Back in January, in the midst of the worst winter that most of us have ever lived through, I wrote a blog post about Namisu’s upcoming pocket pen. At the time, the UK was suffering over 1000 deaths per day from COVID-19, we were all locked in for the 2nd (?3rd) time, Brexit was real: lorries were queuing on the M20 and there was a real concern that supermarkets would run out of essential supplies (again!) While vaccinations had commenced, it was going to be months before many of the public got anywhere near to them, and i the meantime there was no real prospect of going out to do anything remotely fun, social, interesting or warm.
The pandemic – and especially in the pre-vaccine phase was hard; it put pressures on all of us and meant that to survive we had to make sacrifices, compromises and focus on just getting to the “end”, whatever that really meant.
This brings me onto this remarkable little pen. When I wrote my blog on the 29th of January 2021, it was full of pandemic fuelled doubt. Combined with a sense that the pen didn’t fit the wider Namisu DNA, I felt it looked a compromised design and that I wouldn’t like it. I felt like it wouldn’t survive the public test and would likely be a failure.
In late June – after a wet and cold Spring , but in a country finally throwing off some of the worst pandemic driven concerns, a new N1 Titanium Dark Grey arrived at last, complete with #5 Bock titanium nib. Being honest, I wanted to hate this pen. It was late arriving and after that crappy winter of COVID-19 with all the separation, anxiety, loneliness and challenge of working on COVID Intensive Care. Not only that, but it wasn’t a general release pen – a decision that to me seemed more like defeat than exclusivity in the context of a Kickstarter twice delayed. So, I wanted to dislike it.
But, I was wrong.
There maybe some compromises to this pens design, but this is a pen about coming out strong; about toughness and survival; this pen is the pocket pen that survived a pandemic. And after over 2 months living with it, I can say it is an EDC pen that is always on my person, relied on, used several times a day. Over 100’s of hours in its company, I am happy to say Namisu have done a great job; my early concerns were wrong.
Adrien Cols, Namisu’s founder started his career at a designer furniture company prior to founding Namisu in 2013. This experience in product design and concept development was the starting point for Namisu pens. Adrien believes that interaction with everyday objects should never be ordinary. By replacing the mundane with something extraordinary, the user’s experience of excitement, reflection or joy improves quality of life and wellbeing.
Over its several pens releases since 2013, Namisu has become known for combining minimalist aesthetic designs with precision machined titanium, brass, copper or aluminium to produce fountain pens that attempt to achieve this aim. Not only that, but to achieve this at a price point that is affordable to most pen enthusiasts.
This democratising of high-end materials by making them available to a much wider range of pen enthusiasts is something that Namisu has undoubtedly set the standard for since its inception.
Namisu’s earlier pen designs: the Orion, Studio, Nova, Ixion and Naos all retain clean, minimalist shapes and ever more brutalist designs as each new pen was released. Removing all superfluous elements to prioritise the form of the pen achieves a sculptural quality to their writing instruments, that are also for the most part excellent for everyday use. (I have two Ixions and two Studios still in my collection, and badly wish I had a Nova in titanium).
The N1, then, is Namisu’s first EDC / tool pen and necessarily has been designed with more rugged and functional requirements in mind compared their previous pens. It borrows from the Bauhaus design school of thought that prioritises simple geometric shapes in the elaboration of designs: the pen is made up of straight cylindrical sections with a rounded clip, and threadless design. While it clearly stands apart in their range visually, it does share much of the design language and ethos.
Like all of Namisu’s pens, the N1 was funded via Kickstarter. This carries challenges and advantages: allowing small businesses to fund projects relatively easily, but also introducing risk and potential delays on consumers eager for their new products. Combine Kickstarter with Brexit and the COVID-19 pandemic, and it is perhaps unsurprising that the pen was twice delayed and eventually shipped at least 3 months after Namisu’s inital projections. I am told the main hold up was getting nibs out of the Bock factory in Germany; that shipping and product availability was limited for a small company is not that surprising, but… those of you that remember the Ixion Kickstarter will remember that nib availability was the culprit for the long delay on that pen too…
Honest first impressions? A little underwhelmed. The twice delayed pen was held up yet further by very slow postal service (NOT Namisu’s fault!) , but it meant it was late June rather than early April when I received the pen. On arrival, it came in an unexciting brown envelope containing two small packets. The packets themselves are attractive, thick card in deep grey black with silver minimalist branding. No flourishes though; none of the presentation you often get around the £100 price point. Inside the outer packet, a functional, but unexciting plastic pen tube, (not environmentally friendly!) with the pen inside and separately, a box with the spare EF titanium nib. A Kaweco mini converter I paid for was in a small ziplock bag along side this – poor eco credentials, not ideal!)
