsts for Schon DSGN. Ian has become well known for his Pocket Six model in various metals and finishes, but until now, all of his pens were designed as cartridge only pocket pens. This is not only a new material for Schon DSGN, but a new type of pen as well. This is their first pen to come as what can be considered a full size pen having the ability to use a converter, but beyond that, this pen was designed specifically for use as an eyedropper first, that also takes a converter or cartridge.
In further support of the pen as an eyedropper, this current version is equipped with four O rings in key places. There are two O rings in the section at the nib unit to ensure a perfect seal and prevent leaks. There is an O ring at the threads where the section screws into the barrel, and there is an O ring in the cap. The O ring for the section serves a dual purpose. When using any pen for a long enough time as an eyedropper, there is always a chance of the feed becoming super saturated. Because of the extra long thread in conjunction with the O ring, unscrewing the body from the section creates suction at the nib. One can hold the pen nib up, begin to unscrew the section and with each turn, ink will be sucked back from the feed into the barrel. Then, as the nib is up, when the barrel is tightened again, only excess air is expelled. This makes for a nice dry cap when storing the pen.
So, what’s it like using the Ultem pen by Schon DSGN? The pen is amber in color which is the natural color of the material and it is incredibly light. At about .5oz or 14 grams, it is one of the lightest pens of its size that I have in my collection. As thin as the pen is machined and as light as it is, I still feel like I am holding a strong pen that won’t easily break under heavy use. While for some, the grip section, which ranges from 10.2mm (.4 inches) to 11.2mm (.44 inches), may be a bit thin, I found it comfortable as it has a shape that helps me grip it well. I would be perfectly happy though if the grip were just a tad thicker. As usual with my pens, I did not post it during regular use. The pen however does post. The cap when posted felt secure. With it being so light, it does not throw off the weight balance to post and I would have no trouble using it posted.
Filling the pen is a fairly standard operation as far as using the included converter or cartridges, or using the pen as an eyedropper. As I mentioned before, the threads on the section are quite long which is great for eyedroppering, but it did take more turns than I am used to in removing the barrel. There was only one potential issue that I noticed when the converter is being used: While the converter fits firmly into the section, and at no point did I feel like it could come loose, there is just enough lateral movement that when the pen is tapped or set down less than gently, the end of the converter will click against the inside of the barrel due to having tight tolerances. While this is not going to harm either the pen or the converter, or affect the operation of the pen, it is noticeable.
Earlier, I had mentioned that this pen was one of many firsts for Schon DSGN. This pen, as tested, is also the first test run of its manufacture. Some changes confirmed in future runs include the placement of the 0 rings, addressing the converter movement, and a slightly thicker grip. This pen is also slated to be the first in a full line of cartridge converter pens from Schon DSGN. Also, newly released, is a section for this pen which is set up for the Bock 380 No. 8 nib and this section is available separately. Only the section is available, you will have to bring your own nib.
As far as how the pen writes, it comes with a standard screw in Jowo nib unit. There is little to say about these except that they, including this one, generally perform well. I had no issues with the included nib. It can also be swapped out for any other Jowo standard No. 6 nib unit which I eventually did with a custom ground nib that I had and had eyedropper filled the pen with one of my usual Monteverde inks, Midnight Black. Speaking of what the pen comes with, like all of Schon DSGN’s pens, it comes in minimalist packing with the card in the back of the box actually being a sticker. Schon DSGN also throws in a few stickers or pins with the Schon DSGN mascot Pocky to keep the pen company in transit.
Ok, so this pen is really cool. But, the all important question, how does one buy this pen? The website lists it as sold out. Schon DSGN is currently working on the next batch of Ultem pens and has set up a waitlist, which you can access here. It is planned that for this second run, enough will be made to satisfy the waitlist and then some. The price currently stands for this second test run at $220.00 USD, however when the pen later on becomes in full production, it is expected to be priced somewhere in the 250 range or thereabout which is still being determined.
While some slight changes/refinements are still coming, I am really happy with the pen that I received in this initial run. I love that this represents a beginning of a whole new line of pens for Schon DSGN and I look forward to see what is coming next.
Disclaimer: This pen was purchased by me at retail from Schon DSGN. The thoughts and opinions expressed herein are entirely my own and I receive no compensation from any manufacturer or retailer named in this review.
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