I’ve always been a fan of the work Brad Dowdy does, and have bought numerous Nock Co. cases and paper products. (Aside: It’s been announced that Nock Co. is winding down regular retail sales.) Spoke Design pens just never caught my fancy. That is until now. I was listening to a recent Pen Addict podcast when I heard the words “British Racing Green” and “Brass”. That got my attention, and I was off to the Spoke Design website.
The pens are machined aluminum, and I’ve always viewed them as too thin and light for my comfort. Although, I never actually looked at the specifications, until now. But now I had an incentive to do some research. I really wanted the Spoke Icon in British Racing Green (BRG), but I didn’t wand to make the same mistake that I made with the Sailor Pro Gear BRG and buy an uncomfortable (for me) pen. I, as the podcast played in the background, I looked up the weights & measurements and compared them to fountain pens I already owned.
The girth of the Icon was just a tad more than the Sailor Pro Gear, although so close as to make the comfort dependent on how the pen sat in my hand. My first choice for the section material (brass) also happened to result in the heaviest pen. I was encouraged that the pen would be heavier than the Sailor Pro Gear Regency Stripe. The Regency Stripe is heavier than the typical Pro Gear since there’s significant metal in the construction, and it’s a Pro Gear I can use for longer writing sessions.
I don’t know what the insert material is. Since it’s not mentioned, and there are no weight difference listed. I assume it’s aluminum. I don’t have the tool to remove the sleeve and I’m not about to try and improvise. I’m hoping it’s not real brass. While I like patina, I don’t think a brass insert would patina well since it’s not touched to give it character.
By the end of the podcast I had ordered a Spoke Icon, in British Racing Green, with a Brass insert, a Grooved Brass Section, and an extra-fine nib. The pen is highly customizable with options for each of these parts. The nibs are Jowo. The weights and measurements for all the options are on the website. I appreciate the simple pricing. All pens are the same price, no matter what options and materials you choose.
I listened to the podcast again after ordering the pen, since I pretty much ignored it once I heard British Racing Green and Brass. I learned that I ordered the same configuration that Brad said he was using. Subliminal messaging? More likely just similar tastes, since I never seriously considered other options.
Arrival and Unboxing
The pen arrived Friday afternoon after a bit of a delay as it did laps between a couple of neighboring states. So my anticipation was high when it finally did arrive.
The pen arrived in a simple, flat(ish) cardboard box, with a surface big enough to hold a shipping label. The pen itself was in a metal tin, while the two blue-black ink cartridges were in a separate plastic bag. Fairly minimal, except for the tin. The Spoke logo was on the tin and printed all over the box. The converter shipped inside the pen and seemed to have a bit of condensation in it. Testing?
Upon arrival, my pen weighed 29.3g according to my scale. This was without ink or a converter, but otherwise configured to write (uncapped). The pen does not post. The weight was encouraging, since I find heavier pens easier to use for long durations.
The Spoke website says the Icon is 4.75″ long when uncapped. The is borderline short for me, but acceptable and felt comfortable when I tried it. The machined aluminum finial, of the Spoke logo is a nice touch.
Overall, a good first impression.
I should state up front that I didn’t clean the feed upon arrival, I just removed the converter and popped in the cartridge.
The cartridge is Monteverde ink, and I’m not a fan of it, or any other brand that Yafa manufactures (as opposed to brands they just distribute in the US, like Diplomat). But I didn’t want to waste ink, and I usually don’t know what brand it is anyway, so I kept with my practice of using any included ink cartridge as the first ink.
After over two hours nib down in the Penwell, along with some assistance (squeezing), the ink didn’t appear anywhere near the tip of the nib, So, I removed and tossed the cartridge, along with the unused one, then I gave the pen a quick flush with a bulb syringe. I admit, the flushing may have removed manufacturing residue, but I blame the Monteverde ink.
I popped in the converter and loaded the pen with Waterman Blue-Black ink (from a old bottle prior to the name change). I really wanted to use Montblanc British Racing Green for the first converter fill, but after the previous problem I didn’t want to use an ink with such a limited supply left. The Waterman ink is both inexpensive and flawless in any pen I’ve ever put it in. It was a solid choice to prove that my previous problem wasn’t due to the pen.
I didn’t have any problems filling the pen from the bottle. The section grooves do collect a considerable amount of ink, although it was easy to wipe off. But to avoid needless waste I’ll either fill the converter directly, or use a blunt syringe to fill the converter. Especially when I switch to Montblanc BRG where every drop counts, since I’m on my last bottle. The next fill, which won’t be done through the feed will be a test of how well the ink reaches the nib using gravity.
Writing With The Spoke Icon
The cap requires three full rotation to cap and uncap. This is more than I prefer, although not an overly burdensome problem. If I’m at either my office or home desks, I can use the Penwell and easily soft-cap the pen when I take a break from writing. I do avoid soft-capping the pen when I have to either keep holding it or laying it flat on my desk. Both this situations are accidents waiting to happen (proven by accidents that didn’t wait with other pens).
I have to admit that I was so concerned with weight and girth, that I didn’t notice it was clip-less until it arrived, and rolled when I put it on my desk. The lack of a clip doesn’t bother me too much. The time to uncap the pen already ruins it as a shirt-pocket carry. Even if I had noticed, I wouldn’t have hesitated to order the pen. A clip would be beneficial with some pen cases. The Spoke is on the short side (4.9″ when capped), and can get trapped in some of my deeper pen cases, such as the Penvelope 6 or 13.
Despite having seemingly flat sides, the Spoke Icon rolls easily. An ever so slightly angled surface, or any momentum when putting down the pen will cause it to roll. Once it get going, it wants to keep going.
The writing performance of the pen has been great. There hasn’t been any skipping or hard starts. Well, other than the non-start with the initial cartridge. Ink flow has been consistent.
My concern about the Spoke Icon being too thin and light for my comfort turned out to be unwarranted. I wrote about six 8 1/2″ x 11″ sheets when drafting, and redrafting this article. I didn’t feel a trace of fatigue or cramps in my hand. I didn’t have any subconscious urge to use a death grip on the pen. This meant I could write, rather than worry about my grip.
While I’ve yet to use even the partial converter fill, I’m completely satisfied with the Spoke Icon. I’ve already forgotten about the cartridge problem, which means that performance has been great out of the box.
The Spoke Icon features interchangeable barrels, sections and inserts, providing seemingly endless customizations. While I agree it’s a cool concept, I has no appeal to me. I am fickle, and could change my mind, but the Spoke Icon with a British Racing Green barrel, brass Insert, and brass section is the perfect combination for me. I don’t want to swap anything. I like it just the way it is.