Getting the pen out and switching nibs was quick and easy. Installing a cartridge (short international) also not drama. The pen feels smooth, cool, solid, indestructible and has a bit of weight to it, but not excessively so. I like the tactile smooth matte finish. The clip is reminiscent of Karas Kustoms, and beyond that, you know that even if the presentation was a bit low-key, this is a seriously well made, attentively finished end product.
The pen essentially comes in 2 pieces: an outer cap and a narrower, inner barrel – section – nib. On removing the cap and posting, you get a full sized pen – with even a bit of adjustment possible.
At first glance, the N1 is somewhat joyless; but that is deliberate. Its an EDC pen that – in the dark grey i chose – looks stern, utilitarian and tough. The dark grey version has a “satin” titanium finish, which is subtle, stealthy and I feel matches the tough feel of a true EDC pen. In fairness to Namisu, there were plenty of colour options available: so people wanting a more expressive colour were spoiled for choice – including a very cool “petrol” finish.
Back to the shape… There are efforts to soften such a tough looking starting point: the domed top and the pocket clip with its rounded edges add enough softness to tone down what may otherwise feel like an exercise in pure geometry. The Torx screws keeping the clip in place are bang on trend for its industrial theme in spite of the rounded edges.
The grippy barrel end looks spot on and makes the pen easy to pull apart ready for use.
Overall, its an undeniably serious looking, tough, small pen. Its unassuming presence won’t catch the eye of most people… but its also stylish, industrial, and has a distinct military feel.
The two sections are a simple push fit, but with 3 o-rings to seal them together. In practice this gives it plenty of tightness, without being too tight, and when closed, the pen is definitely airtight; the longest i have left it is about 7-8 days (as a deliberate test) and there was no hint of drying out. I worry that in time the o-rings will perish (Namisu even put an insert into the package advising that the o-rings are user changeable) but in reality this will be an issue over years rather than months and o-rings are easy to find. Plus the o-rings give the cap closure a really satisfying “give” or “resistance”, which totally appeals to the inner fidget in me!
The pocket clip is tough and rigid. So tough that it definitely wont yield to any fabric of any signficance e.g. denim, thick cotton etc. Even my work scrubs which are single ply cotton, can’t quite sneak their way into the slip without some effort. So, really the clip is more like a rollstop than a clip. Being bolted on, I’d also worry that with that extreme rigidity, if I forced it I’d eventually damage or work loose the screws. Overall then its a ‘meh’ to the clip. A good rollstop, a good piece of decoration, but actually over engineered and too tough to do the job easily.
So… here’s another compromise, for sure. No offence, Kaweco, but both your mini-squeeze and your mini-piston converters are crap! They hold barely any ink and the piston is liable to leaking horribly. So its small international cartridges all the way for this pen. Great – cheap, easy to buy if out and about and a huge range available!
Sadly there is one minor issue with this: the cartridges aren’t gripped tightly enough by the feed housing inside the barrel, and the barrel is designed for extra length needed to make the pen functionally long enough to use and house that Kaweco converter. On several occasions as a result, cartridges have come loose inside the barrel, spilled their contents and the pen didn’t write when I wanted it to. I have resolved this fairly easily: as I won’t be using the Kaweco converters , I popped a small plug of toilet roll into the barrel to hold the cartridge in place. This has fixed a minor frustration and I have had no issues after doing this.
The matte titanium finish is smooth but tactile. Uncap this pen and post it, you have a pen that has a 10.8mm section diammeter and a 13.5mm barrel diammeter. Length can vary from as little as 123mm to as long as 154mm. In practice at the extremely short length fully, deeply posted, I found this pen a bit short for my size 8 hands. At around 130-135mm the pen sits nicely, with a balance thats pretty neutral and easy to live with. Much above 140mm, it gets back heavy, the balance comes off and the step from barrel to section becomes prominent on the thumb, changing the grip significantly. In most daily use for a quick bit of writing, this doesn’t matter too much, and for any longer writing, I have now mastered the habit of posting it to pretty much 135mm which works nicely for me.
What this means, is that you need to spend the time with a pen like this getting to know the correct setup for your hand size, grip, strength and personal preference; once you have found this what you have is a comfortable pen that you can keep going with as long as the ink lasts. It weighs in at 41g with cartridge; there was a lighter aluminium available, but to be honest for me 41g isnt too bad, especially once you find the balancing point.
The grippy area that essentially makes up the ‘section’ is exactly that: grippy, and comfortable and means there is no slipping in regular use.
There is little more to say: the pen is cylindrical in shape with no tapers or efforts to give the hand anywhere to go. I was worried this would ruin the pens ergonomics; but honestly it matters less than I thought it would, especially for a pen that is ideally destined for use for a few paragraphs at a time, a quick list or a signature here or there.
Overall this is a pen with the ability to adapt to most preferences and styles, and is very much a “medium” size and weight of pen.
The pen was supplied with a steel #5 Bock nib: the titanium semi-flex was a £40 add on, but well worth it. I won’t talk about the standard, supplied steel nib: beyond a quick dip to test it worked I have never used it. The titanium nib is a true standout feature though. It perfectly suits the dark grey titanium finish and is also a wonderful nib to write with. Mine is the extra-fine grade, which has good ink flow, characteristic softness and mild flex. There’s just a hint of tooth and grip on most paper, and the softness helps offset the stiff, parallel sided barrel and slightly back heavy balance of the pen overall. I suspect the titanium nib is a big reason why I keep this pen on me and use it so often: iff you haven’t used a Bock titan nibs yet – go and get yourself one! (They’re easily available from Beaufort Ink in the UK).
While I feel like the #5 nib is visually a bit small for the pen (and I am certain that a marginal change in tolerance of the internal cap diameter would have just permitted a #6), the reality is that for the sort of use this pen is getting from me it doesn’t matter. The nib writes well, softens the pen a little and is complimentary to the overall design. Its just a shame it was an optional extra on this model rather than the main choice.
Once set up, the writing experience is surprisingly good. The titanium nib really is excellent, the balance (once found) and weight make this easy to enjoy writing with. The convenience of always having a pen to hand, and one that can withstand being in a pocket, a bag, dropped, rolled, sat on etc make it even more pleasing. For short notes and lists its ideal, for quick scribbles in patient notes, charts, prescribing, signing, bedside teaching and more I have nothing but enjoyment out of it. I would go so far as to say its a bit of a quiet favourite pen of mine. It feels like it always brings a neatness and ease to my writing that is absolutely not a guarantee with any pen!
What I haven’t done much of, is longer writing. I suspect that with its relative weight, and lack of profiling for ergonomics it won’t be super comfy for really long – pages and pages of letters or journalling, for example, but I also doubt it’d be too bad as long as you adjust balance.
Price & Value:
On Kickstarter, once I had added a titanium nib, Kaweco converter etc it came in at £112. This feels quite expensive for a pocket pen, but not for one as well made as this, with solid titanium body and titanium nib. There were a few set up niggles from unfortunate design decisions around the converter, and I would say presentation at that price point could have been a little more high level.
But, for a pen that gets used literally every single day, its great value: it won’t break, is super convenient, still looks awesome after 2 months of fighting with car keys, and is a workhorse of a pen that so far, just hasn’t really let me down.
Namisu have created something pretty great here, in the midst of the pandemic, in the post-Brexit UK. Its a pen that can only be called a survivor. It is tough, it takes abuse, it does everything I have asked of it. Does it has flaws? Absolutely. The inability of the IS cartridges to stay put without a toilet roll plug, the clip that is too tough to use, the nib being perhaps a size smaller than the pen really deserves, the delayed release.
But in spite of that, this is a pen that keeps going, is reliable, sturdy and ever present in my life. Like so many of us in the weird post-COVID, post-Brexit world of extremes, this pen is meant to outlast, rise above and get on quietly with the job of writing. And for all of that, I really do love it.
N1 Kickstarter: the Kickstarter has closed, but you can see the details on the Kickstarter page.
I have no affiliation with Namisu and have not received any financial advantage or payment for this review. The pen was purchased at full price via Kickstarter and is part of my personal collection of pens.